Violent child sexual predators would be forced to serve a minimum of 25 years in prison under a bill that was approved by its second Senate committee yesterday.

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The 'Jessica Lunsford Act' which mandates a sentence of 25 years to life for those convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child under 13 years of age now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

The bill is named in memory of the Florida nine-year-old who was raped and murdered in 2005 by a previously convicted sex offender. It is sponsored by State Senators Diane Allen, Tom Kean, Jr., and Steve Oroho.

Allen says, "There are few crimes more repugnant than the sexual assault of a young child, and few more deserving of a lengthy prison sentence. New Jersey has been too slow to enact this legislation. Now is the time."

"It has taken too long for this legislation to move this far," explains Kean. " I am pleased that the Senate President was willing to work with us to move it along this year. Aggravated sexual assault of a young child is a heinous crime that demands a long sentence in all circumstances. There are no mitigating factors that could warrant a sentence of less than twenty five years behind bars."

"Jessica Lunsford was assaulted by a repeat offender, as was New Jersey's own Megan Kanka," says Oroho (R- Sussex). "Keeping child predators incarcerated for extensive periods of time will help to prevent tragedy like that experienced by the Lunsford family from happening again."

State senator Jennifer Beck says, I can't think of anything more horrific than the sexual assault of a child. We must do everything we can to protect our children and keep them safe from violent predators. This bill is a message to all would-be offenders that New Jersey will not tolerate these crimes and we will punish you to the furthest extent of the law. I am proud to co-sponsor this bill and I look forward to voting in favor of it when it comes before the entire Senate."