On June 25, the House approved, 409-3, legislation (H.R. 4679) that would give federal judges the discretionary authority to mandate post-release supervision up to a lifetime for sex offenders. The Judiciary Committee passed the bill on June 19 (see The Source, 5/21/02).
Under current law, federal judges are limited to issuing supervised probation for sex offenders for up to five years. The only crimes for which a court may impose a life term of post-release supervision are federal drug and terrorism cases.
“This bill lacks any standard for application of lifetime supervision and would make subject to lifetime supervision those who may be involved only in misdemeanors and in cases involving consensual acts,” argued Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), opposing the bill. “We have plenty of evidence as to how this harsh treatment is applied in our criminal justice system and that it is minorities who will be at the receiving end,” he said, and added, “We know that the federal jurisdiction crimes fall disproportionately on Native Americans who comprise about 75 to 80 percent of all cases involving federal jurisdiction.”
“This bill was not born out of a whim or out of reason of trying to fill a day of litigation where other things could not have been accomplished,” responded Rep. George Gekas (R-PA), sponsor of the bill. “Studies have shown recidivism rates varying from 15 percent to nearly 75 percent for sex offenders,” he explained. “Without the sanction of long-term, and possibly life-long supervision, these dangerous predators may relapse back into their obscene habits later in life,” he added.