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House Easily Approves Mandatory Sentences for Repeat Child Sex Offenders

On March 14, the House overwhelmingly approved, 382-34, legislation (H.R. 2146) that would require life sentences without parole for second-time child sex offenders. The bill would apply to crimes such as aggravated sexual abuse and transporting minors for sexual purposes and would apply to crimes against anyone 16 or under. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mark Green (R-WI) passed the House Judiciary Committee on March 6 (see The Source, 3/8/02).

Speaking in favor of the bill, Rep. Marge Roukema (R-NJ) said, “It is estimated that child molesters are four times more likely than other violent criminals to recommit their crime.” She continued, “In a recent study, 453 sex offenders admitted to molesting more than 67,000 children in their lifetime, and another study found that 571 pedophiles had each molested an average of 300 victims.” She added, “Two is too many, but this bill will bring us closer to a world where molesters cannot continue their horrible crimes ad infinitum.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) expressed reservations about the bill. “While I believe that this bill addresses some of the worst crimes in our society,”she said, “I also know that it is our responsibility as legislators to carefully deliberate the ramifications of any legislation to ensure that we take into account the rights of all stakeholders in this process.” She added, “In its current form, this legislation and its mandatory life sentences, eliminates the opportunity for the family, the community, the professionals, and the court system, to work in conjunction in order to address the needs of the victim and the offender in terms of healing and rehabilitation.”

The House adopted, 259-161, an amendment by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) that “would require the Administrative Office of the United States Courts to compile and report to the Congress its findings pertaining to the impact of this legislation, specifically relating to race, gender, age, and ethnicity of victim and defendant.”

The House rejected, by voice vote, two amendments by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA). One would have removed from the list of offenses that would trigger a mandatory life sentence for an improper sexual act committed against a minor by someone four years older than the victim. The other amendment would have allowed Native American tribal governments to exempt themselves from the provisions of the bill.

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