Jessica Lunsford Act
(Jessica's Law Proposition 83)
The Jessica Lunsford Act or Jessica's Law as it is called in
some states was named after a nine-year-old Florida girl who was
abducted, raped and brutally murdered in February 2005. The Jessica
Lunsford Act is H. R. 1505 of the 109th Congress and is sponsored
by U.S. Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite R-Florida. If the law
passes, it will force states to adopt the elements of Jessica's
Law or else forfeit federal grant money.
The intent of the Jessica Lunsford Act is to find a way to track
serial pedophiles once they have been released from prison and
in some states to give longer sentences to serial pedophiles.
According to the Jessica Lunsford Act, those who are convicted
of child sex crimes and deemed serial pedophiles will be required
to wear non-removable global positioning devices (GPS) so that
their whereabouts may be tracked at any time by law enforcement.
The Jessica Lunsford Act is intended to plug a hole in Megan's
Law, which only works if the sex offender lives at his registered
address. Under Megan's Law it is up to the public to check the
public database online for any sex offenders in the area.
In addition, the states will be required to mail out random non-forwardable
registration forms to non-serial convicted child sex offenders
who have been released in order to verify their current residency.
Those who do not return the forms within 10 days will be considered
to be non-compliant and will be punished by the same means as
failure to register. Those who are non-compliant more than two
times will also be forced to wear GPS devices.
California has on its ballot Jessica's Law Proposition 83, which
adds a number of additional restrictions and penalties for child
Key Components of Proposition 83:
- For every forcible sex act the convicted felon will receive
consecutive full-term sentences
- All egregious sex offenders will serve a minimum 25 year sentence
- Requires felony sex offenders to wear GPS devices for lif
- Prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a
park or school and give local governments the power to create
other safe zones such as water parks
- Allows law enforcement to act as decoys in order to capture
Internet predators with fear of convictions being overturned
on entrapment charges
- Imposes additional five year term for sex offenders who drug
Despite the positive intentions of making children and families
safer from pedophiles, the Jessica Lunsford Act and other Jessica's
Law proposals have some potential negative unintended consequences,
which will need to be address either before or after the acts
become law. For instance an 18-year-old and a 17-year-old who
have a consensual "Romeo & Juliet" relationship,
may find the 18-year-old with a lifetime conviction and GPS tracking
device for child sex crimes.
Another issue is in regards to forcing those who have gone to
prison and then been released to wear a GPS device for an additional
20 years to life. Most federal and state laws accept that once
a person's prison sentence has been completed there is no further
punishment and having sex offenders wear GPS devices may be regarded
as "punishment after the fact". Some suggest that the
2,000 foot safe zone will push pedophiles from urban areas to
rural areas and still others argue that letting potential pedophiles
know the severity of punishment for unlawful child sex acts will
turn many pedophiles into child murderers in order that there
be no witnesses to the crimes.
One last problem with the Jessica Lunsford Act and other Jessica's
Law proposals is in regards to the pedophile's non-offending family
members being at risk because of the acts and punishment of the
pedophile. Because Internet publication of the pedophiles' home
addresses is still standard, this may put family members at risk
such as the vigilante murders in Maine in April 2006.
It has been estimated that there are over 100,000 cases per year
of children being molested and raped. Unfortunately, most of these
cases involve the family, extended family or family's circle of
friends. The percentage that happens from unknown assailants is
relatively small by comparison. Nonetheless, the issue of having
known serial pedophiles living nearby is of grave concern to many
and thus laws are being proposed to deal with these serial child
rapists and pedophiles. The laws however, need to be targeted
enough to address the problem without creating more problems with
the unintended consequences of imposing such laws.