Jacksonville, FL - On the heels of the Florida Senate filing a packet of legislation aimed to fill loopholes in the system dealing with sexually violent offenders, we’ve learned the state House is not far behind.
“Florida has to be the most unfriendly place for the sexual predators,” says Nassau County State Representative Janet Adkins.
Adkins is working on one of at least six or seven bills she expects to be filed in the House this session. She says there has been consistent collaboration with the Senate through this process, and expects it will lead to finite results during the session.
“It’s important, though, that we get this right,” she says.
Adkins has a few key priorities she wants the legislation to represent. First, she wants to close a loophole currently allowing the release of sex offenders and predators from county jails without an examination under the Jimmy Ryce Act. The examination is designed to detect the potential for future criminal behavior, and is a primary tool in determining whether an individual should be put in to civil commitment. The law as it stands did not cover individuals in county jails.
She says this provision will be a main part of the specific legislation she offers, which was largely inspired by the abduction and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.
“That’s [the proposed change] something that I believe could have really been helpful in preventing that tragedy,” she says.
Adkins is also studying the correlation between mental health issues and sexually violent offenders to find what correlation exists.
Finally, Adkins tells me she is concerned by the number of “absconded” offenders. According to research she has done through this process, there are 567 registered sex offenders under Department of Corrections supervision who have failed to meet reporting requirements, appear for community supervision, or other similar lapses which have put them out of direct contact with DOC.
“Where are these people, are they getting the mental health services the court had ordered them to receive?” Adkins says.
She says 19 of those offenders are in the Duval-Clay-Nassau area.
When asked whether all of these problems and more can be “fixed” in just one session, Adkins didn’t outright commit one way or the other. She says her key priority this year is making it safer for victims and children, and that’s a gain she has no doubt lawmakers can achieve.