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Proposed Florida Law Would Enforce a Minimum 25 Year Sentence for Sex Offenders

  • Charlene Sarmiento

In the southeastern state of Florida, lawmakers have approved tough new legislation to enforce minimum 25-year sentences on sex offenders and monitor them for life. Florida governor Jeb Bush is expected to sign it into law.

Every state in the United States has some form of sex offender registry, which tracks the whereabouts of people who have been convicted and released. There are an estimated 380,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S. But thousands of them have disappeared, possible endangering communities.

Carly Brucia, Jessica Lunsford and Sarah Lunde were all kidnapped and killed by parole violators in the state of Florida in the last 14-months.

"We've got to get them off our street, we have to save our children," says Mark Lunsford, Jessica's father. "I would pay any price to bring my daughter back and I'll pay any price tag to save another child."

Mr. Lunsford cannot get his daughter back but he may get his other wish. The Florida legislature has passed what is being called 'Jessica Lunsford's law,' that will send child sex offenders to jail for a minimum of 25-years. If the offender were released, he or she would be sujected to electronic monitoring for life.

The monitoring technology consists of GPS or Global Positioning Satellite systems and a tracking device worn around the ankle. When the wearer of the device is in the wrong place, parole officers and police can be alerted.

Engineers say had John Couey, the convicted sex offender who has admitted killing Jessica Lunsford, been wearing one of these monitors - she might have been saved.

"We would have known where he was and gone out and apprehended him long before he kidnapped that girl [Jessica Lunsford]." says Chris Defant, a Vice President of Engineering at the Pro-tech Monitoring Company.

Experts stress that tracking offenders is only part of the solution and that on-going treatment is necessary.

"Research has shown that treatment is effective in reducing re-offense rates," says Dr. Jill Levenson, with the Association for the treatment of Sexual Abusers.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which otfen opposes government restraints on individual liberties, supports this technology, saying it is a good alternative to incarceration and allows people to lead productive lives.

Nationally, Congress has passed 'Megan's Law', which requires sex offenders to register with local police. Police say limited resources often prevent them from conducting anything more than random checks to see if the offenders live at their listed addresses.

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