Legislators mull options to deal with sex offenders

February 08, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS - The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday started wading through a plethora of bills to crack down on sex offenders, and while most members agreed the state needs to better monitor convicted offenders once they are released from prison, the question became exactly how to do it.

The committee heard testimony on nine different sex offender bills Tuesday, and more - including a bill from Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington - are forthcoming.

Several of the bills heard Tuesday dealt with using Global Positioning Systems to monitor the most-violent offenders. Bills to use GPS systems have been proposed both by Attorney General Joseph Curran, who presented his bill Tuesday, and Gov. Robert Ehrlich.


But Del. Luiz Simmons, D-Montgomery, cut to the chase.

"Constantly in this hearing we've talked about predators. It's kind of an oxymoron to 'contain' predators," he said.

Rather than releasing such offenders at the end of their sentences, "Why aren't we committing predators under some kind of civil commitment law? Why are we releasing them if they have this predilection for recommitting this offense? Why are we talking about monitoring predators?" he asked, calling their release "an abandonment of common sense."

Enhancing monitoring would increase bureaucracy, he argued, but it might not provide the protection the bills seek.

"We have problems supervising abused children" in the state's juvenile services programs, he said. "Bureaucracy has not been all that effective in these instances.

GPS monitoring, he added, "is not going to prevent a sexually violent predator from committing these acts."

Del. Herb McMillan, R-Anne Arundel, was even more blunt, saying there might be instances in which a GPS would do little more than tell police where an offender was when he committed a rape.

"It seems to me they should be in jail until they're 'cured' ... Shouldn't we be looking at keeping them there longer?" he said.

Former Sen. Patricia Cushwa, D-Washington, who serves on the federal parole commission, expressed similar sentiments. Since the Frederick County case of 9-year-old Christopher Ausherman, assaulted and killed by a convicted sex offender, "we still don't have limited credits (for time served), we don't have life monitoring."

Maryland still has no official advisory board to direct the state's dealing with sex offenders, she added.

"Sock 'em, clock 'em, lock 'em up for a lifetime," if that's what's necessary, she said.

Sexual assault of a child is not listed among violent crimes in Maryland, for which offenders would receive stiffer sentences. Shank has tried unsuccessfully to get legislation to change that, and this week filed another bill to add sexual abuse of a minor to the list of crimes of violence that bring tougher penalties. No hearing date has been set for that bill.

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