A prosecutor handling criminal domestic violence cases implemented a terrific “best practice” this week. She didn’t just assume that bailiffs would hold defendants at least 10 minutes so victims could safely leave the building. (In fact, bailiffs rarely ensure safe exits in criminal court). Instead, the prosecutor informed the judge that she had a victim present who needed a safe exit. She requested that the judge instruct the bailiffs to hold the defendant a full 10 minutes. In every case, the judge did so.
Many victims make the effort to come to court and testify — despite the fear, the lack of a court companion program, and the difficulty of getting time off from work. The least our courts can do is ensure that each victim is safe as they leave the courthouse. It hasn’t been happening. Bailiffs in civil protective order courtrooms hold defendants 10 minutes more than 50% of the time. But it is rare that bailiffs use safe exits in criminal court — even though the average case is more dangerous.
A big thumbs up for this prosecutor, who is taking an important step to improve victim safety. Her actions keep survivors safe from assaults or harassment. Court Watch has documented assaults outside County courthouses when safe exits aren’t implemented. More victims are likely to return to court for the next hearing if they feel safe before, during and after court.
Apparently the prosecutor acted after reading a Court Watch news piece about a defendant who faced charges of violating his protective order six times, then was allowed to leave court right on the heels of his victim. Go Court Watch monitors!