New penalties for crimes against kids

The Jessica Lunsford Act takes effect this week, increasing sanctions for
crimes committed against children.
Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE – Some sex criminals who target kids will face the
possibility of life in prison or lifetime monitoring by satellite
starting Thursday as the Jessica Lunsford Act takes effect.

It could be some time before the law’s tougher penalties are imposed. But
starting Thursday, anyone 18 or older convicted of molesting a child
under 12 will face at least 25 years in prison and could get life under
the act, named for Jessica Lunsford, the 9-year-old Homosassa girl who
investigators say was kidnapped and murdered by a registered sex offender
last February.

Before the law, molesting a child under 12 was punishable in most cases
by up to 30 years in prison.

If the molesters are sentenced to less than life, they will be tracked
after release until they die by a global positioning system.

The law also requires GPS monitoring for some released offenders whose
crimes were against older children for the length of their probation.

”It’s got to have some positive effect of making children safer,” said
Rep. Everett Rice, R-Treasure Island, one of the measure’s architects.

Under a bill aimed at maximizing the number of criminals subject to
tighter police monitoring, some current sex offenders who violate their
probation could be subject to lifetime GPS monitoring.

”A substantial number of people on probation for those types of crimes,
they violate their probation,” Rice said.

Another measure that will have an immediate effect requires
fingerprinting and background checks of many contractors on a school
campus — not just those who have direct contact with students.

The new law covers everyone from construction workers, to people who fill
vending machines, photographers taking the school photos, and referees
for athletic events.

Some school officials say many won’t be fingerprinted and checked before
the Thursday deadline, meaning they’ll be barred from campus.

In Broward County, the new requirement is likely to halt 75 percent of
the construction and repair work currently going on at various schools,
said Deputy Superintendent Michael Garretson.

Copyright 2005 Knight Ridder

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