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Editorial: Domestic violence victims need bail fixes, not protests

Recent protests against the Children Youth and Families Department seem to center around what the 1967 film “Cool Hand Luke” describes as “a failure to communicate.”

How else can you explain an advocacy group that is protesting a policy that the targeted state agency says doesn’t exist rather than a court system that has admitted it needs to change the practices that can render restraining orders meaningless and allow dangerous offenders to quickly pop out of jail on bond? And why would any group that advocates for the abused seemingly want to give up on justice and just put victims into hiding?

Yet that is what the Olé Working Parents Association is doing as it buses folks in to camp outside CYFD offices and decry what it claims is a policy requiring domestic violence victims to file for restraining orders against and child support from their exes in order to get child-care assistance. Except CYFD says it doesn’t require that in cases where it would be dangerous. What CYFD says it does require is for women who have not been domestic violence victims to sue for child support so the limited pool of child-care money is freed up for those who can’t sue “because of a fear from past domestic violence.”

CYFD spokesman Henry Varela says if filing suit against a former partner would further endanger a domestic violence victim, “they are not required to apply for child support and can fill out a waiver form once during their initial application and they will not be asked to apply for child support again.”

Which means both the protesters and the state agency agree on something: The system can’t protect vulnerable women in these cases.

Meanwhile, Olé has not provided any names of caseworkers or supervisors whom it says have demanded domestic violence victims to file requests with the courts in recent years. That makes rectifying any source of misinformation difficult if not impossible.

And Olé has not equally decried the system that provides abusers a quick bail out – so blatantly that on occasion they tell the arresting officer, “see you tomorrow.”

It would make more sense for this protest group and others to get behind a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow judges to hold dangerous defendants in these cases without bond – while also preventing nonviolent offenders charged with lesser crimes from being held in jail solely because they can’t afford bail.

Working together to make these changes would go further toward getting clients justice, rather than pushing an agenda that requires them to live in hiding, eking out a living on public assistance.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.