New York Needs “Real” Civil Confinement, Jessica’s Law

January 27, 2006

Last week, I proudly joined Governor George Pataki and Senator Michael F. Nozzolio in supporting legislation that would significantly toughen penalties against perpetrators of sex crimes against children. The bill, known as “Jessica’s Law,” is named for Jessica Lunsford, a nine-year-old-girl who was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered by a registered sex offender living in her neighborhood in Florida.

Violent sex offenders who prey on children are despicable individuals who should face tough criminal penalties. Jessica’s Law would be a major step forward in protecting children from dangerous predators by keeping them locked up in prison where they belong. It mandates sentences of 25 years to life for violent sexual felonies against children and strengthens other sex assault laws.

The Assembly also tackled the issue of civil confinement this past week. Unfortunately, the civil confinement bill offered by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is just not strong enough to adequately protect New Yorkers. Under the majority conference’s bill, those offenders currently incarcerated for sex offenses are not eligible for civil confinement. The bill also exempts those offenders who receive plea deals and requires a strict standard of five criteria to be met before a sex offender can be considered for confinement. Eligible sex offenders must then meet two separate jury determinations before they could be civilly confined.

Legislation that I am sponsoring with my Assembly minority conference is much tougher and makes more than 5,000 sex offenders currently incarcerated eligible for civil confinement. It also allows convictions by guilty pleas, has a more reasonable standard to confine more offenders and requires one jury determination.

We need a real civil confinement policy that will keep the most dangerous sex offenders out of our communities and off the streets. I hope that a Joint Conference Committee will convene to agree on a more sensible piece of legislation that will truly make our constituents safe.

In addition to Jessica’s Law and real civil confinement, I continue to pursue other strong public safety laws that:

  • Prevent convicted sex offenders from living within 1000 feet of a school or school grounds;
  • Expand the state DNA database by requiring samples from all convicted criminals;
  • Require the most dangerous sex offenders to wear electronic devices linked to Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to monitor their whereabouts;
  • Increase the information available about sex offenders on the state Division of Criminal Justice Services’ website to include information on all registered offenders;
  • Enable law enforcement to release information on Level 2 and 3 sex offenders – those at the highest risk of committing additional crimes – to vulnerable populations in the community; and
  • Mandate lifetime registration for all sex offenders on the state Sex Offender Registry.

My Assembly minority colleagues and I are intent on having these issues debated and voted on. We have laid out a clear vision for a safer New York and have consistently tried to advance these objectives. We have seen too many of New York’s loved ones hurt emotionally and physically not to act on this legislation.