Leigh Goodmark Advocates for Criminalized Survivors of Violence

Leigh Goodmark (’95), Professor of Law, Co-Director, Clinical Law Program, and Director of the Gender Violence Clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law, published Imperfect Victims: Criminalized Survivors and the Promise of Abolition Feminism (released Jan. 31), examining how incarcerating victims of gender-based violence criminalizes survivors and compounds trauma.

In an op-ed for Truthout, Leigh described “imperfect victims” as those who “fail to conform to the narrow confines of ‘true’ or ‘innocent’ victimhood — a category reserved for victims who are white, heterosexual, cisgender, passive and compliant with law enforcement. . . . Imperfect victims are regularly arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for crimes directly linked to their own victimization.” Advocating abolition feminism to end punishment by the criminal legal system, Leigh explained, “Criminalized survivors trade one abusive environment for another. . . . The only way to guarantee that ‘imperfect victims’ are no longer punished is to dismantle the system that punishes them.” (“Let’s Abolish Systems That Criminalize and Punish Survivors of Abuse,” Jan. 20).

Contributing an opinion to Gotham Gazette, Leigh also endorsed proposed legislation in New York state, the Eliminate Mandatory Minimums Act and the Second Look Act, which would allow judges greater discretion to consider mitigating circumstances in sentencing and to review excessive sentences (“Criminalized Survivors Deserve Sentencing Reform,” Dec. 5). “[W]e have spent decades pursuing the wrong solutions to gender-based violence. . . . We need to redirect the billions of dollars that currently go to the criminal legal system into economic stimulus, public health prevention, and communities. And we need to get people out of prison and back into communities, where they can heal, work, parent, and thrive. Yes, even for intimate partner violence, communities not cages is the right policy choice.”