State Looks at Tightening Sex-Offender Screening

State lawmakers are scrambling to make sure the most dangerous sexual predators are not victimizing the states most vulnerable.

Sen. Eleanor Sobel says “First of all, we want to make sure that the public is protected.”

The Department of Children and Families is recommending changes to the state’s Sexually Violent Predator Program. The department released a 40-plus page copy of the recommendations early Monday afternoon.

“I want to be as tight as we can to protect our youngsters, that’s all there is to it,” says Sen. Alan Hays.
In Jacksonville, sexual predator Donald James Smith allegedly killed 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle. Smith was released from jail three week prior to the murder. He had been in and out of special prisons for sex offenders.

An investigation released earlier this year shows that nearly 1400 people screened under the current law were re-arrested on sex charges.

Lawmakers say it’s now their place to make sure sexual predators remain behind bars.

“All of us believe something should be done. I believe the penalties will be longer,” said Sobel.

Senators say it’s a bi-partisan plan and they will take D-C-F’s suggestions very seriously.

“I can’t imagine anybody not being in favor. Forget any party affiliations, this is a human issue,” believes Hays.

Nearly 700 sex offenders are being kept past their sentences because they are considered a danger to society.

A Senate committee is set to meet Tuesday morning to further discuss possible changes.