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Queens Chronicle

Closing a loophole for sex offenders

Bill would exempt prison time when considering repeat offenses

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Posted: Thursday, March 8, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 1:00 pm, Thu Mar 15, 2012.

A bill co-authored by state Sen. Michael Gianair (D-Astoria) and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) which seeks to close what they call a loophole in the law when it comes to repeat sex offenders passed in the Senate last week.

Under current law, committing a sex crime more than once in 10 years brings harsher penalties. But time in jail is included in that 10-year period, something which Gianaris and Simotas say needs to change. Their measure would exclude time spent in jail from the 10-year period.

The goal is to prevent sex offenders who continually target women and children from benefiting from an unintended leniency in the law. If, for example, a criminal committed a sex crime in 2001 and then another in 2012, he would not face the harsher penalties. But what if he had been in prison for half that time? The bill’s promoters say he should be treated as if he committed a new crime after only five years.

“It would mean safer streets,” Gianaris said of the immediate effect the bill would have if passed into law. “Anything we can do to keep repeat sex offenders off the streets would make the streets safer for women.

“Not having the law in place, the penalties would be less strict than they should be,” he added. “We need to take [repeat offenders] off the streets and put them behind bars.”

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) has long been an opponent of the sex trade and sex abuse in Queens, and lent his support to the proposed legislation.

“The bill would close a legal loophole that dangerous predators slither through to avoid longer jail sentences,” Peralta said.

Ann Jawin, chairwoman and founder of the Center for the Women of New York, has advocated for women since 1987 and worried that if the bill doesn’t pass, women will “remain at risk.”

“We have to take the attitude to protect women. Women can’t hide themselves,” Jawin added, referring to the fear victims can experience when a sex offender is released from prison.

Speaking of repeat sex offenders, Jawin said that “it’s very difficult to change their psyche.”

Gianaris views this legal loophole as major issue that needs correcting, and is hopeful Governor Cuomo will sign the bill into law if it’s passed in the Assembly.

“It’s a common sense approach,” he said of the measure.

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