Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Vote for VAWA Now!

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) -- landmark legislation that provides life-saving hotlines, shelters, services and laws to protect victims of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking, will expire September 30 unless Congress acts soon.

First passed in 1994, and reauthorized and expanded in 2000, VAWA has marked a turning point in our nation's response to these crimes. Because of VAWA, a broad range of services now exist to provide much-needed aid to victims who must cope with the aftermath of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, rape, incest and stalking. Although we have made advances in public attention to this issue and improved services to victims since VAWA's passage a decade ago, much still remains to be done to combat and prevent intimate, family and sexual violence. As we look to the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Congress has a unique opportunity not only to continue successful and vital programs, but also to expand them to further the safety and stability of our families and communities.

If approved, the Violence Against Women Act of 2005 (S.1197, HR 2876) will allow almost one billion dollars of federal funding per year for the next five years for programs to help end domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. It includes provisions to train police, prosecutors, and judges to better serve victims and to hold offenders accountable, and will teach medical professionals how to recognize signs of abuse and how to respond. It will support the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Stalker Database, and will make cyber-stalking a crime under the Federal Communications Act. It contains provisions to ensure that underserved communities and populations – the rural, elderly, disabled, immigrant, communities of color and tribal nations – all of which experience violence at higher rates - get the funding they need to operate lifesaving programs. It will provide new laws that prohibit workplace and housing discrimination against victims of violence, since in many states landlords deny housing and employers fire employees who are victims because of the “disruption” it causes. It will provide transitional and affordable housing solutions so that when victims leave the shelter, they have someplace to go other than the streets or back to their abusers. And for the first time, VAWA will provide services for children who witness domestic violence, for teens and young adults who are at the highest risk of violence, and for programs aimed at prevention so that our children can grow up safe.

Click the link above to send a free message to your legislators urging them to support this vital legislation today!

***Information in this post is provided by Stop Family Violence.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Illinois courts impose restitution on offenders to crime victims

8/11/05 NCVC State Update: New Illinois law allows courts to order offenders to pay for victims' long-term counseling. On August 2, Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed a law that allows courts to impose monthly restitution payments on offenders to reimburse crime victims for long-term healthcare costs, in addition to immediate expenses. Under HB 701, victims who have suffered physical injury may now receive compensation for extended physical and mental health care, including long-term counseling services. Restitution payments may continue as long as the victim receives care, regardless of whether the offender has fulfilled the other terms of the sentence, including imprisonment or probation.

Illinois getting tougher on armed felons

8/11/05 NCVC State Update: On August 2, Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich approved a bill that creates a new criminal offense: being an armed habitual criminal. HB 1039 defines an armed habitual criminal as any individual who has two or more previous convictions for violent felonies, drug felonies, or several gun-related offenses, and subsequently possesses, sells, or transfers a firearm. The offense is a Class X felony and punishable by imprisonment for 6 to 30 years.

Alabama cracking down on sex offenders

8/11/05 NCVC State Update: On July 26, Alabama Governor Bob Riley signed a bill to strengthen the state's response to sex offenders, SB 53. The bill mandates that for ten years after being released from prison, sex offenders who committed a Class A felony or who were designated as violent sexual predators must be monitored by a geographic positioning system (GPS). It also gives courts discretion to sentence any other sex offender to wear a GPS tracking unit. The bill requires offenders at all times to carry a license or state-issued ID that identifies them as sex offenders. The bill also modifies recent Alabama law, which had allowed adult sex offenders in the state to live with a minor if the offender was the parent, grandparent, or step-parent of that minor. Under the new law, sex offenders whose victim was a child may not reside with any minor, regardless of the relationship. Other provisions increase the penalty for failure to comply with registration requirements, which include notifying the state about place of residence and employment.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Florida passes laws that are TOUGH on sex offenders

7/27/05 State Update from NCVC: During the 2005 Legislative Session, the following sex offender-related bills were sent to Governor Jeb Bush, who signed them during May and June:

"The Jessica Lunsford Act," HB 1877 , is a comprehensive bill that makes numerous changes to existing laws dealing with sex offenders. Provisions include: designating convicted offenders who have committed a first degree sex offense or two other sex offenses as sexual predators; requiring designated sexual offenders to be monitored by electronic GPS units; requiring in-person re-registration twice annually; and requiring state agencies to study the effectiveness of reporting requirements and recidivism rates. This bill is named after a nine-year-old girl who was abducted and killed by a previously convicted sex offender.

SB 1354 creates a stricter review process to determine whether convicted sex offenders whose victims were under age 18 may have contact with minors. Under the new law, released offenders may not have contact with any child, including their own, regardless of whether or not that child was the victim, until a qualified practitioner has completed a risk assessment, developed a safety plan, and recommended that the contact is in the best interest of the child. In addition, the child's non-abusing parent or legal guardian must approve the contact and agree to provide or arrange for visitation supervision at all times.

HB 411 adds the following offenses to the Florida criminal punishment code: possession of any photographic or video images that include sexual conduct by a child; electronic transmission of child pornography; and facilitation of either sexual conduct of or with a minor or the visual depiction of such conduct. The criminal punishment code classifies felonies into 10 levels, based on severity, and inclusion of an offense in the code increases the offender's incarceration time. The bill also increases the severity ranking for solicitation of a child through a computer service in order to commit an unlawful sex act, which was already listed within the criminal punishment code.

Jessica Lunsford and Sarah Lunde Act introduced to Congress

7/27/05 Federal Update from NCVC: Bill seeks to assess the effectiveness of electronic monitoring programs for sex offenders. On July 22, Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) introduced the "Jessica Lunsford and Sarah Lunde Act." H.R. 3407 would provide grants to states and local governments to assess the effectiveness of sexual predator electronic monitoring programs. The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Bill seeks to increase funding for DNA backlog

7/27/05 Federal Update from NCVC: Representative Andrews introduces bill to increase funding for eliminating the nationwide DNA backlog. On July 22, Representative Robert E. Andrews (D-NJ) introduced H.R. 3404, the DNA Database Completion Act. The bill would authorize increased funding levels to eliminate the nationwide backlog of DNA samples. H.R. 3404 provides $100 million for fiscal years 2005-2009 for testing convicted offender samples and $151 million for testing backlogged crime scene samples, including rape kits. The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.