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Bills would increase time served for child molesters

February 25, 2005|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - That people convicted of sexual abuse against children were being released before serving half of their sentences seemed to Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, to be a crime in itself.

So for the second year, Shank is attempting to get legislation approved that would increase the amount of time a convicted child molester would have to serve before being eligible for parole, and would decrease the amount of time off convicted molesters could earn for good behavior while incarcerated.

It's an issue of truth in sentencing, he said. Victims of such crimes should be able to count on the perpetrators serving their sentences.

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Shank told the House Judiciary Committee this week that those convicted of sexually abusing children frequently re-offend. Keeping the offenders in prison longer helps protect victims - and potential victims, he said.

He told them about children as young as 3 years old who were abused by adults. In one case, a man who abused his 7-year-old granddaughter received a 20-year sentence, but 15 years were suspended, leaving a 5-year sentence. He was eligible for parole after a little more than a year. Parole was denied, but his release date is next January.

Current law allows a maximum sentence of 25 years for child sexual abuse. But Shank said that according to Maryland law, this crime is not among the list of violent offenses for which offenders must serve at least half of their sentences before they can be considered for parole.

Shank told the committee that Maryland law accords more protection to adult victims of sexual crimes than to children.

Shank's bill, co-sponsored by Del. Kevin Kelly, D-Allegany, would reduce from 10 to five the number of days per month an offender could deduct from his sentence for good behavior.

Del. Neil Quinter, D-Howard, asked Shank whether another bill he and Shank have co-sponsored to add child sexual abuse to the violent offenses list would get the same results.

"It would, and then some," Shank said.

An effort to get a similar bill approved failed last year because it included all sexual offenses, including statutory rape, in which sexual contact can be consensual, Shank said.

"Most of those cases go to local detention centers," he said.

Shank isn't the first legislator to try to get the law changed. Former Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick, sponsored legislation to make child sexual abuse a crime of violence, but it died in the Judiciary Committee.

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