HARRISBURG – Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington), along with several other House members, introduced a package of bills titled the Safer Pennsylvania Act. The package is designed to ensure that victims feel safe and supported after a traumatic experience, and that the criminal justice system is equipped to increase public safety outcomes.
“I am proud to introduce this very important package of bills along with my colleagues,” said Mihalek. “We must ensure that when someone experiences a violent crime, they are able to access programs and services that support them, address their traumas and help them heal.”
The six pieces of legislation will protect victims of crime and improve public safety outcomes for all Commonwealth residents.
The Victims of Violence Employment Leave Act, sponsored by Rep. Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks), would authorize victims of violent crime and their immediate family members to take unpaid leave from work for any of the reasons set forth in the act, including the victim’s need to seek medical attention or the need to grieve the loss of a loved one killed in a homicide.
“No one should be worried about their ability to take time off from work for having to attend a hearing, a court proceeding, or if they need to seek medical or psychological help when they’re the victim of a crime,” Thomas said.
The Victims of Violence Landlord-Tenant Act, sponsored by Rep. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery), would permit individuals to lawfully terminate residential leases when necessary as a result of the crime.
“No one should be forced to continue to live in a place in which they do not feel safe. Staying in the home often compounds a victim’s trauma or exposes the victim and his or her family to further violence,” said Pennycuick. “My legislation would enable someone who has been the victim of a violent crime to lawfully terminate a lease. If a victim wishes to remain in the home but fears for their safety, he or she can also request the landlord change the locks or other security devices that provide access to the victim’s residence.”
The Victims of Violence Emergency Relocation Act, sponsored by Rep. Shelby Labs (R-Bucks), would expand protections to victims of other types of violent crimes, their immediate family or household members, and witnesses to violent crime who are threatened with further violence.
“It’s important we remain committed to protecting victims long after the initial incident or threat has occurred,” Labs said. “This legislation aims to shelter victims from those who have endangered or continue to threaten their safety, by relocating them and their families to a new, unknown location.”
The Victims of Violence Compensation Act, sponsored by Mihalek, would update the Crime Victims Act to ensure more victims receive the help they need and know their rights.
“Victims need time and support to properly process their traumatic experience,” said Mihalek. “This legislation will ensure that victims understand their role in the criminal justice system and receive any help they are owed.”
The Education Access and Incentivization in Corrections Act, also sponsored by Mihalek, would build on Pennsylvania’s commitment to education in the correctional system as a smart, proven public safety strategy.
“When we put criminals away, we expect them to be reformed if and when they are released, but they do not have the proper tools behind bars to change their behavior,” Mihalek said. “Many offenders are released from prison and return to their old ways. This legislation will ensure they are getting the proper education while in prison so that when they are released, they are no longer a threat to themselves or potential victims.”
The Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act, sponsored by Rep. Meghan Schroeder (R-Bucks), would create an exception to reporting identifying information specifically in sexual assault cases where victims wish to remain anonymous.
“Our legislative package would make Pennsylvania safer by protecting victims and ensuring they have the appropriate resources and tools to move forward safely,” Schroeder said. “By allowing victims the opportunity to report sexual assaults anonymously, it will offer them somewhere they can turn for help.”
The bills will be considered by the appropriate House committee.
Representative Natalie Mihalek
40th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Michelle Swab
Pictured speaking is Rep. Natalie Mihalek with members of the House Republican Caucus and survivors of crime victims Pearl Wise and Jody Coleman.