UNA students write domestic violence bill

What started as a class project for four students might change the penalty for domestic violence in Alabama.

The student’s domestic violence bill was introduced at the Alabama House of Representatives Feb. 25.

Politics, Justice, and Law students senior Tiffany Frandsen, junior Paris Johnston and junior Katherine Hanbery, along with Sociology and Family Studies major senior Brooke Leonard, drafted a new domestic violence law House Bill 338.

“Basically, it takes the current domestic violence laws and it increases the incarceration period and penalties that are already in place, if there is a child involved to witness the domestic violence that took place,” said junior Paris Johnston.

Adjunct Instructor Angie Hamilton said she set the bill as a class goal for the Studies in Family Justice course. The class regularly met at One Place of the Shoals since it was used as a case study for the course, Hamilton said.

Meeting the children and victims that come to One Place of the Shoals made the students even more passionate about the bill, Hamilton said.

Johnston said the origin of the idea for the law emerged from a former case about Hollie Newberry Hamilton worked on. Hamilton later founded the Shoals non-profit organization, One Place of the Shoals.

One Place provides needed services to victims of domestic violence, adult rape and sexual assault, child sexual and physical abuse, and elder abuse, according to One Place’s website.

“I’m very proud of the group (of students),” she said. “They did a great job developing the bill.”

After the students finished writing the bill, Hamilton gave it to her sponsor, who would normally read through the bill and make any necessary edits. However, Hamilton said her sponsor did not have to edit or reword the bill because it was so well-written.

The process of turning HB 338 into a law could take several months through the state legislative process.

“The Constitution provides that no law shall be passed except by a bill, which is a proposed law written out in the proper form,” according to the Alabama Legislative Process policy. “When approved by the legislative body and the Governor, the bill becomes an act.”

Johnston said she thinks if anyone really looks into it, the bill would be passed.

The bill’s progress can be viewed at legiscan.com/AL/bill/HB338/2016.

Future projects with the bill may be part of the class in the near future.

“We did a lot of research that shows that there is a continuing cycle of abuse,” Johnston said. “We are finding a lot of useful information for future assignments.”

Future student collaborations on the project are something Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice Yashica Williams said she looks forward to.

One Place is located off 200 W Tennessee St in downtown Florence and can be reached at (256) 284-7600 or [email protected].