July 6, 2006

Bill Harsch on Making Jessica’s Law Work

Carroll Andrew Morse

Governor Donald Carcieri signed Rhode Island's version of Jessica’s law on June 28 of this year…

Certain sex offenders would have to be electronically monitored for life under a law signed by Governor Carcieri today.

"Jessica's Law" applies to child rapists and other sex offenders considered likely to reoffend. It requires state authorities to track them with global positioning software from the time they're released from prison until their death.

Bill Harsch believes that additional changes in the law, as well as heightened public awareness, are necessary to make Jessica’s law effective…
According to the most recent statistics, Rhode Island’s population is approximately 1,076,189 full time residents, with 1,388 registered sex offenders. However, only 42 are listed as Level II and Level III. Contrastingly, Delaware with a population of 843,524 lists 3,067 registered sex offenders, of which 1,864 are listed as convicted Level II and III offenders.

“Either Rhode Island has a rather moral population of sexual predators, or we are not accounting for our total population of Level II and III offenders, Harsch said.” “That is why, today I am also pledging to introduce legislation that will make it harder for convicted sex offenders to escape their state-determined risk assessment. Only once we are able to fully account for our most dangerous sexual predators will legislation like Jessica’s Law be truly effective.”

Mr. Harsch promises to implement the following 4 steps if elected Attorney General…
  1. Improve the accessibility of Rhode Island’ Online Sexual Offender Database.
  2. Amend the Sexual Offender Notification Guidelines to provide more accurate information regarding the home and employer address of registered offenders.
  3. Introduce an online educational initiative to help parents protect their children from online sexual predators.
  4. Make it harder for convicted sexual offenders to avoid registration as Level II and Level III offenders.
The loophole referred to in step 4 is particularly troubling. According to Harsch, Level II and III offenders can reduce their status to Level I, simply by entering an appeal process…
Currently, Rhode Island law allows for state-designated Level II and Level III offenders to appeal their appointed classification, at which time they become listed as Level I offenders, and are no longer subject to online identification. Because sex offenders are among the most likely type of offenders to recidivate, it is critical that the state be allowed to make an appropriate determination as to the classification of those offenders, and for notification guidelines be followed until a final appeal regarding a requested change in status is made.

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This is a classic case of the old axiom that you can pass all the laws you want, but without effective enforcement, all you're left with is kindling...

Good for Harsch for doing the research and critical analysis on this issue, and offering more than just rhetoric.

Posted by: johnb at July 6, 2006 1:43 PM

The whole "Jessica's Law" is a farce. The so-called 25 year minimum Lynch wails about can (and will) be suspended-every single day of it. The true minimum sentence remains what it has been-ZERO. Thanks Pat.

Posted by: Mike at July 6, 2006 7:20 PM

This has been a real eye-opener as to how predators are (not)identified in RI. As John said, the appeal process is unacceptable and must be modified; it was never intended to shield the offender. And we need to join the 46 other states and post the addresses of Level II and III offenders. Identifying just the neighborhood they live in doesn't cut it.


Posted by: SusanD at July 6, 2006 11:14 PM

Did you hear Harsch on the radio this morning? I think he was on with Dave Barber, but I heard him on with Helen Glover...he's proving every day that he's more and more of a real threat to Lynch with REAL issues to discuss and real experience to bring to the table.

Poor Patrick looks like he's in for a tough election, and is likely to join the long list of RI AGs voted out of office.

Posted by: johnb at July 7, 2006 2:45 PM