Jail Calls in Domestic Abuse Cases: Are Your Children Affected?

Jail phone
The jail phone is the method that many domestic abusers use to control and manipulate their victims.

For many people who are not familiar with domestic violence, they tend to assume that once the abuser has been arrested, the problem goes away. In truth, many abusers continue to dominate, manipulate and frighten their victims, even while they are behind bars, by way of the jail telephone. How is that possible, you ask? Let’s take a look at this phenomenon.

Even the Supreme Court has acknowledged the fact that witness tampering often continues in domestic violence cases, after an abuser is detained and awaiting trial and sentencing. The primary method for this, they say, is through telephone calls from the  jail. According to a study performed in 2011 by Amy Bonomi, Professor and Chair of Human Development and Family Studies at Michigan State University, and David Martin, Chair of the Domestic Violence Unit at King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, witness tampering via jail calls is common in domestic violence cases.

Since then, Bonomi and Martin have released new information, expanding on their earlier study, and providing case studies to support their findings. They analyze jail calls between arrested domestic abusers and their victims and reveal exactly how abusers manipulate their victims into changing their stories or recanting their testimony, in order to lessen impending criminal charges.

Three examples are provided in the research, from three cases where someone accused of domestic violence had contact with their victim, and their children, over the phone, which directly affected the outcome of the case. In all three cases the children were used as tools to manipulate the victim in some capacity, and cause them to change their story.

A victim can be manipulated if they believe their children are at risk.

In the first case, the abuser beat and strangled his wife while she was trying to breastfeed their newborn baby, because he suspected that she was cheating on him. The woman’s teen daughter heard the struggle and called the police, at which point the abuser was arrested and taken to jail. During numerous calls made to the victim from jail, her husband repeatedly ordered her to tell the police whatever she had to in order to get him released. The reason he gave for this was because she had no other income besides him, and he was the only one who could provide for the family. The victim later recanted, and told the court that she couldn’t remember what had happened.

In the second case, the abuser assaulted his wife at a nightclub because he claimed she was ruining his fun. Police arrested him at the scene, but his wife denied the event, despite her broken nose. In later calls to the victim from jail, the abuser accused his wife of wanting to be hit, and also manipulated their child. When speaking to the child on the phone, the abuser said that the child’s mother was “mean and evil” and that he was in jail because she hated him. He also threatened suicide, at which point the victim caved and agreed to get the abuser out of jail.

In the third case, the abuser assaulted his partner, and was arrested and jailed for the harm he caused her. However, once behind bars he had contact with his victim by phone calls, where he repeatedly pointed out that her job as an exotic dancer was embarrassing to their child. He also insisted that problems in the family could be attributed to her career choice. In this way, he shifted the blame for their predicament onto her, and was able to make her feel guilt and shame as a victim.

The summary, according to Bonomi and Martin, is that domestic abusers use their children as tools to advance their own causes. As attorney Chuck Kronzek points out, “Here in Michigan, judges order that the accused have no contact with their accuser. Sometimes the defendant follows that order and sometimes not. When the court order is violated through phone calls from the jail, the judge or prosecutor is notified because all Michigan jails record all inmate phone calls. The defendants dig themselves in deeper when they violate a judge’s orders”

Criminal Defense Attorney John English says “We advise all defendants to strictly follow the judge’s orders. In domestic assault cases, that means absolutely no contact directly or indirectly with the accuser.” He goes on remind us that violating a judge’s order will be a costly mistake for a criminal defendant.

If you have been accused of domestic assault, domestic violence or any felony case in Michigan, contact the criminal defense team at The Kronzek Firm. We have countless victories throughout the state defending our clients. Our phones answer 24/7 at 1 800-576-6035.