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Child molestation bill weakened, but still strong

Although it lost a leg in its trip through the state House of Representatives, Rep. Lois McMahan (R-Olalla) believes her anti-sex offender legislation remains “a very big step in the right direction.”

McMahan’s bill, which passed out of the House Thursday evening with “I think, two nos,” imposes much tougher sentencing guidelines on rapists and child molesters.

Even though the bill, which is expected to go straight to the Senate floor for a vote sometime this week, no longer includes the mandatory minimum prison sentences McMahan wrote into the original draft, many other key elements remain.

The bill, in its current draft, calls for the following for all criminals convicted of first- or second-degree rape and/or first-degree child molestation:

n mandatory one-year partial confinement, which includes home monitoring and work release (the current rules call for only six months confinement);

n tighter regulations for imposing and monitoring Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative sentences — judges will no longer have the right to impose SOSA sentences unless the prosecutor concurs and SOSA will not be available to criminals with multiple victims, with any significant criminal history in the previous five years or to those who caused substantial bodily harm to their victims;

n a shorter leash on SOSA participants — one violation of the SOSA terms brings the participant back before the judge, two violations results in automatic prison time.

“Right now, they can violate several times,” McMahan said.

Even though the House removed the standard minimum sentence provisions, McMahan hopes to convince Senate leaders to put them back in.

The provisions would have made it impossible for anyone convicted of Rape 1, Rape 2 or Child Molestation 1 to serve less than four years, three months in prison.

Those convicted of first-degree rape would have mandatory sentences of at least seven years, nine months in prison.

Currently, judges have a lot of flexibility in sentencing and can hand down sentences of much less prison time, at their discretion.

McMahan believes the primary reason the standard sentences got cut out was due to the cost of keeping sex offenders incarcerated. SOSA treatment is always expensive and, in many cases, those convicted of sex offenses must be sequestered from the rest of the prison population because, historically, they have been targeted for abuse or even murder by their fellow inmates.

McMahan said she hopes the Senate will be able to look beyond the monetary costs of keeping sex offenders in jail and focus instead on the costs borne by the victims.

“Unfortunately, this is being driven to a certain degree by money,” she said. “I believe we can’t put a price on our children.”

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