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Florida Rep. Katie Edwards: State must address breakdown in sex offender laws

2:48 PM, Sep 26, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida's approach to protecting people from dangerous sex offenders is failing too often and needs immediate attention, according to State Rep. Katie Edwards.

She said there's a breakdown in Florida's sex offender laws and treatment methods considering the high number of offenders who strike again when they get out of prison.

The Sun-Sentinel reports nearly 600 offenders, who could have been confined in a civil commitment facility after their release from prison, went on to molest more than 460 children, rape 121 women and kill 14 others in Florida.

Rep. Edwards, D-Plantation, has filed legislation that would prohibit sex offenders from having any type of pornography while they're on probation. Current state law only bans porn that relates to an offender's specific sex crime.

Edwards said pornography is a catalyst to sex offenses and her bill would offer one more way to help make sure sex offenders don't relapse.

"Making sure that we don't have any more instances like Cherish Perrywinkle, for example in northeast Florida. Nobody wants to read about that, no one wants to experience that, no parent wants to have that happen to their child. So I think it's incumbent upon us to look very closely at our policies and see how we're falling through the cracks on making sure that certain reoffenders are not released."

Florida's Jimmy Ryce Act requires inmates convicted of sex crimes to undergo evaluations to determine if they should go to civil commitment after they're released from prison.

Now as Florida takes action to revamp its sex offender laws, Edwards said it's clear incarceration alone will not solve the problem.

"I think we recognize that treatment is a long-term, a lifelong approach. We can't just expect that incarceration is going to work. We need to make sure we monitor and we treat these individuals for the rest of their lives."

Edwards hopes the bill helps prompt discussion about treatment methods and whether new treatments are necessary because the Sun-Sentinel report shows Florida must do a better job of protecting citizens from sex offenders.

"I think in the end, in having these kinds of conversations and debate, we end up with a better policy and a better bill that protects the public at large and also helps keep civil liberties intact."

Dave Heller

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