After the Webinar: The NYS Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team. Q&A with the Presenters

Webinar presenters Sara Mahoney and Mary Walsh answered a number of your questions after their presentation, The New York State Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team: Implications for Probation. Here are just a few of their responses.


Host:  Pedro shared that usually when officers respond to domestic violence or DIRs the 911 dispatcher will inform the officer over the radio that there have been multiple domestic incidents in the report history. So responders do have somewhat of some information, but they won’t have a lot of details and they won’t have the exact number of incidents. So Pedro, thank you for sharing that. I love it when our audience can provide a little bit more information and context for these presentations. Thank you again.

Mary Walsh: I would add that this varies by jurisdiction. It happens in some places, but it does not happen consistently everywhere within the state. It’s great that some responding officers are able to get some information before a call, and I’d love to see that implemented more consistently across the state.


Audience Question: I’m a probation officer in New York. So she’s a probation officer there in New York. What is an intimate partner disclosure form? Can you tell her where to go for that? 

Sara Mahoney:  Yep, so if she wants to email me I can get it to her but OPCA and DCJS back in 2009, 2010 did a procedural package for like best practices on supervising DV offenders as well as completing a pre-sentence investigation. So that’s available through the e-justice portal under resources you can get that there. You could just Google the New York State Procedural Package for DV offenders and it will likely come up in a PDF. It’s part of that packet. So it looks like it’s written a lot like a release basically, but it basically describes and talks about specifically what we’re asking the offender to provide for us as well as it’s a basic understanding that the offender knows that we’re going to be potentially reaching out to these people. That’s basically what it’s used for. But if you want to email me, I’m happy to give it to you.



Audience Question: What DV programming is used in New York? 

Sara Mahoney: For like offender programs like batters program?

Host: I’m assuming.

Sara Mahoney: It depends on the county that you’re in. It depends on the resources that the counties have. I think Mary, I think doesn’t OPDV list, or does DCJS list certain DV programs? Do you know?

Mary Walsh: I mean we list on our website domestic violence programs for victims. Certainly, that information is available, right? But like you say, I mean, there’s not really statewide standards for abusive partner intervention programs in New York state. So I’m not sure if other places have anything on their website about what’s available county by county. What we do have on our website are guidelines that can be used to assess abusive partner intervention programs.

Sara Mahoney: Right, so I know that in New York state one of the main programs that is used is the New York Model. I think it is what it’s called. But other departments use other things. The curriculum that I use was authored by a local social worker back in the mid-90s right in our county and that’s what our county has utilized in and become most familiar with. But it just depends, you could research. I know that other programs out of state have some research backing to them and they have training availability sometimes but they can be costly.



Audience Question: Mary, can you define conditional discharge and she was wondering if it might be called something else in other states? 

Mary Walsh: Yeah, it’s basically  also what you’ll hear here as an ACD, Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal. So basically it is a disposition that says, you know if there’s not another infraction within a year, you know this basically goes away. So that would be both of those things an ACD or a conditional discharge. I’m not sure if that might be called something in other states but that’s what it means here.



Audience Question:  Does New York prosecute without victim participation? 

Sara Mahoney: Maybe some places.

Mary Walsh: Yeah, I mean again that’s going to vary by county. Certainly, I know some counties have done that. Some DA’s offices have done that but I can’t really speak to, you know, the entire state in that regard, but definitely I know that’s something that some DA’s offices really do try to focus on

Sara Mahoney: I think a lot of that really boils down to is there a vested interest on the part of that local prosecutor to say that domestic violence is wrong. It’s not going to be tolerated. We are going to fight it very aggressively and I think like from a local standpoint. I really think it doesn’t happen a lot. I mean that you sometimes have to be pushy, I mean that in the best way possible, you have to be pushy to really talk about why it’s so important. I mean, I use that you don’t prosecute a homicide with a victim. So, you know, if you’re going to take a strong stance against it, that just seems to fall in line with what needs to be done most of the time because victims decide not to participate for a lot of different reasons and I think that we just place way too much emphasis on all of that instead of focusing the attention on the person that the attention needs to be focused on and that’s the offender.

Mary Walsh: I would add to that evidence collection really plays into that as well. So certainly I know that there are some DA’s offices who will try to use things like jail calls and things of that nature. So I think the ability to be able to do that prosecution is going to depend on various things, but one of those things certainly being evidence.

Sara Mahoney: Yeah, and I think like if you’re looking from like a coordinated community response and high levels of collaboration between agencies if you have probation officers that have extensive certifications and training they can advocate for more training. They might have a good relationship with the DA’s office or law enforcement and be able to talk, gather the evidence, and why it’s so important to have extensive collections and really think outside the box. I mean remember if we’re kind of the masters I like to think of thinking outside the box. It’s just we have that ability because of our job. So, you know, if that means sometimes helping other agencies and other providers to be able to think outside the box and we can be a strong advocate for that, too.

Host: Well, I know to your point Sarah, you know, one of our previous presenters Paul Greenwood. It was a prosecutor out in California who talked extensively about prosecuting cases without victims because according to him, he said that more often than not elders do not want to participate in the prosecution of elder abuse cases. They don’t because also often they’re turning in their son or their turning in their grandchild or something like that. He said he had no qualms about taking something court without a victim involved because so often they’re unwilling and they’re scared to participate in the prosecution. So I think you raise a really good point.

Sara Mahoney: That’s why training so important because the training will teach you why all those billions of different reasons why those victims don’t want to participate in the process. I would think that you can as a prosecutor you can counter those reasons with the evidence to back up with the thunder behavior.



Audience Question: Why would a probation officer or agency want to refer a case to the fatality review team are there benefits to the officers or their benefits to the agencies at the local level? Does it require extensive more amounts of time to participate in that process? Can you talk a little bit more about that? 

Mary Walsh: Sure, you know there may be various reasons. There may be a case that you know, folks know about locally that they want to just have a closer look at as far as time frame. I mean again, we as the team are doing a lot of you know, pulling together information. So from a local standpoint the time commitment would really be you know, kind of talking with us up ahead of time helping us gather records potentially and then basically, you know meeting with us when we’re there but it may just be that a community wants to have a closer look at a case. You know, they maybe have questions or just really think that it would benefit. And I guess I would say it does benefit that community because it really does pull those systems together, you know, some of our meetings we have gotten feedback after that folks, you know, we’re doing training and we’re really more connected than they were prior to us being there. So I think that you know, it definitely can have a positive impact on the community and kind of working relationships in general.



Audience Question: Gina is calling in from a tribal area. So with that context Gina asks, I have come up against a lot of red tapes when trying to seek out information to be considered within our tribal offender management program when criminal history was shared with another jurisdiction even within the same state but in the county, versus the reservation. Our community lies in close proximity to the four corners of the United States. So four states meet in their vicinity. Those are all potential criminal histories that were probably missing. Do you have any advice for trying to work with the tribal sovereignty type attitudes that feel that including other jurisdiction criminal histories as a little quote-unquote too big brother-ish? She literally says that’s a real quote from an offender management program director. What do you do? 

Sara Mahoney: My thoughts are with you. I don’t know because I’m only you know one person. Unfortunately, I mean we have a reservation to the west of us in another county and I personally through our county I really haven’t had to work too closely with that. I can tell you that the City PD where the reservation is located in the county next to us has been very helpful in the couple of times that I’ve needed information, but unfortunately, we can’t always change the beliefs and viewpoints of other cultures. I really don’t have a good answer to that. Mary, can you speak to that?

Mary Walsh: I mean, you know, that’s it’s a kind of multifaceted issue, I think. I mean the only thing I can really say from a fatality review standpoint is there is a team in Montana, and I know that they have done some work specifically with tribal communities. I believe the organization that I referenced earlier, the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative, would have the Montana team’s report on their website. If you go to their website, you can look up reports and information for different teams. So you might want to check that report out. It may have some information that could be helpful.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of The New York State Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team: Implications for Probation


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