Jacksonville, FL - It’s not often that you see lawmakers taking decisive action on the first day of the legislative session- which is exactly why the State Senate took up this vote today.
“We got right to business,” says Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley.
The Senate unanimously voted in favor of a package of bills increasing restrictions and penalties facing Florida’s sex offenders and predators. The call for a change in the system began years ago with the death of Somer Thompson, but gained new urgency last year when Cherish Perrywinkle was abducted and killed. Police believe the person responsible is a convicted sex offender who they had contact with shortly before the attack.
Bradley says that contact shows law enforcement didn’t have all the resources it needs when dealing with sex offenders. Specifically, testimony to lawmakers through the bill drafting process talked about the limited ability to check on convicts past just knocking on doors.
“They’re going to have those tools now,” he says.
Among the bills passed, including one sponsored by Bradley, are an increase in the number of offenders who are now eligible for community control- or police supervision- and expanded review for civil confinement, which is a post-prison facility where offenders are sent if they have a high risk of reoffending and meet other parameters. The review process itself will also be augmented, and mandatory minimum sentences for some of the adult-on-child crimes have been increased.
“We now have the toughest laws in the country when it comes to dealing with sexually violent predators,” he says.
A vote is still to come in the House. First Coast Representative Janet Adkins is among the sponsors in that chamber. Bradley believes the vote will come next week.
“We’re gunna get this bill on the Governor’s desk as soon as possible.”
Diena Thompson, Somer’s mother, was in Senate chambers for today’s vote. Bradley wore a purple tie in Somer’s honor because it was her favorite color.