The Imprisonment of Battered Women Who Kill
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Explores the experiences of women imprisoned for killing their male abusers and their treatment by the criminal justice system.
When a woman survives a deadly assault by her male abuser by using lethal self-defense, she often faces a punitive criminal justice system—one that largely failed to respond to her earlier calls for help. In this book, Elizabeth Dermody Leonard examines the lives and experiences of more than forty women in California who are serving lengthy prison sentences for killing their male abusers. She contrasts them with other women prisoners in the state and finds substantial differences. Leonard's in-depth interviews reveal that the women are slow to identify themselves as battered women and continue to minimize the violence done to them, make numerous and varied attempts to end abusive relationships, and are systematically failed by the systems they look to for help. While in jail, these women receive liberal dosages of psychotropic drugs, damaging their ability to aid in their self-defense. Moreover, trials and plea bargains feature little or no evidence of the severe intimate abuse inflicted upon them. Despite a clear lack of criminal or violent histories, the majority of women found guilty of the death of abusive men receive first- or second-degree murder convictions and serve long, harsh sentences. Leonard concludes the book with a discussion of policy implications and recommendations arising from this research.
Elizabeth Dermody Leonard is Professor of Sociology at Vanguard University.
"This book brings to the forefront the characteristics of battered women who kill their partners and their experiences with the criminal justice system, from arrest to incarceration. It gives the reader an insight into their troubled lives and provides a context for their lethal offense. The policy implications and the recommendations that flow from the research are significant. " — Barbara Bloom, Sonoma State University
"The legal system is starting to respond more appropriately to the issue of domestic violence. However, we still have a very long way to go in dealing justly with battered women who kill their abusers. The publication of this book is a step toward achieving that goal. " — from the Foreword by Nancy K. D. Lemon, author of Domestic Violence Law