The brutal killing of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Florida five years ago this week fueled the creation of a boogeyman in politics: the sex offender, says the St. Petersburg Times. The designation carries loaded significance in the legislative process, and efforts each year to restrict freedoms of sex offenders win broad support. This year is no different, with proposed measures to require background checks on athletic coaches and forbid some sexual offenders from using the Internet.
Now – after time, a trial and the killer’s death have dissolved the zeal that spurred the Jessica Lunsford Act in 2005 – some legislators are rethinking how the state monitors sex offenders and whether current laws are really making children safer. “The emotion and publicity and political science that comes into play after a horrific situation tends to create an overreaction,” said Rep. Mike Weinstein, a prosecutor. “Across the country, studies are not showing that changes in sex crime rates can be attributed to those policies,” said Jill Levenson of Lynn University who studies sex offenders. “Sex crimes against children are on the downslide – but since the 1990s.”