Jacksonville, FL - A tragedy spurs a call to action.
“Pull the delegation together so that we can begin to understand the policy issues, build consensus on solutions that would improve safety of our community,” says Fernandina Beach State Representative Janet Adkins.
Adkins is leading an effort to unite the Duval delegation toward figuring out what change can be made to how sex offenders are handled in our criminal justice system. She tells me seeing a registered sex offender with a lengthy criminal record being the suspect of the recent kidnapping and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle is a disturbing wake-up call.
“You constantly worry about the safety of your children,” she says.
As a mother of two, Adkins says she can’t imagine the “loss and pain” Cherish’s family feels right now. But she’s hoping to come up with steps lawmakers can take to prevent another family from feeling that loss in the future.
While she doesn’t have specific plans at this time for what “solutions” lawmakers may be able to craft, she wants to start now speaking with people who work with the system every day to start getting a better understanding of procedures in place.
Particularly disturbing to Adkins is the fact that police performed a routine check on the suspect, Donald Smith, the morning of the abduction.
“Are we really trying to understand what’s going on in that individual’s head, or are we just putting our eyes on then and saying ‘Ok, well, you look ok today’- how in depth is that interview,” she says.
She says many of her colleagues, including Jacksonville State Senator Audrey Gibson and Jacksonville State Representative Charles McBurney. Adkins intends to spend the coming weeks gathering more information, so they can begin drafting legislation in committee meetings in Tallahassee in September.