By Mike McDaniel
A bill aimed at making convicted sex offenders wear tracking devices if they fail to register is heading back to the Mississippi Senate where it started. the House added some elements.
Supporters, including the bill's author, says those additions only make the bill stronger.
Although state law requires convicted sex offenders to register every ninety days, not all of them do so. That problem is now the target of a piece of legislation sailing through the Capitol.
- Since failing to register is a crime for those on and off probation / parole, why is a new law needed?
"The fact is these are just the kinds of criminals who repeat their offenses and all these bills do is enforce our current sex offender laws using modern technology," said Republican Sen. Will Longwitz, of Madison.
The bill, known as Lenora's Law, was originally designed to require any sex offenders convicted of not complying with the state's sex offender registry law to be monitored with a GPS device. It already passed the Senate and has now passed the House with amendments.
- But below they say it's up to the judge.
"It protects victims of sex offenses from people who have proven they can't follow the law," Longwitz said.
- Keep dreaming! Nothing will protect someone from an offender if they chose to commit a crime.
House members added in language that would give a judge discretion to require a tracking device on any convicted sex offender.
New language also increases the distance a sex offender can live from places like schools and playgrounds. That distance would go from 1,500 feet to 3,000. Longwitz says he's all for the changes.
- This is probably the whole purpose of this bill, which will cause homelessness and clustering, then they'll make yet another bill to "fix" the clustering problem.
"Everybody I talk to, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative has told me they wish we could do more of this," said Longwitz.
The bill is named after Lenora Edhegard who investigators say was killed by a convicted sex offender who did not register in Rankin County.
- The man moved close by without registering, and even if you force him to wear a GPS, it would not prevent him from doing exactly what it's said he did.
When the bill first gained traction at the Capitol, Edhegard's sister, Becky Macon, said she just wished the law already existed.
- If the law already existed and he had a GPS on, how would that have prevented what happened here?
"This may not have happened to our sister had this law been in place," said Macon.
- Nope, sorry, it would not have stopped someone intent on committing a crime from doing so, GPS or not.
Longwitz says he plans to ask the Senate to agree to the additions made by the House and hopes to have the bill sent to the governor's desk as early as next week.