In a previous post, Mark Palmer questioned the passage of the Jessica Lunsford Act in North Carolina. This is a followup to his original post.
We have watched the news cover the Jessica Lunsford trial and to know that a child suffered at the hands of a sex offender, when it could have been prevented should be galvanizing our law makers, to enact. This could have been your daughter, just imagine the anguish any parent would have to live with, if this happened to them. John Couey, who was convicted, had a record as a sex offender and was just released from prison, at the time of her murder. There are many John Couey types and one could be living next to you.Often, administration has failed to let law enforcement know of the placement of paroled sex offenders in their communities. Allowing violent sex offenders to go free and not providing mandatory hearings, stricter penalties for non-compliances. This has allowed dangerous parolees to remain free, even after they violated parole. Psychological damage inflicted on defenseless child lasts a lifetime, if they survive. Sexual predators are always looking for their next victim.North Carolina has many sex offenders, who have fallen thought the cracks. By changing their identity and not re-registering once moved, these offenders manipulate the system.The Basic Statistics:
- 95% of children that are molested know and trust their molester.
- 90% of sex crimes are committed against someone the perpetrator knows.
- 20% of girls and 17% of boys will be molested before their 18th birthday.
North Carolina has 111,000 children yearly reported “Abused” and “Neglected.” Presently, 10,000 registered “Sex Offenders” move to a new address or jobs daily. Children, women, elderly, incapacitated or handicapped people are especially at risk from sexual predators. Charlotte is no different; our city has a large number of registered sexual offenders.
The laws pertaining to Sex Offenders had been lacking in North Carolina. Still, North Carolina state lawmakers and officials’ priorities lack necessary guidelines pertaining to North Carolina Sex Offenders.
Over the past several years, I have given time to push for tougher laws, regarding sex crimes, especially sexual predators. Personally, I have worked with sexually abused children and have seen the effects. Words cannot even begin to describe seeing the rape of child’s innocent soul. The soul is amputated and takes a lifetime to repair, if ever!
Recently, I heard from Marc Klaas. In 1993 his 12 year-old daughter Polly Hannah Klass was kidnapped and murder. Ever since, Marc has crusaded for stricter laws and awareness regarding sex offenders. I agree 100% with Marc Klaas that North Carolina still needs stick laws regarding sex offenders.
(Letter from Marc Klass)
On July 27, 2006 President Bush signed the Adam Walsh Act that dramatically changes the way sex offenders will be treated in the USA. One significant portion of the Walsh Act pertains to sentencing and mandatory minimum sentences. I have attached a PDF overview of the Act so you will want to pay particular attention to all sections that refer to sentencing. In essence individuals that kill or harm children during the commission of a sexual assault will most likely spend the rest of their lives behind bars. Those offenders who fail to comply with registration laws will similarly be returned to prison for lengthy sentences. Law enforcement will have important new tools to track and monitor offenders and the public will have access to a one-stop shop with a national sex offender registry that can be accessed via the Internet. Of course, federal law has limited leverage as it pertains to criminal justice, but the Walsh Act cleverly attaches a three-year time limit with significant bonus payments for states that beat the deadline and penalties for states that fail to comply. This is the same mechanism that was used to turn Megan’s Law from a concept into national policy. You might want to bring this to the attention of your state legislators. They can turn their tune pretty quickly when money is involved.
*PDF of the Adam Walsh Act:
- Requires States to have a uniform, public access sex offender registration Website;
- Creates Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website;
- Expands sex offenders to include juvenile sex offenders;
- Requires States to notify each other when sex offender moves from one State to another;
- Expands sex offenses covered by registration and notification requirements to include military, tribal, foreign, sex crimes, and increases duration of registration requirements;
- Fully integrates Megan’s Law;
- Adds the “Use of the Internet to facilitate or commit a crime against a minor” as one that could trigger registration.
- Requires state prisons to notify states attorneys whenever “high risk” offenders are about to be released, so that states attorneys can petition the courts for continued confinement if an individual is deemed a continuing threat to the public safety;
- Creates new criminal penalty of mandatory minimum of 5 years to maximum of 20 years for sex offender who fails to comply with registration requirements;
- Provides funding for law enforcement to purchase programs –like JusticeXchange –to identify individuals currently in jail;
- Makes failing to register or update registry information as proscribed in the Act a strict liability crime.
- Death Sentence or Life without Parole (LWOP): If the crime of violence results in the death of a person who has not attained the age of 18 years;
- Life or any term of years not less than 30: If the crime of violence is kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or maiming, or results in serious bodily injury;
- Life or any term of years not less than 20: If the crime of violence results in bodily injury;
- Life or any term of years not less than 15: If a dangerous weapon was used during and in relation to the crime of violence;
- Life or any term of years not less than 10: In any other case.
Law Enforcement Management:
- Expands community notification requirements to include law enforcement agencies, schools, public housing, social service agencies and volunteer organizations in area where sex offender resides, works or attends school;
- Expands law enforcement use of DNA to solve sex crimes;
- A sex offender will have to register prior to release from prison or supervised release;
- Sex offenders will have to re-register in person twice a year (every three months for a sexually violent predator) –not just once;
- Improves verification systems for sex offender information by requiring monthly verification, sex offender in-person verification every six months, and regular notarized verification mailings;
- The duration to register for a first-time sex offender increases from 10 years to 20 years and for second offenders and sexually violent offenders for their lifetime;
- Any change of status requiring a registry update (change of address, employment, etc.) must be made 3 business days after the change occurs –not 10 days;
- Requires offenders to notify police when they enroll or attend (current law is just attend) high schools, vocational/technical institutions or higher education institutions;
- Creates a 3-year pilot program to help states and local governments outfit sex offenders with electronic and GPS tracking devices.
- Requires the U.S. Justice Department to create a public accessible Internet based national sex offender database that allows users to specify a search radius across state lines.
- Requires States to have a uniform, public access sex offender registration website;
- Requires a mandatory annual photograph that must be posted on State online registries.
- Bonus Payments: Provides bonus payments to states for complying with this Act sooner than its three-year timelines;
- Penalties: Provides a 10 percent reduction in Justice Assistance Grants and certain reductions of Sex Offender Management Assistance Program monies for those states that do not comply.
If our lawmakers would take the following steps this would be step in right direction.North Carolina Lawmakers need to take a stand and apply the needed differences have Jessica’s Law.North Carolina Lawmakers should take advantage of the Adam Walsh Act and use the monetary bonus payment available to those states complying with the act sooner than its three-year timeline. Rather than a 10 percent reduction in Justice Assistance Grants and certain reductions of Sex Offender Management Assistance Program monies for those states that do not comply with Adam Walsh Act.
Mark A. Palmer