Photo by David Designer Portraits
Alina Sheykhet, for whom Alina’s Law is named.
By Rep. Anita Kulik
Too often in Harrisburg, bills important to all Pennsylvanians get pushed to the wayside, never even getting committee consideration. The House will reconvene for two weeks in September and many of us go back hoping genuine issues will be addressed.
We have neighborhoods in our district that suffer greatly from crime. Drug addiction is an issue for people no matter what neighborhood we live in. Mental health is a growing concern and while some of these issues are receiving greater consideration in Harrisburg, there is so much more to be done.
Over the last several House sessions, I have presented a bill dealing with electronic monitoring in protection from abuse (PFA) cases. This bill, known as Alina’s Law, provides an extra layer of security for the victims of domestic violence. When a PFA order is entered, the protection they offer is often thinner than the paper on which they’re printed.
Too many people have suffered further injury, and, in Alina’s case, death, despite an order being in place. Alina filed a PFA after her abuser tried to break into her home. Days after she order was granted, he broke into her home murdered her.
We need to strengthen domestic violence laws now before one more person dies.
I have co-sponsored a bill which addresses problems with electronic monitoring in criminal cases. Often, courts order a defendant, or a parolee, to a period of house arrest. Electronic monitoring should be in place during house arrest, but this may not occur for a variety of reasons. Those situations present potential harm.
One reason may be that “landline” phone service is not in existence at the residence. Many people now only have their cell phones, and the technology of many court systems have not kept pace with the technological advances in our society.
Also of concern is that parolees who are ordered to undergo electronic monitoring are allowed to go unmonitored for a brief period of time. After being released from prison, and before their first required meeting at a parole office, I believe there is a potential risk.
The bill I have co-sponsored would require the involvement of a state parole officer at the time of release from prison. The officer would take the parolee directly to the parole office for the implementation of a monitoring device. As I mentioned above, some residences do not have telephone landlines. As such, the bill would require a parolee to remain incarcerated until a functional landline had been installed at their residence.
Too often our court system ignores the rights and the needs of victims. Whether we are talking about domestic violence or other criminal matters. Electronic monitoring can, and will, offer additional protection for victims. Criminals who have been sentenced to house arrest and/or monitoring should not avoid this requirement because of loopholes in the system.
I fully understand no system is perfect. Just as the court order may not result in safety for the victim, the perpetrator can commit a crime even with monitoring in place. However, I believe any additional layer of protection is worth the effort.