April 5, 2013

LePage signs bill to change domestic-violence programs

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Maine's batterer-intervention programs will be gender-neutral under an emergency law signed by Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday, his office said in a statement.

It establishes new standards for the programs, which are state-certified education programs for men who have been abusive to their intimate partner, though some offer services to women.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono, directs the Maine Department of Corrections to establish new standards for batterer-intervention programs, which LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the department moved to do Friday. The department's website says there are 12 such program statewide.

It was motivated by a December ruling by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to remand the sentence of Christopher Mosher, a Litchfield man convicted of domestic violence because part of his original sentence – participation in a batterer-intervention program – didn't apply to female domestic-violence offenders. The court said it likely wouldn't withstand constitutional scrutiny.

When Deputy Chief Judge Robert Mullen re-sentenced Mosher, Mullen said state policy “clearly punishes the male more severely than the female for the same offense.”

The bill signed by LePage, a survivor of child abuse, goes into effect immediately. In a statement, he said it's "important for the safety of families across Maine.” 

“To curb domestic violence, batterer-intervention programs must be available to men and women in Maine,” Cain said in a statement. “These programs work, and must be available for all perpetrators of domestic violence, regardless of gender.”

Correction: This story is updated to correct the day LePage signed the bill.

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