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Thursday, July 14, 2005
Here's the stark truth in the land of the free: Many American children under the age of ten can no longer play on their front lawns unsupervised for fear they may be abducted. Time after time we read about young kids being snatched, raped and murdered by known sexual offenders and our society seems powerless to stop the madness.

The latest is the horrific case of Joseph Duncan, a convicted child rapist who apparently murdered two adults, a 13-year-old and a 9-year-old boy in Idaho. When police arrested Duncan, he was having breakfast with the murdered boy's 8-year-old sister, who told authorities Duncan had brutally molested her for weeks.

Duncan was allowed to do this by Minnesota Judge Thomas Schroeder. Last March, Duncan stood before Schroeder charged with yet another child molestation. The monster had already served 16 years in Washington State for raping a 14-year-old boy, and admitted to 13 other child rapes. He even talked about them on this website. Yet Judge Schroeder set Duncan's bail at just $15,000. A friend of Duncan's gave him the money, Duncan paid the bail, and then skipped town.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports Judge Schroeder was aware of Duncan's past, and even if the Judge didn't know, he could have easily found out by having the prosecutor call the FBI's Crime Information Center in Washington. Schroeder has no excuse. He's a disgrace.

But there are many disgraceful judges, either too lazy or too apathetic to protect children. The solution to the problem is to take the power away from the judges altogether. It is not a hard thing to do.

First, every state in the union must pass a criminal statute like Florida's Jessica's Law. That calls for a minimum 25 year-to-life prison term for a first offense sexual assault conviction against a child. And second, if these predators do manage to leave prison, they have to register their addresses with the federal government so a national database can track their movements. Any failure to do this--ten years in federal prison.

Basically, that would take sentencing discretion away from the judges, but the nation would have to depend on prosecutors to aggressively pursue those involved with child molestation... something that has not been done in Jessica Lundsford's case.

So the solution is there for everyone to see--why then do our elected officials fail to enact it?

Only 13 states currently have mandatory prison sentences of ten years or more for convicted child sexual offenders. The other 37 states are mostly chaotic in the way they adjudicate these cases. My staff contacted all 50 Governors and their interest ranged from intense (Governor Rick Perry of Texas) to ho-hum (Governor Don Carcieri of Rhode Island).

The bottom line is that Jessica's Law could be and should be enacted quickly in every state. There is an urgency to this. And if your Governor doesn't get the urgency, give him a call and let him or her have it. Enough is enough with the brutalizing of American children. Every one of us must hold the lawmakers accountable and demand protection for the kids.

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