One of the most vicious crimes committed is the sexual abuse of a child. The victims of these horrific offenses are often left with deep emotional and psychological wounds. As a parent, I believe we must do more to prevent children from becoming victims of sexually violent predators.
My colleagues in the Assembly and I are proposing a 17-point plan that will help save children from becoming victims of sex abuse. The plan is based on the testimony, gathered by the Assembly Minority Task Force on Sex Crimes Against Children and Women, with input from district attorneys, law enforcement officials, concerned citizens and victims of sexual abuse. It is designed to strengthen "Meganís Law," the notification law that alerts community members when a sexual predator has moved into their neighborhood.
In the eight years since Meganís Law was enacted, weíve seen that it is one of the best tools we have to protect children against sexual predators. But we need to strengthen Meganís Law to ensure that notification of sexual predators and other aspects of the law translate into real protection for our children.
It has been proven that a small but extremely dangerous group of sexually violent predators will never be rehabilitated and, as a result, are very likely to strike again. One of the task forceís proposals is the enactment of a "civil confinement" law that would allow a judge to order a high-risk offender held in a secure facility beyond his or her maximum prison term and allow continued treatment, thereby protecting children from being victimized again. Ours would not be the first state to enact such a law. Sixteen other states have civil confinement laws and the U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutionality of such statutes.
Similarly, my colleagues and I are seeking to restrict plea bargains by sex offenders to ensure that they will be listed on the Meganís Law registry. Sex offenders have been able to avoid registration by plea-bargaining to a non-sexual offense. This must be stopped so sex offenders are not allowed to twist the law in a way that lets them slip through the cracks.
Other proposals would require greater notification to parents and schools when an offender is released in the community, closing loopholes in Meganís Law by creating penalties for failing to register, and raising penalties for criminals who molest children.
When sex offenders are released from jail, we should not have to lock our doors out of fear and keep our children secluded in order to keep them from harm. Knowledge is protection against sex offenders. It is essential that we change our guidelines so sexual predators donít strike again. Parents must be given these additional safeguards to keep their children safe.