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|Jindal unveils ambitious agenda to clamp down to sex offenders|
Flanked by local legislators and members of the law enforcement community, Gov. Bobby Jindal said the Legislature must strengthen laws and penalties for sex offenders to better protect Louisiana's children.
Jindal made those points clear late last week at the Ouachita Parish Courthouse where he highlighted his legislative priorities for cracking down on sex offenders.
The regular legislative session begins in April.
"I want the message to go out loud and clear: If you break the law, if you intend to hurt a child, you better not do it here in Louisiana," Jindal said. "Here, our justice will be swift and our penalties will be tough."
"We passed a package of bills in the last session to crack down on the monsters that prey on our kids and we have already identified seven legislative priority areas that we will base bills on in this next legislative session," he said. "Our goal is to make Louisiana the safest place in the world to raise a family."
One legislative matter Jindal will propose in the upcoming legislative session would entail allowing the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) to establish a civil commitment program to treat sex offenders upon the completion of their prison sentences. People who enter the program will have been convicted of incest, crimes against nature, indecent behavior with juveniles, computer-aided solicitation of a minor and sexual battery of the infirm, among others. If perpetrators of the crimes remain a threat after their sentence, according to mental health experts, a district attorney could petition a judge to commit them for treatment where they would be retained involuntarily until the underlying mental health issue was resolved.
Jindal also wants to impose penalties on sex offenders whenever they fail to submit to electronic monitoring. Currently, there are no enforcement mechanisms or penalties requiring sex offenders to submit to electronic monitoring after they have served their full prison sentences.
Jindal said he would work in the upcoming session to define electronic monitoring as a requirement for registered sex offenders who are still deemed to be a threat to communities, even after they serve their prison time. Failure to comply with the requirements would mean a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment of two to 10 years without parole. A second failure to comply would mean a fine of $3,000 and imprisonment for five to 20 years without parole.
Another goal of Jindal's in the upcoming legislative session is to strengthen restrictions on locations where sex offenders can work.
Jindal has proposed legislation to toughen current law that says a sex offender is prohibited from working where there is "significant" contact with children. He wants to change the language of that law to say sex offenders are prohibited from working where there would be "any" contact with children.
The state must also strengthen reporting requirements on sex offenders who volunteer for activities involving children or youth, Jindal said.
Additional legislation would improve current laws to better protect children while they are at school.
This legislative area includes eight specific changes in law, as follows:
• Criminalize the intentional or criminally negligent mistreatment of a student by an educator and define the crime as "cruelty to juveniles" with a penalty of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both.
• Prohibit sexual contact between educators and students up to age 21. Current law prohibits contact until age 19, yet many disabled students are older than 19. The law would protect the more than 630 disabled students age 20 or 21, who currently attend public schools, Jindal said.
• Require school districts to inform employees and parents of the laws and policies regarding inappropriate communication between students and teachers.
• Strengthen current law that requires public school boards to disclose sexual misconduct of a former employee to school systems where the former employee has applied for work.
• Require applicants to school systems to disclose all instances of sexual misconduct and abuse or neglect of a special education student.
• Penalize school districts or school boards that fail to disclose instances of sexual misconduct and abuse or neglect, or if they supply false information. Those who fail to disclose the information would be found guilty of a misdemeanor and fined up to $500 or imprisoned for up to six months, or both.
• Expand current laws requiring public school boards to disclose instances of sexual misconduct and abuse or neglect of former employees to other schools where they apply to also include charter and private schools, in addition to public schools.
• Enact tougher penalties for teachers who engage in sexual misconduct with students.
Jindal also wants to address the shortfalls in existing law regarding child care facilities. Currently, it is not illegal for a child-care facility owner, employees or volunteers to knowingly allow a registered sex offender onto the facility's property. The "Protect Louisiana's Children Act" would authorize the revocation of state licenses of child-care facilities that knowingly employ sex offenders or knowingly grant them access to the facility.