Dave Wilson and Shanda Kelsch Present at Regional Criminal Justice Conference

Dave and Shanda NPRC

Northern Pennsylvania Regional College criminal justice student, Shanda Kelsch, and Instructor of Criminal Justice, Dave Wilson, presented at the Northeastern Association of Criminal Justice Sciences (NEACJS) Annual Conference in Gettysburg earlier this month. Their research is just the beginning of what they hope can bring monumental change to the criminal justice system and outcomes for survivors of domestic violence.

The duo co-authored an over 30-page work titled ‘Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Empowering the Survivors of Domestic Abuse,’ which was presented on Friday, June 7. The work proposes improvements to the criminal justice system as it pertains to survivors of domestic violence, in addition to data points that reinforce why change is necessary. “Our work shares possible amendments and revisions to current laws as well as proposes alternative and sustainable outcomes for survivors,” explained Wilson. “Currently, domestic violence survivors can only remain in a shelter for an average of three days after the events occurred based on bed availability, and many shelters do not have ample resources or the ability to accept entire family units. Our work shares different ways that victims can be supported after the incidents occurred as well as a change to the law to elevate from a civil to a criminal charge.”

Shanda Kelsch NPRC
Shanda Kelsch is pictured presenting at the Northeastern Association of Criminal Justice Sciences (NEACJS) Annual Conference in Gettysburg.

The piece details alternative care solutions centered on uplifting victims and assisting them with making the pivots towards a better life in the future. Instead of a short three-days spent in a shelter, emergency shelters and transitional housing, along with programming and services for victims, would be combined and moved to one location in a ranch style housing with private housing facilities. This change would allow victims and their children to stay in the same structure, and services can be provided for up to three years. This stability and change from the current reform can empower victims to receive education, therapy, treatment, and other resources to help themselves and their families in the best ways of moving forward. The work also details a sustainable financial system that can ensure the long-term success of these facilities.

Wilson approached Kelsch about the opportunity to submit work for the NEACJS Annual Conference during the Spring 2024 term. The duo worked together to submit an accepted proposal and later craft a full work shared with attendees. However, their work is not complete. Kelsch and Wilson will discuss their proposed plan with locally elected officials in Venango County and beyond to share their ideas on how our legislative system can better support victims of domestic violence and hold abusers more accountable under the law. One official who has already commented on their support of these proposed changes is Venango County 1st Assistant District Attorney, Kyle Peasley. “Historically, through reform, we have focused on rehabilitation, reintroduction, and the rights of the offender while forgetting about the victim. As a prosecutor, it is my job to bring justice for the victim. This project is an overall wholesome approach of focusing on the victim and making them as close to pre-abuse status as possible.”

Dave Wilson NPRC
Wilson is pictured presenting at the Northeastern Association of Criminal Justice Sciences (NEACJS) Annual Conference in Gettysburg.

Wilson shared about how appreciative he’s been of the work from Kelsch and the support they’ve gained from those at NPRC. “Shanda been a rockstar with this opportunity and has truly run with this proposal I had for her. This is a great way to not only fight for change, but to assist a student who truly cares about making a difference. We also cannot thank President Susie Snelick and NPRC Director of Applied Studies Leigh Anne Kramer-Naser for their support and words of encouragement as we worked on this project.”

Kelsch shared about how meaningful this opportunity has been for her and how she hopes many NPRC students will follow as far as pursuing causes outside of class time they are passionate about. “Domestic violence has always been a topic that has hit home with me, and that there are so many problems that exist within the system at this point in time is very concerning,” said Kelsch. “For Dave and me to have pulled together the research to support this, and to have gone to the conference with a solid plan, to share about these proposed improvements to the system that will help the welfare of victims and children, was an incredible opportunity.”

She continued, “Dave is a very strong mentor for me. In all honesty, I don’t think that I would have accomplished half of what I have accomplished to date if it wasn’t for Dave. He’s always there for his students and something I appreciate about him, especially, is if he doesn’t have the answer, he will find the answer to that question for his students. I hope other students step up and decide they want to do projects or accept research opportunities like this,” she said.

A petition has been executed online to help support these proposed reforms and can be found here. For more information about Kelsch and Wilson’s mission, please email skelsch@womenempoweringwomen.life.

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