With a Florida law cracking down on sex offenders signed today by Gov. Jeb Bush, the state will begin the nation’s most aggressive monitoring of child molesters at a time when dozens of states and localities are re-examining their policies, the New York Times reports. Many jurisdictions are deciding that federal mandates, approved after highly publicized sex crimes against children in the 1990’s, are not enough. Twelve years ago, Congress voted to require every state to establish a registry of sex offenders and a decade ago, it passed Megan’s Law, which orders law enforcement officials to notify communities about sex offenders in their midst.
As lawmakers contemplate just how far they can go to close loopholes, tough questions abound on money, privacy, and practicality. Asks Roxanne Lieb of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, which tracks sex offender laws, “What can you do short of putting them all in prison for the rest of their lives?” States and counties are turning to electronic monitoring of freed sex offenders to try to make sure they stay away from schools, playgrounds and other places where children congregate. While the norm is to monitor only the most violent offenders, Florida’s new law, which takes effect in September and will cost $13 million the first year, will require those who molest children younger than 12 to wear satellite tracking devices for life once they leave prison.