New Jersey lawmakers are considering legislation that would mandate a prison sentence of 25 years to life for repeat offenders who sexually assault young children.
Forty-four other states have already enacted the “Jessica Lunsford Act” that’s named for a 9-year-old Florida girl who was raped and murdered in 2005.
Her father sobbed Monday as he urged a New Jersey Senate committee to approve the bill.
“Let’s stop playing games with these guys. The key word is they’re repeat offenders. They’re not going to stop,” said Mark Lunsford.
However, the director of Families Advocating Intelligent Reform spoke out against the legislation even though her son was sexually molested.
“Mandatory minimums are a heavy-handed response to judicial and social problems resulting in overcapacity prisons populations and higher costs to the taxpayers,” said Terry Peifer.
Sen. Diane Allen, R-Burlington, said she hopes the Legislature will approve the measure.
“Imagine, if you can, somebody who takes advantage of a small child, who sexually assaults a small child, and then goes on and assaults another one and another one,” said Allen, primary sponsor f the bill. “If we can get that person off the streets and in prison for a very lengthy period of time, society wins.”
Opponents say a mandatory sentence might not be an effective deterrent and could make some victims or their parents less likely to report an attack by someone they know.
Allen plans to amend the bill to include penalties for harboring or concealing a sex offender.