Cain’s bill earns unanimous support
March 9, 2012
AUGUSTA – A bill to improve risk assessments in setting bail and sentencing conditions received a unanimous vote yesterday from the State Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. The legislation, sponsored by House Democratic leader Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, comes in the aftermath of the triple murder of Amy Lake and her children by the children's father last year in Dexter, Maine.
“The tragic Dexter murders served as a wake-up call for lawmakers and officials,” said Cain, who praised the committee for its bipartisan support of her bill. “Lawmakers must send a strong message to Maine people that domestic violence is never okay, and women and children should never feel unsafe in their home.”
While Maine has one of the lowest murder rates in the nation, more than 50 percent of those are directly related to domestic violence.
Cain’s bill, LD 1711, “An Act To Mandate the Use of Standardized Risk Assessment in the Management of Domestic Violence Crimes” would require the use of evidence-based domestic violence risk assessment by law enforcement officers in cases involving suspected or alleged domestic violence or abuse. The risk assessment would be given to both the bail commissioner and the district attorney involved in the case to help inform bail conditions and sentencing.
These evidence-based assessments have shown to more accurately predict offender recidivism, according to the Pew Center.
“The bill will help better identify those who are likely to commit acts of domestic violence again and stop them before they can,” Cain said. “Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to preventing domestic violence.”
While strengthening law enforcement tools is critical, we must also work together on comprehensive domestic violence prevention resources and treatment for battered women and their families.”
Cain has also been working with Governor Paul LePage on a separate pending measure to stem domestic violence. The committee is currently considering several proposals on the topic.
“There is a strong push for all of us to do everything we can to stem the tide of domestic violence in our state,” said Rep. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, the House Democratic lead on the committee. “This bill will arm our law enforcement officials with a standardized evidence based tool to assess the risk of an offender. We no longer just have to rely on a gut feeling.”
The Legislature will take votes on the measures in the coming weeks.
Jodi Quintero [Cain, Haskell] 287-1488, c. 841-6279