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New Jersey legislators ponder passage of Jessica's Law

There is a new push in New Jersey to tighten restrictions and make penalties more severe for those convicted of sexual assault against a minor.

Our state is one of the six that hasn't adopted the so-called Jessica's Law.

The law mandates a sentence of 25 years in prison, without the possibility of parole, for all those convicted of aggravated sexual assault against a child under the age of 13. The same penalty would apply to those convicted of aggravated sexual assault against an older child if the assailant uses a weapon or is a relative, in a supervisory position, or is the child's guardian.

In addition, the law would impose strict sanctions against those who impede either the arrest or conviction of a sex offender. They would face a mandatory sentence, too, of from one to three years in prison.

Mark Lunsford, the father of Jessica Lunsford, the girl Jessica's Law was named after, has been urging New Jersey legislators to adopt the law.

Lunsford argues that the provision to penalize those who help sex offenders elude law enforcement is necessary because the roommates of the man who killed his daughter lent him assistance.

Earlier this week, Lunsford participated in a State House news conference with legislators urging their colleagues to increase punishment of sex offenders.

"It's amazing to me that we haven't passed this law," said Sen. Diane Allen.

In several states that have adopted the law, the harsher measures have had a mixed result. Sex offenders who are out on parole in states such as California are required to wear GPS devices, but the cost of monitoring the offenders has proven high though not particularly effective.

Other aspects of the law include tight restrictions on where sex offenders can live; again a punishment that is a double-edged sword in the sense that it forces many paroled offenders into homelessness.

While harsh measures sound attractive politically, they need to be thoughtfully considered rather passed in an emotional reaction against the offenders.

Resource: "Bill aims to toughen laws against child sex offenders": March 22, 2011