Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C,I-Smithtown) was joined today by his Assembly minority colleagues in launching a statewide petition drive designed to force the Assembly majority to act on civil confinement legislation and strengthen Megan’s Law in an effort to further protect New York’s children from dangerous sexual predators.
"Civil confinement and strengthening Megan’s Law are legislative priorities," said Fitzpatrick. "When news reports highlight the tragic events of sexual predators being released from prison only to commit the same crimes again, we, as a legislative body, need to put in place the laws and tools necessary to provide the level of protection New Yorkers need and deserve."
The Assembly minority press conference follows on the heels of Tuesday’s media session at which Gov. George Pataki and members of the state Senate unveiled legislation to strengthen Megan’s Law and provide more information about sex offenders to the public.
Civil confinement allows judges to order the worst sex offenders held in secure mental health facilities beyond their prison release dates if, upon evaluation, there are significant reasons to believe they may strike again. Under current law, sexually violent predators are released into communities once their sentences are finished despite evidence they will repeat their heinous crimes.
Included on the Assembly minority petition are proposals to strengthen Megan’s Law by restricting sex offenders’ access to schools, monitoring sex offenders’ movements through Global Positioning System satellites, providing more information about sexual predators to communities and requiring lifetime registration of offenders on the state Sex Offender Registry.
"I support the governor, the Senate and Assembly minority on this vital legislation, and call on the committee chairmen and the majority leadership to allow it to come to the Assembly floor for debate and vote by all my colleagues," said Fitzpatrick.
Without stronger statewide laws to protect children from convicted sex offenders, Fitzpatrick said, some localities have taken action on their own. Over the past few weeks, media all over New York have reported stories of local governments looking for new ways to protect residents from sex offenders who have been released into their communities.
For example, he noted, Binghamton city officials recently enacted a law preventing sex offenders from living, or being, within a quarter-mile of a school, day care center, playground or park. In Westchester County, satellite tracking devices are used to monitor freed sex offenders, and Albany County legislators are pushing for use of a similar system. Saratoga County government officials have appointed a task force to more effectively publicize information about convicted sexual predators in the county after four registered sex offenders were found living in a motel near a housing development and a community center.
The Assembly minority has been pressing for a civil confinement law since 1993, and a similar bill has repeatedly passed the state Senate with bipartisan support (this year’s vote was 58-2). The governor said he would sign the legislation into law as soon as it reaches his desk.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of civil confinement. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have civil confinement laws on the books.
Constituents wishing to support the petition drive may request a petition by e-mailing Assemblyman Fitzpatrick at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the district office at 724-2929.
The Assembly minority conference proposes the following measures to strengthen Megan’s Law:
- Prevent convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or school grounds (A.1654)
- Require the most dangerous sex offenders to wear electronic devices linked to Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to monitor their location and movements (A.8158)
- Expand information available about sex offenders on the Division of Criminal Justice Services’ Web site to include information on all registered offenders (A.1701)
- Require law enforcement authorities to release information on Level 2 and 3 sex offenders – those at the highest risk of committing additional crimes – to vulnerable populations in the community (A.1654)
- Require lifetime registration for all sex offenders on the state Sex Offender Registry.