Child Protection Bill Would Clamp Down on Sex Offenders

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - There is a new bipartisan congressional effort to prevent and deter violence and sexual exploitation that targets children. The Child Safety Act of 2005 would increase criminal penalties against child predators.

"Unfortunately, we're all too familiar with the need for this legislation," said U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who introduced the measure. "We've learned through painful experience that our current child protection efforts aren't sufficient and that more must be done."

The legislation, which was referred to both the Judiciary Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee on June 30, would make sex offender registration more stringent and guarantee that information was kept current by creating a new criminal penalty of five to 20 years for failing to comply with registration requirements.

"There are people walking in the streets today, preying on our most vulnerable children, targeting them for physical and sexual abuse," said Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), the majority leader in the House and co-sponsor of the legislation.

"These kids are being hunted, and they cannot protect themselves," DeLay added. Congress must step in."

The Child Safety Act was drafted in response to the recent attacks on 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Florida in February, 11-year-old Jetseta Gage in Iowa in March and 13-year-old Sarah Lunde in Florida in April. All three were raped and killed by previously convicted sex offenders.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 67 percent of all victims of sexual assault are under 18 years of age, and there are about 550,000 convicted sex offenders in the U.S., 100,000 of whom are considered "lost."

"Even though some states have registration laws for convicted child predators, some of these outlaws continue to slip through the system when they move across state lines," said Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.).

He added that sexual offenders should not be able to "move in and out of our neighborhoods without us knowing who they are."

"We must arm our communities against sexual offenders who stalk our neighborhood playgrounds, our Cub Scout dens, our houses of worship, sexual offenders who exploit the Internet to target our youngsters or lure our kids from their own bedrooms," he said.

Poe said the chief function of government is to protect its citizens. "We as a people are not judged by the way we treat the rich, the famous, influential, powerful, but by the way we treat the weak, the innocent, the children," he said.

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