Wisconsin chapter works to amend ‘deadly force’ law

Apr 14, 2014

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

The NASW Wisconsin Chapter is working to keep social workers and other human services staff safe from a law that allows homeowners to use deadly force in potential home invasions.

Three social work students helped the NASW Wisconsin Chapter lobby state representatives for support of the Social Work Safety bill. From left are Andrew Selander; Wisconsin State Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay; Becca Zien; and Nicholl Leonhard.

Wisconsin lawmakers in late 2011 passed the Castle Doctrine, which states that if a person has “reason to believe” someone is breaking into their home, deadly force can be used without fear of being prosecuted.

In the original bill, the homeowner cannot cite the law as a defense if the suspected home invader is a police officer, firefighter or EMT worker.

The Wisconsin Chapter campaigned state lawmakers to introduce a bill in February that seeks to include social workers and other human services workers to the list of people exempt from the Castle Doctrine defense.

“We are trying to provide recognition that social workers deserve the same respect and protections as EMTs, firefighters and the police,” said NASW Wisconsin Chapter Executive Director Marc Herstand. “They do the work on behalf of the people of Wisconsin to protect children.”

Herstand said the chapter’s current and former student interns became passionate about the cause after they learned how the Castle Doctrine would affect their safety as an entry-level social worker performing home visits.

Current chapter intern Andrew Selander is a BSW student at George Williams College of Aurora University in Williams Bay, Wis. He was instrumental in hosting a recent meeting of school faculty and students with state Sen. Dave Hansen, a Democrat who represents Green Bay.

Selander and former student interns Nicholl Leonhard and Becca Zien lobbied support for the bill with eight state representatives during a recent state capitol visit as well.

Selander said even though he does not plan to be in a job that requires home visitations, it is important to him to promote the bill in an effort to protect future social workers from harm.

“I am more interested in macro (social work), but I understand the safety issues that go on in the field, such as transporting clients,” he said.

He said he is pleased many Republican lawmakers are sponsoring the bill.

“There are great people on both sides of the aisle,” Selander said. “We will do our best to move the bill forward until it gets passed.”

Herstand said the chapter is lobbying the committee leaders in both chambers to hold a hearing on the bill before lawmakers end their current session this month.

From the April 2014 NASW News.

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