It was five months past the blown deadline on a task force report on domestic violence by the time legislators and advocates announced they would hold a news conference calling out the delay.
Then, hours before the group was to gather in a first-floor state room in the capitol on Thursday, the report, ordered by Gov. Chris Christie to study the availability of technology to track domestic violence offenders, was released by the Attorney General’s office.
The timing of the release would be the least of the frustrations for advocates of Lisa’s Law, a bill introduced in 2009 following the slaying of Toms River resident Letizia “Lisa” Zindell by her ex-fiance.
Sponsors and supporters of the bill say they don’t believe the 18-page report is thorough or, in some areas, fair to victims of domestic violence. They have cited two specific passages in the report that suggest that an electronic monitoring program, as the bill would require, could be manipulated by victims of domestic violence, who are often women. It also says the offender can manipulate the program.
But one portion of the report is “pretty disgusting” to Tara DeLorme, who was friends with Zindell and after her death founded the nonprofit Lisa’s Light Foundation. The report says “no law enforcement or court personnel can control the actions of the victim,” who “could choose to abandon her GPS or communication device in favor of reconciling with the offender, give her device to a proxy for the purpose of retaliation or revenge, or simply forget to carry her device on any particular occasion.”
“To go ahead and roll back and begin victim-blaming is extremely unsettling,” DeLorme said. “We’re basically saying our victims are calculated and looking to impose harm on someone else rather than getting them safe ... and it’s ignorant.”
Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-Burlington and a co-sponsor of the bill, also was critical of the timing and the tone of the report, which he called “highly offensive.”
“To have a passage in there to somehow insinuate that this would be used as a tool of revenge for victims to somehow jam up their offenders, I think, is unconscionable,” he said. “We should be doing more things to turn victims into survivors, not piling on by trying to make it seem like they’re the guilty party.”
Paul Loriquet, spokesman for the Attorney General’s office, said the report included research and interviews with officials in Kansas, Minnesota and Tennessee, which have monitoring programs and it was “disclosed that one of the downsides is that some (victims) would abuse the system.”
Lisa’s Law passed the Legislature in January and would have established a pilot program in Ocean County to electronically monitor offenders of domestic violence restraining orders and notify their victims once they got close. Christie vetoed the bill under the condition that the Attorney General’s office study whether the technology is available and can be implemented in New Jersey. The deadline to report back to Christie was in May; it was released on Wednesday night.
Loriquet said the task force, comprised of four deputy or assistant attorneys in the office, needed more time to work with vendors, other law enforcement and other municipalities with similar programs.
“In order to not provide something that was superficial, we requested more time,” he said.
Most important to supporters of the law is that the report says the technology to monitor offenders exists — it has been used to track sex offenders for years. But the report notes the many ways it is imperfect.
Assemblyman Ronald S. Dancer, R-Ocean, first introduced the bill in 2009. He said if legislators want to find the perfect technology for monitoring then it could be another several years before Lisa’s Law goes into effect. He wants it signed into law this year.
“I don’t think it’s overly ambitious,” he said. “The time is now.”
The bill was reintroduced on Thursday.
Dustin Racioppi: 732-643-4028; firstname.lastname@example.org
Read the full report online at http://www.state.nj.us/lps/Final-DV-Monitoring-Report-2014.pdf