Court giving first-time domestic violence offenders choice in sentencing

​Since 2020, 28 people have graduated from the court’s program. Twenty-seven of them have never stepped foot inside a courtroom for domestic violence again.

SAN ANTONIO — Reflejo Court is taking a novel approach to domestic violence, giving first-time offenders an option to either receive jail time or treat their trauma and erase their charge. 

“Our participants, whether you like it or not, are the first  victims of violence as children, as adolescents, they never resolve that  that trauma,” said Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez. “They carry it with them. They found their own ways of trying to mitigate the trauma, often with substances. So we get them sober, we treat the trauma, we give them skills so that they don’t come back into the criminal justice system and do not re-offend.”

First-time offenders do have to plead guilty before they voluntarily choose to participate in the court’s five-phase program. The program involves check-ins with Judge Gonzalez every two weeks, addressing everything from counseling to their budget. 

“It’s been a trauma centered, intensive  outpatient program for substance abuse,” Gonzalez said. “They get  intensive supervision, group therapy, individual therapy.”

Since 2020, 28 people have graduated from the program. Twenty-seven of them have never stepped foot inside a courtroom for domestic violence again. 

“It’s a lot easier to make these folks disappear in a jail than to treat them so that they can become, instead of tax burdens, taxpayers and become good parents and become good spouses, good sons, good brothers, good wives, good sisters, good neighbors and good community members,” Gonzalez said. 

It’s because of this program, that Reflejo Court became the first in Bexar County to achieve a Level 1 Trauma-Informed Care Certification by the Ecumenical Center. 

“It trains our staff to be sensitive to the experience as lived by the participants in our court,” she said. “There’s a reason why they behave the way they do, the reason why they’re chronically late everywhere. There’s a reason why they can’t  seem to balance their budget. There’s a reason why they have blackouts in which they’re told they lashed out at someone, and that’s trauma. And we as the staff are sensitive to that and try to work with them to address the trauma so that their behaviors are minimized and even eliminated.”

According to Gonzalez,  Bexar County has the highest number of domestic violence cases filed within the state. 

“If I want to be frank, we need money,” Gonzalez said. “We need our local leadership and elected officials to buy into this program for the sake of our community  so that we can break the cycle of trauma that goes back to the colonization of this area.”

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