The New Jersey Assembly has passed legislation to require community notification when a sex offender is transferred from prison to a halfway house.

Governor's Office, Tim Larsen

Right now, believe it or not, that isn't happening.

Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex), who sponsored the bill, thinks the measure is vitally important because more than 5,000 prisoners have escaped from halfway houses since 2005.

"These halfway houses, they may be located next to other areas that have children present, whether it be a school or a church or a playground," he said. "There have been a large number of high profile escapees, and a high level of escapism, and while those numbers have improved, it still continues to be a problem in halfway houses. This measure closes a loophole."

Benson, who lives in Hamilton Township where the Megan Kanka tragedy took place, said he's committed to making sure Megan's Law is enforced to keep our children safe, "and notification is a strong weapon both for police, community organizations, and for parents."

Legislation approved by the lower house would also prohibit placing a county inmate charged with a crime for which a conviction would require registration as a sex offender under Megan's Law in a residential community release program.

The legislative package will now be considered by the NJ Senate.