Newsletter - April 2010


Stop Child Predators
Advisory Board

Mark Lunsford
Chairman

Joanna Acocella
Vice President of Federal Relations at Apollo Group, Inc.

Meryl Chertoff
Legislative relations professional, attorney and community volunteer

Viet Dinh
Georgetown University Professor of Law and former Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy at U.S. Department of Justice

Brian Jones
Senior Counsel at Dow Lohnes

Roderick R. Paige, Ed.D.
Former U.S. Secretary of Education
(2001-2005)

Executive Team

Cary Katz
Chairman

Stacie Rumenap
President

John Falb
Treasurer & Member of the Board

Amy Thienel
Communications Director

Table of Contents

President's Message
Greetings everyone from the Free State Capitol of Annapolis, Maryland where dozens of new sex offender laws have been proposed, and more muscle for existing laws is being considered by lawmakers. Read on to learn more about the Maryland legislature's efforts to approve increasing the minimum prison sentence for child sex offenders and removing the possibility of parole. After weeks-long debates were held in the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee both chambers passed bills, but the House version calls for 15 years for child rape while the Senate calls for 20. The bills need to be reconciled before the legislature adjourns on April 12.
> Read More

Maryland Lawmakers Push for Tougher Sex Offender Laws
The Maryland House of Delegates approved tripling the minimum prison sentence from five to 15 years in addition to removing the possibility of parole for child sex offenders. They also voted to eliminate good-time prison credits for the most violent and repeat predators and establish lifetime supervision for them. The House Judiciary Committee also wants to require people convicted of child pornography possession or indecent exposure in the presence of minors to register as sex offenders.
> Read More

The Cowboy State Toughens Penalties for Child Sex Offenders
Wyoming became the 43rd state to pass Jessica's Law last month when Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) signed the law on March 11. The new law creates a mandatory sentence of at least 25 years in prison for perpetrators age 21 or older who sexually assault a victim under the age of 13. It takes effect in July.
> Read More

FCC Chair Gets it Right When it comes to Child Safety
When FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined recently how the new National Broadband Plan will benefit children and empower families, he reminded parents to think about the differences between today and when they grew up...how families of his generation probably had one television in the living room, and how watching a favorite band on the Ed Sullivan Show was a weekend highlight.
> Read More

Spring Break: Tips for Keeping Your Children Safe On-line
This spring break, tens of millions of teens and young children will take some much needed-or at least strongly desired-rest from their school and enjoy a short vacation. It supposed to be a time to relax and with family and friends. But the place where millions of those children will turn this spring break might have not-so-positive dangers lurking.
> Read More



PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE

Greetings everyone from the Free State Capitol of Annapolis, Maryland where dozens of new sex offender laws have been proposed, and more muscle for existing laws is being considered by lawmakers. Read on to learn more about the Maryland legislature's efforts to approve increasing the minimum prison sentence for child sex offenders and removing the possibility of parole. After weeks-long debates were held in the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee both chambers passed bills, but the House version calls for 15 years for child rape while the Senate calls for 20. The bills need to be reconciled before the legislature adjourns on April 12.

You may recall last month that Mark Lunsford and I were in Cheyenne, Wyoming supporting "Jessica's Law" in the Cowboy state, a trip that coincided with the five year anniversary of Jessica's death at the hands of convicted sex offender John Couey. Mark, of course, is Jessica's father and has traveled the country in support of tougher laws for sex offenders. I'm pleased to announce that on March 11, Wyoming became the 43rd state to enact such a law. You can read more about those efforts in the coming pages.

Be sure to also read my blog on how the FCC's National Broadband Plan will benefit children and families. And don't forget to check out Parents Tech Corner for the latest in Internet safety brought to you by our partner McGruff Safeguard.

You can read more from Stop Child Predators on Facebook and Twitter where new content is posted regularly, and where action alerts about what's going on in your state can be easily found.

We hope you enjoy reading our newsletter as much as we enjoy sharing the content with you. As always, if you have any questions or comments, you can reach me at srumenap@stopchildpredators.org. Thank you for your continued support. We're confident that together we will STOP CHILD PREDATORS.

Sincerely,


Stacie Rumenap


Maryland Lawmakers Push for Tougher Sex Offender Laws

Mark Lunsford tells a reporter in Annapolis that lawmakers need to support tougher laws aimed at keeping child sex offenders behind bars after the death of an Eastern Shore girl. The Maryland House of Delegates approved tripling the minimum prison sentence from five to 15 years in addition to removing the possibility of parole for child sex offenders. They also voted to eliminate good-time prison credits for the most violent and repeat predators and establish lifetime supervision for them. The House Judiciary Committee also wants to require people convicted of child pornography possession or indecent exposure in the presence of minors to register as sex offenders.

In the Senate, members voted to increase the minimum prison sentences, although the bill to eliminate good-time credits hasn't yet had a hearing. And with just one week to go before the legislature adjourns for the year, the mandatory minimum sentencing bill could have a tough time becoming law as the House and Senate versions are slightly different with the House calling for 15 years and the Senate for 20.

The measure drew fierce opposition from the Maryland Judiciary and the state public defender's office at a recent Senate hearing, which nearly killed the bill. The groups said the legislation would strip courts of discretion in sentencing and consign criminals who have served their sentences to a lifetime of scorn and stigma. Even so, the bill passed third reading with one "no" vote and one abstention.

Despite disputes, Sen. Nancy Jacobs and Dels. Steve Schuh and Mike Smigiel continue to move forward with a bill that calls for a minimum 20-year prison sentence without the possibility for parole, even though the House Judiciary Committee reduced the sentence to 15 years through amendments. Under the bill, adults charged with second-degree rape or second-degree offense of a child younger than 13 would be eligible for the lengthened sentence. The use of a weapon or an accomplice distinguishes first- and second-degree assault.

"When you are an adult preying on a child, your own body is a weapon," Stop Child Predators' president Stacie Rumenap told reporters and lawmakers during a recent visit to the Free State's capitol in hopes of swaying lawmakers into passing longer prison sentences.

Mark Lunsford, whose 9-year-old daughter Jessica Lunsford was kidnapped, raped and murdered five years ago by a convicted sex offender in Florida, joined Stop Child Predators, Citizens for Jessica's Law in Maryland and other supporters at a rally in Annapolis in support of tougher laws. There, he was able to meet with House and Senate leaders, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Governor Martin O'Malley's staff.

At the news conference, Lunsford said Maryland's second-degree mandatory minimum of five years in prison is way behind that in Florida, which has mandatory 25-year sentences for many child sex offenses, and in Texas, where repeated sex offenses against children under the age of 12 can make predators eligible for the death penalty.

More recently, Joan Harris, president of Citizens for Jessica's Law in Maryland, is encouraging supporters to call Governor O'Malley, House Speaker Michael Busch and House Judiciary Chairman Joe Vallario and urge them to reconcile the two bills. She and Jerry Norton, vice president of Citizens for Jessica's Law in Maryland, continue to lead the effort to pressure lawmakers to pass the tougher sentencing bill.

She and Jerry Norton, vice president of Citizens for Jessica's Law in Maryland, continue to lead the effort to pressure lawmakers to pass the tougher sentencing bill.

In the wake of last December' slaying of 11-year-old Sarah Foxwell of Maryland's Eastern Shore, allegedly by a registered sex offender, House and Senate lawmakers are considering more then a dozen bills that would affect the state's management of sex offenders.

You can listen to Mark Lunsford's recent interview on the Shari Elliker show on WBAL Radio here.

The Maryland legislative session concludes April 12.


mcgruff

Spring Break: Tips for Keeping Your Children Safe On-line

This spring break, tens of millions of teens and young children will take some much needed-or at least strongly desired-rest from their school and enjoy a short vacation. It supposed to be a time to relax and with family and friends. But the place where millions of those children will turn this spring break might have not-so-positive dangers lurking.

The involvement of children in Social Media grows every year, both in population as well as the time devoted. Unfettered by homework, bed-times, and other responsibilities, many young children and teenagers will spend countless hours this spring break on the Internet. And, with the flexibility of their schedule, this could take place any time of day-late at night or during the day, while many parents are sleeping or away at work.

There are two primary dangers that your child can face on the internet-and they are not unlike the dangers you protect them from each day in your own neighborhood, at school, and with friends. First, your child's own behavior can place them in harms way. Befriending without discretion, disclosing personal information, even engaging in what they believe to be good-natured fun can all land children in dangerous situations. Second, your child may fall victim to the predatory behavior of others who seek out children using deceptive methods to gain and then exploit their innocent trust.

But what can you do as a parent? You may feel under-equipped address this danger adequately. You can't always be watching and it's nearly impossible in this era to insulate a child from the Internet completely. To help you get started, we have supplied some easy-to-implement suggestions following the Acronym P.A.R.E.N.T. that can get you involved immediately in your child's life online:

  1. Participate. It may seem rudimentary, but my first piece of advice is to start participating. Start early. Start young. Start now. Ideally, your teenage child would never remember the day mom and dad made rules for the Internet. It is natural and beneficial for your children to grow up with Internet guidelines as common as a bed time or curfew.
  2. Assess for yourself. You may think you’re too old or simply uninterested in using the social networking websites that your children use. You miss the point. You weren’t too old to play peek-a-boo with your toddler. Why disengage now?
  3. Review. Where is the family PC located? Do your children have the ability or the privilege of using a laptop unsupervised in the secrecy of their bedroom? A publicly located family computer creates a precedent for the type of involvement that is not only your right as a parent, but is your duty.
  4. Educate. You may not be a computer-whiz, but you know what is appropriate and what is not. You should create guidelines for your children and clearly communicate what is expected. Teach your children the dangers that exist so they can appreciate the protection you provide.
  5. Negotiate. Work with your children to create rules designed for their safety and maximum enjoyment. As children, we were taught not to jump on the bed, not for restriction sake, but to prevent painful experience while we played. The same is true for your child’s life online.
  6. Track. For some parents, this step becomes much more difficult. How can I know what my child does online? How can I see who their friends are, what they’re talking about, and what content their viewing? There are monitoring tools available that allow parents to see what their children do online—not unlike how you would know what they do in your back yard or in the house—so that you can enforce the rules which you have set.

Parents interested in implementing these ideas may benefit from monitoring software such as McGruff Safeguard. McGruff Safeguard offers parents the ability to filter Internet content to age-appropriate levels for their children. In addition, parents can monitor their children online by accessing real-time activity reports remotely, receiving daily activity reports, and even receiving instant alerts of dangerous activity via text messaging.

Ellen Ohlenbusch is the President and COO of McGruff SafeGuard, a company delivering free, easy-to use Internet safety services to parents and caregivers that monitors, filters, and controls a child's activity on the Internet. Learn more about how to get this free service and make it available to your community - protect your child today at www.GoMcGruff.com.


The Cowboy State Toughens Penalties for Child Sex Offenders

Wyoming became the 43rd state to pass Jessica's Law last month when Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) signed the law on March 11. The new law creates a mandatory sentence of at least 25 years in prison for perpetrators age 21 or older who sexually assault a victim under the age of 13. It takes effect in July.

The law is named for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 2005 by a convicted sex offender in Florida. Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford, joined Stop Child Predators and local supporters in Cheyenne during the legislative session to lobby for the proposal. The trip marked the five year anniversary of Jessica's death.

Janie White, self-described as "just a mom," spearheaded the efforts to get the law passed, and worked tirelessly for over two years with Reps. Lori Millin, Amy Edmonds, Lisa Shepperson, and Keith Gingrey and Sens. John Hastert and Kathryn Sessions to get the bill enacted.

The Wyoming House approved House Bill 64 swiftly, although there was doubt the Senate would have the opportunity to hear the bill after the Senate Judiciary committee killed a similar measure last year. Instead, the bill was considered by Chairman Charles Scott of the Senate Labor committee, even though the subject matter is outside the normal scope of the committee's work. His committee amended the bill to raise the age for convicted sex offenders from 18 to 21 years old. The committee voted 4-1 to send the legislation to the floor of the Senate for debate.

During the committee hearing, Janie testified that groups like the Division of Criminal Investigation don't track sentences for sex offenders, which led her to collect a year's worth of newspaper articles on Wyoming's convictions. Those articles indicate that many of the perpetrators earn punishments ranging from 13 to 18 years.

Opponents argued the state shouldn't take sentencing discretion away from judges.

Wyoming has more than 1,300 registered sex offenders.


FCC Chair Gets it Right When it comes to Child Safety

By Stacie Rumenap

When FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined recently how the new National Broadband Plan will benefit children and empower families, he reminded parents to think about the differences between today and when they grew up...how families of his generation probably had one television in the living room, and how watching a favorite band on the Ed Sullivan Show was a weekend highlight.

Today, however, is a whole new world, filled with many more screens that can bring along powerful opportunities even if they do bring along dangers and pitfalls. Families no longer gather around their one television screen to watch the news. Instead, today's households are equipped with multiple televisions, computers, cell phones and gaming systems that allow us to connect to one another and worlds we didn't know existed even 15 years ago.

As such, Genachowski made several compelling arguments that technology and safety should and can go hand-in-hand:

  • First, children are our most precious national resource who deserve to be educated and prepared to navigate today's digital world.
  • Second, empowering parents is an essential strategy in keeping kids safe online.
  • Third, the government has an appropriate, but limited, role to play.
  • Fourth, the First Amendment is a core American value that must be honored even in a digital world.
  • Fifth, markets have untapped potential to drive innovative solutions. Therefore, government and consumers shouldn't attempt to slow down technology, but should instead pursue strategies to unleash technology solutions to technology-related problems.

High-speed Internet and digital technology allow new ideas and creations to be shared with anyone. It spreads opportunity farther, faster, and more equitably than any other medium. For our children, the Internet has the potential to improve every aspect of their lives.

Consider education. With online learning, kids anywhere can have access to the best teachers in the world, and access to up-to-date e-textbooks and high-quality tutoring. Studies show that low-income children who use the Internet more at home have higher GPAs and standardized test scores than children who use it less.

But of course these new technologies also expose children to new dangers from harassment to online predators.

A recent Kaiser study found that children consume recreational media more then 7 hours a day and are consuming nearly 11 hours worth of content. When the same study came out in 2004 and reported 6 hours of daily media consumption, experts said it was impossible for the number to go higher. If you're a parent of a teen with a cell phone who can send texts faster than the blink of an eye, you know all too well that number will only go higher which leaves many parents asking if they should embrace new technologies or worry about them.

The answer is both, and ensuring children have access to broadband-pitfalls and all-should be a goal.


For more information concerning the initiatives in your state, or if you would like Stop Child Predators' assistance in drafting, testifying for, or supporting legislation in your state, please visit our website at http://www.stopchildpredators.org and/or call us at (202) 234-0090.