Legislation that would mandate a sentence of 25 year to life in prison for the aggravated sexual assault of a child under 13 years of age has passed the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.
The bill, dubbed the “Jessica Lunsford Act” in memory of the Florida nine-year-old who was raped and murdered in 2005 by a previously convicted sex offender, is sponsored by Senators Diane Allen, Tom Kean, Jr., and Steve Oroho.
“I am hopeful that this is the year New Jersey finally adopts the Jessica Lunsford Act,” said Allen (R- Burlington), a sponsor of the legislation since its inception in 2005. “There are few crimes more repugnant than the sexual assault of a young child, and few more deserving of a lengthy prison sentence. New Jersey has been too slow to enact this legislation. Now is the time.”
Jessica Lunsford’s father, Mark, traveled to New Jersey in 2011 and joined Senator Allen at a press conference advocating for the measure.
“Given the high rates of recidivism among sex offenders and the severe, lifetime physical and emotional consequences for victims, those convicted of violently assaulting a child must be kept behind bars for a very long time,” said Kean (R- Union). “Monsters like these should not be given the opportunity to reoffend.”
Under the act, offenders could only be paroled after serving a minimum of 25 years in prison.
“Jessica Lunsford was assaulted by a repeat offender, as was New Jersey’s own Megan Kanka,” said Oroho (R- Sussex). “Keeping child predators incarcerated for extensive periods of time is the only way to prevent tragedy like that experienced by the Lunsford family from happening again.”