As of last month, committing rape or sodomy on Utah children is punishable by a minimum sentence of 25 years. The 34th state to pass so-called Jessica’s Law legislation, Utah is the only state with minimum sentences for offenders who plead guilty to a lesser attempted charge, says the Salt Lake Tribune. State Rep. Carl Wimmer, who sponsored Jessica’s Law, will try to go one step further next session by pushing to make the same crimes punishable by death if the U.S. Supreme Court rules the practice constitutional in a pending Louisiana case.
Child rapists in Utah had faced a “pathetic” sentence of three years to life in prison, said Wimmer. Jessica’s Law will apply to a small fraction of crimes against children prosecuted in Utah. Its passage marked a policy shift: The state tried mandatory terms for child sex crimes from 1983 to 1996 before returning sentencing discretion to judges and the state’s five-member parole board, who ultimately decide the length of an offender’s punishment. The new law may be pricey for the Utah Department of Corrections, forced to house an inmate convicted under Jessica’s Law for at least 25 years even if the person has been treated and rehabilitated.