OLYMPIA – After soliciting recommendations from experts in Attorney General’s Sexually Violent Predator Unit who work with prosecuting attorneys across the state, Attorney General Rob McKenna has asked a bipartisan group of legislators to sponsor seven bills that would improve the state’s ability to protect children and communities from sex offenders.
“People across Washington are rightly concerned about the need to protect our children and communities against sex offenders,” McKenna said. “This package provides law enforcement and prosecutors real tools they need to crack down on sex offenders in our communities—tools they have specifically requested based on their expertise in these cases. This is a meaningful package that will make our communities safer and I appreciate the leadership of the legislators from both parties who’ve joined me in sponsoring this legislation.”
McKenna worked closely with Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, chairman of the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee, to introduce the package.
“As far as I’m concerned, public safety is the number one issue,” Hargrove said. “This package provides a deliberative approach to a very serious issue facing our state today and I look forward to working to see these bills become law.”
The seven bills would:
Increase penalties for sexually motivated crimes, possession of child pornography, and second degree assault of a child with sexual motivation;
Strengthen the sex offender registration statute;
Continue to restrict sex offenders from living within 880 feet of a public or private school statewide;
Extend the statute of limitations in DNA cases; and
Require sex offenders to admit guilt before becoming eligible for special sentencing alternatives.
(For more detail, click here)
“Protecting children and communities against sex offenders is vitally important,” said Sen. Stephen Johnson, R-Kent, who will join Hargrove in sponsoring the bills in the Senate. “As ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and an attorney by trade, I believe these bills provide responsible criminal justice solutions to disturbing problems in our state.”
Rep. Al O’Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace, chairman of the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee and a 29-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department, will sponsor the package in the House of Representatives along with Reps. Jim Clements, R-Selah, and Jay Rodne, R-Snoqualmie.
“When I saw the horrendous damage Joseph Duncan allegedly did to the Groene family in Idaho, I made it my purpose this session to pass tougher laws on sex offenders in our state,” O’Brien said. “The safety of our children and families is paramount and I’m working to get the Legislature to come together in a bipartisan manner to pass a meaningful package of sex offender legislation this session.”
“We need to put children and the community first when it comes to cracking down on sex offenders,” Rodne said. “As a father and as an attorney, I believe these bills strike a good balance between the desire to keep our children safe from all harm and the need to provide reasonable legislative solutions.”
Clements, who co-chaired the Joint Task Force on Sex Offender Management, and sponsored the community protection law in the 2005 session, said he was particularly pleased with the bill to continue the protection zones and make them consistent statewide.
“I’ve not strayed from my original goal. I’ve always felt we have to guard our children against these people,” Clements said. “Parents must continue to remain vigilant when it comes to their children’s whereabouts but at the very least they can be assured that we’re working to guard against sex offenders living next door to their schools.”
McKenna remains committed to continuing to work with legislators to develop solutions for other areas where sex offenders may have access to children.
“I’m still very concerned about sex predators who frequent community centers, swimming pools and other public areas where children congregate,” McKenna said. “We need to provide the managers of these facilities some tools to prevent known offenders from coming into contact with the children who are there. I’ve been assured by legislators we will continue to work to come to agreement on a solution in this area.”
He is also working with legislators on the issue of minimum sentences for sex offenses against children, taking into consideration the fact that Washington law already allows courts to impose life sentences on the most violent offenders.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Sen. Jim Hargrove, 360-786-7646
Sen. Stephen Johnson, 360-786-7692
Rep. Al O’Brien, 360-786-7928
Rep. Jim Clements, 360-786-7856
Rep. Jay Rodne, 360-786-7852
Media Contacts: Janelle Guthrie, AG Media Relations Director, (360) 586-0725