Grants proposed for tracking sex felons

A Florida senator wants to establish a $30 million federal grant program to help fund satellite tracking of registered sex offenders.

Under a bill introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), earlier this month, the Justice Department would award grants and contracts to state and local governments to use global positioning systems to track sex offenders outfitted with electronic monitoring units.

Senate Bill 980, called the Sexual Predator Effective Monitoring Act of 2005, calls for $10 million for fiscal year 2006 and $20 million for fiscal year 2007. It also calls for the attorney general to measure the act’s effectiveness by April 1, 2007.

When he introduced the bill May 9, Nelson cited the murders of two Florida children, Jessica Lunsford, 9, and Sarah Lunde, 13, earlier this year. Two registered sex offenders were charged with the murders in those separate incidents.

Since then, Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill into law imposing tougher sentences for child sex offenders, including electronic monitoring for offenders released into the community again.

“I applaud the initiative by our state and I believe now there ought to be an appropriate federal response to be supportive of the states and local governments that want to address this problem,” Nelson said on the Senate floor. “The technology is there, but it is expensive. To be effective, tough laws on these sexual predators of children must be properly funded, and I believe it is worth properly funding them to protect our children.”

He said when GPS monitoring systems are properly used they will help law enforcement officials locate child sex offenders and prevent them from entering restricted areas like elementary schools.

Nelson also cited a 2003 Justice Department report on recidivism rates of sex offenders tracked over a three-year period. Of the 9,691 male sex offenders released from 15 state prisons, 40 percent "who re-offended did so within the first year, and within three years of their release from prison, 5.3 percent of those sex offenders were rearrested for another sex crime. Is this beginning to tell us a story?"

State lawmakers in New Jersey have also recently introduced legislation to monitor convicted sex offenders with bracelets equipped with global positioning system technology.

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