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DA: Bail Agency Needs Overhaul to Better Protect Victims

by on January 20, 2014 6:45 AM

After Traci Raymond Miscavish's husband attacked her, she and the Centre County District Attorney's office urged a judge not let him out on bail.

The judge released Mark Miscavish on bail with conditions while he awaited trial. After Miscavish was let go, he found his wife and killed her before killing himself.

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller says there's a flaw in the system that needs fixed in order to prevent similar incidents.

Currently, the county's bail agency is described as "supervised," however the process only includes a phone call to a defendant free on bail to confirm their whereabouts, Parks Miller says.

If Centre County had a bail system with more oversight of defendants, including electronic monitoring, Parks Miller says the outcome for Traci Raymond may have been different.

Parks Miller wants to see a bail agency where, as a condition of avoiding jail before trial, a defendant wear an electronic anklet that can monitor a defendant's alcohol intake through perspiration and detect the defendant's location via GPS. The device would be particularly helpful for the prevention of repeat DUI offenders, Parks Miller says.

"We see persons out on DUI charges committing new DUIs. Persons who have committed homicide by vehicle still drinking and drugging with tips coming in while they are on supervised bail, and the agency not being able to do anything but check on where he is living," Parks Miller says.

Parks Miller says she does not fault the bail agency as it does not have the tools or authority to do anything beyond checking on a defendant's whereabouts.

The technology Parks Miller is seeking can automatically alert the bail agency, police and a victim if a defendant violates a condition of bail. In the case of Traci Raymond, Parks Miller says the victim could have received a text message alert that her husband was in close proximity.

"If he had been wearing one of these tools that we want to implement she would have had a head start," Parks Miller says.

The current program lacks intensive supervision for bail conditions, such as no contact with a domestic violence victim and no consumption of alcohol or drugs.

"We're a very proactive county and we have a really outdated bail program," Parks Miller says. "That is something that we aim to fix."

She believes the solution is to either completely overhaul the existing bail agency or create a new agency. The county would purchase the equipment. However, offenders would pay a daily fee to use the device. Under the new rules, she says bail agents would have the authority to make an arrest if an offender violated a condition. Additionally, she says the anklets would save the county money by keeping defendants out of jail.

"The tools are out there. We can do it quite easily," Parks Miller says. "The key is to have the tools ... An effective bail agency has to have the ability to make an arrest."

Several entities will need to sign off on her proposal in order for it to be implemented, including Centre County judges and Centre County commissioners.

Parks Miller intends to make a formal proposal to stakeholders later this year.

"Persons awaiting trial need to be held accountable to the conditions of bail as determined by the district judge and the Court of Common Pleas and we we need to ensure the community and the vicitms are protected while their cases are pending," she says.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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