A Monthly Fee for Sex Offenders? [AUDIO]
New Jersey needs more money to better supervise and monitor convicted sex offenders. Two state lawmakers think charging the offenders a monthly fee is one way to do that.
Legislation sponsored by Sen. Linda Greenstein and Sen. President Steve Sweeney that would revise and strengthen Megan's Law to improve community supervision of convicted sex offenders and to better protect New Jersey's children has been approved by the full Senate.
The bill also also updates the law based on advances in electronic communication and would ensure that minors whose only sex-related offense was sexting are not placed on the sex offender registry.
"Like any piece of legislation, as times change, it is important for the Legislature to revisit and update it (Megan's Law)," says Greenstein. "We could never have predicted the advent of a computer age where we must no longer only concern ourselves with who lives next door, but now with anyone who has access to a computer, a smart phone or tablet."
"Because of these changes in society, the way law enforcement must conduct oversight has changed dramatically. This legislation will ensure that they have the tools necessary to stop another horrific crime from occurring."
$30 Monthly Charge for Sex Offenders
The bill creates a new revenue stream to ensure the continued supervision and monitoring of sex offenders.
Under the bill, a $30 per month penalty would be imposed on those convicted of a sex offense.
The money would go to pay for expenses incurred in supervising sex offenders, including but not limited to covering the salary and benefits for additional parole officers, the acquisition of equipment for monitoring offenders such as GPS devices, and purchasing equipment to expand the Parole Board's ability to supervise offenders.
The bill was amended in the Budget Committee to provide lessened fines for those on the sex offender registry who are considered indigent. For sex offenders whose family income is less than the federal poverty level (FPL) a $15 per month fine would be assessed and for those whose family income is less than 149 percent of the poverty line a $22.50 per month would be assessed.
"The State Parole Board has the daunting task of monitoring convicted sex offenders throughout the state under Megan's Law," says Sweeney. "What has always been a large task to ensure that sex offenders do not prey on our children has grown exponentially as more offenders have been added to the registry, and technological advances have provided offenders with new outlets to recommit."
Those who don't pay the fine could face license suspension, community services or even jail time. The fee will not cover the cost of everything under the bill. In fact, it doesn't even come close.
According to the bill's fiscal impact statement, assuming that 976 defendants were convicted of a Megan's Law sex offense every year and that the entire amount of the penalty was collected, a total of $351,360 in revenue would be generated in the first full year of implementation $702,720 during the second full year and $1,054,080 during the third full year after the bill's implementation.
The estimated first year cost for the State parole Board totals $6.5 million for this initiative, increasing to $7.6 million in the second and subsequent years of the program.