McHenry County court officials will embark on their third specialty court, all three of which make a great deal of sense in modernizing approaches to crime and important societal issues.
Drug court and mental health court have been successes so far, and there’s no expectation that domestic violence court won’t be another benefit to McHenry County based on the leadership that Judge Charles Weech and Scott Block, specialty courts coordinator, have shown.
In the past, all crimes have been treated in a similar way. But some criminal behavior can’t be separated from unique issues. If we expect results, these unique cases should not be handled in a traditional crime-and-punishment fashion.
Criminal courts are not factories making widgets. They are designed to protect society, and often the square pegs won’t fit into round holes.
Domestic violence is one of those pervasive issues that has a wider impact and root causes that must be addressed if we are to end the cycle. Domestic violence has a tremendous negative effect on victims, on children and on families, in addition to the ramifications for the offender.
Lumping misdemeanor domestic battery cases in with DUIs, shoplifting charges and minor drug offenses allows domestic battery cases to drown on flooded court calls, which isn’t good for anyone.
These cases need to be resolved more quickly and with the attention they deserve. What often happens when they drag along is that victims become weary from repeated court appearances and prosecutors’ cases lose their steam with unmotivated witnesses. Then the cycle of domestic violence is allowed to fester.
The good news, at least on the surface, is that the number of domestic violence cases in McHenry County has been steadily dropping, from 749 cases in 2008 to 610 cases last year, although no one can really say how many cases are never reported to police.
What’s important is that pleas are resolved quickly and appropriately and that both victims and defendants get the counseling they need to stop the cycle of domestic violence.