HARRISBURG — Sen. Camera Bartolotta introduced legislation Monday that would give Pennsylvania judges additional tools to protect victims of domestic violence.
Bartolotta said the bill would clarify that magisterial district judges may use a risk assessment tool to determine whether a defendant poses a danger to a victim when setting bail in domestic violence cases. Risk assessment tools have proven to be effective in predicting an offender’s odds of re-offending and creating a dangerous circumstance for victims, the senator said.
Bartolotta named the bill Tierne’s Law in honor of Tierne Ewing, a Washington County resident who was kidnapped and later killed by her estranged husband in August 2016. Ewing’s estranged husband had been arrested a few weeks prior to the kidnapping for domestic violence and other offenses, but he was granted bail in spite of the prosecutor’s request for bail to be raised or revoked.
Last year, Pennsylvania assisted more than 89,000 victims of domestic violence. Ewing was one of 102 domestic violence homicide victims in 2016. Eight of those victims lived in the counties Bartolotta represents.
“The tragedy that unfolded in Tierne’s case exposed numerous flaws in the way state and local authorities treat instances of domestic violence, and my heart goes out to all those who loved her and the other families who have suffered through similar circumstances,” Bartolotta said. “We need to explore every avenue to ensure no family has to endure the same sort of pain and loss.”
Bartolotta said her legislation was developed with input from district attorneys, domestic violence experts and others who have an interest in improving the judicial system’s ability to protect victims.
If you or someone you know needs help, there are resources available:
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
List of Shelters
Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania
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