On June 4, we testified in Trenton in opposition of S-380/S642. That is what the Senate Law and Public Safety called the Bill. Senators Allen, Norcross and Kean, Jr. insisted that the two bills had been combined. Interestingly enough, S380 had been changed but the general public had never been notified nor had the "REVISED" Bill been posted on the NJ Legislative site. So, if you went to testify in regard to this piece of introduced legislation, you had no idea what you were really testifying about.
However, if you asked exactly what had been changed, you were given (in my opinion) an extremely short time and limited questions to determine what S-380 had evolved into. Personally, I was amazed of what I interpreted as frustration that turned into the perception. It was either settle with what you have been told and testify or get the rest of your answers and don't testify as we are going to take a vote.
So, this huge piece of introduced legislation that got the ACLU, NJATSA and NJFAIR, Mark Lunsford, Stop Predators from Washington, D.C., etc. to testify had been amended to bare bones. GPS monitoring for life from the time you were CHARGED (not convicted, but CHARGED) if the victim was under 18 was deleted. Residency Restrictions was also deleted.
The "Harboring Clause" was omitted at the time that the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee was determining if this was a Bill that should become a law. However, they (and all of us in the room) were advised that this clause would be in as soon as they completed work on the wording. (It was originally in S380 and was the total content of S642.) So, instead of rescheduling a vote on this Bill until the verbiage was incorporated into it, the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee voted on it anyway. And, except for one comment made by Senator Sacco, it passed with flying colors.
And I also found it extremely interesting when I overheard a comment made by a man from Families First to Mark Lunsford that the Governor wants to sign it, "All we have to do is get it to him." How does this man know this?
So S380, which created a new aggravated sexual assault crime for anyone who abuses anyone under the age of 13, passed. Under this new law, there would be a Mandatory Minimum Sentencing of 25 years. This is an awful expensive piece of unfunded legislation, in my opinion. Since it cost between $37,000-$48,000 per year to incarcerate one (1) person and it costs approximately $37,000 per year to
attend Princeton University, I question the thought process behind this legislation.
To say that this addresses only "the worst of the worst" may be in error. For, it is my understanding, that the "worst of the worst" at civilly committed in Avenel. I would have to challenge those who may be intellectually or emotionally challenged. If their curiosity leads them to touch body parts of someone under the age of 13 do you really want to put this person away for 25 years? And do you want the taxpayers to pay for it when the State doesn't have enough money to run now? Or what about the girl who is almost 13 and has sex with her boyfriend who turned 16 three months ago? [Although it is my understanding that the 4 year rule does not apply to this new definition of aggravated sexual assault, but I could be wrong.] If that is the case, a girl who is 12-3/4 having sex with her 13 year old boyfriend would result in a mandatory 25 years’ incarceration that the taxpayers would be paying for, as this is an unfunded Bill.
Additionally, when testifying about recidivism rates for those who successfully participated in treatment, a clinician was asked by Senator Norcross, "What if your child was one of that 2%?" Clearly the thought process that one sexually abused child under that age of 13 was one too many, I think. Bear with me while I take you through a scenario using that thought process.
There are approximately 100 children killed at the hands of sex offenders annually. (While I agree this is 100 too much, I also understand that we cannot stop every bad thing in this world.) At the same time, there are approximately 500 children killed at the hands of drunken drivers each year. So, if you take the thought process of one is one too many, then we should either ban all cars or go back to prohibition. And, we should ban and confiscate every handgun, as one child killed by a gun is one too many.
While I think that banning guns or cars or imitating another prohibition is ridiculous, I also think mandatory minimum sentencing falls in the same category. It also takes the balance out of the justice system, for the prosecutors decide on the charges. Prosecutors are not part of the judicial branch, they are part of the executive branch. So the Judges, who are part of the Judicial Branch, cannot make the decision based on the specifics and circumstances of the case. Since the Department of Corrections is also part of the Executive Branch, you can see how mandatory minimum sentencing takes the balance out of this process. And this is all at a huge cost for the taxpayers. How else would it be funded? That is approximately $1 million per person to be incarcerated.
And while they are incarcerated for such a long period of time one must think of the added extra costs to the taxpayers for his/her family to survive. The food stamps and housing assistance and even possible unemployment if they lose their jobs (I did). Not to mention all the other assistance programs from heat to social services. All from the wallet of the taxpayer.
Now after 25 years, and this person is released there must be added costs planned for a successful reentry. Now, some of these dollars may come from the Federal Government, but what we don't or can't get from the Federal Government, the taxpayer must write the check.
And all of this when, research is being done to show, that this may be more harmful and expensive than some believe. In fact, Florida is looking at their version of The Jessica Lunsford Act, after only 5 years.
We believe our current laws are sufficient, less costly, and keep the balance in our justice system. Currently, anyone charged with aggravated sexual assault faces 10-20 years and, from what I know, usually plea to 5-10 years. So when someone says we are only talking about 5 years you can see how that is incorrect.
If you want more information or want to keep our children and communities safe with reasonable and intellgent reform, email us at info@NJFAIR.org. We are a support group, we are an educational group. I am a mother of a sexually abused child.