Originally created 09/29/05

Bill to focus on sex crimes



ATLANTA - House Majority Leader Jerry Keen has a message for sex offenders: Go somewhere else.

The St. Simons Island Republican leader is pitching changes in Georgia's sex crime laws, from substantially increasing minimum prison sentences for several charges to requiring lifetime electronic monitoring of those who are labeled dangerous predators.

He said he plans to continue working on the bill until it is introduced when the legislative session starts in January.

"I want to keep these people locked up as long as we can," Mr. Keen said Wednesday, unveiling a draft of the legislation to members of the House Non-Civil Judiciary Committee.

"I hope this law becomes so onerous, costly, inconvenient (for sex offenders) that they leave Georgia. I don't care where as long as it's not here."

Among the proposed changes, sentences would increase for crimes such as sexual assault or aggravated sodomy and could be as long as 30 years.

For sex crimes involving children younger than 14, including aggravated assault with intent to rape, aggravated child molestation and incest, sentences would be at least 25 years, with some warranting maximum terms of 50 years.

Probation-only sentences would not be allowed as they are now, and offenders would no longer qualify for first-offender sentencing standards.

The proposal would also increase the number of crimes that would require a person to register as a sex offender with state and local authorities, shorten the notification period from 10 days to two and require all convicted sex offenders to be registered for the rest of their lives as opposed to the current 10-year period.

But it's the electronic monitoring through a tracking device that Mr. Keen hopes will drive out violent, repeat offenders.

He said he does not believe rehabilitation is possible with certain sex crimes.

"It's frightening in the research because the propensity to repeat is extremely high," he said.

Democratic Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam, who was a victim of sexual assault when she was 13, said she supports some of the ideas but is unsure about lengthy electronic monitoring.

"In spite of what I've been through, personally I do have some concerns that it seems like these people will be given a lifelong sentence," said Ms. Abdul-Salaam, of Riverdale.

What's Next:

House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons Island, said he expects legislation stiffening penalties for sex offenders to be introduced when the Georgia General Assembly convenes in January.