Legislators Call for Closing Loophole That Allows Alleged Sexual Offenders Back in Community While Awaiting Trial
Ninth District legislators Sen. Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove are calling for quick action on their legislation (S-253 and A-1142) that would require county prosecutors to determine a sexual offender’s risk of re-offense, or tier, prior to the inmate’s release from incarceration rather than leave it until an offender is back in the community – a time lag that could put children in danger.
Prosecutors classify sex offenders in one of three tiers based on the degree of risk they pose to the public: low risk (Tier 1), moderate risk (Tier 2) or high risk (Tier 3).
The 9th District delegation’s request comes in response to an incident in Little Egg Harbor Township in which a previously convicted sex offender had been released to house arrest, despite the objections of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.
The delegation issued the following statement on the need for a public hearing on its sexual offender legislative initiative: “For Megan’s Law to be as effective as possible, the state needs to correct an inherent system flaw preventing sex offenders from being tiered until they’ve been released into our communities. Under the current system, an offender’s residence is a factor that’s considered in determining the risk of re-offense.
“Megan’s Law exists because of the potential danger that sexual predators may re-offend. It’s absolutely absurd to release these criminals into communities without giving families and law enforcement appropriate warning because of a bureaucratic technicality. ...
“The time lag from when a sexual offender is released into the community, followed by the tiering process, to when the community notification is issued severely ties the hand of law enforcement officials who must already contend with the transient nature of sexual offenders.
“The present situation is unacceptable and potentially dangerous for unsuspecting communities. Accordingly, we call on our legislative colleagues to move with all deliberate speed to post our bipartisan legislation for a public hearing to correct a serious defect in Megan’s Law.”
The 9th District delegation has sponsored legislation to remove the residency factor used in the tiering process for more than a decade. Upon reintroduction this year, S-253 was referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, while A-1142 was referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee. —P.J.