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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 sex offenders.

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 their victims


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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