SEX OFFENDER SENTENCING: DOES THE PUNISHMENT FIT THE CRIME?
There is a question being asked by government officials as the state re-examines its penal codes and advocates push for tougher penalties for those who commit sex crimes, particularly against children - does the punishment fit the crime when it comes to the sentencing of convicted sex offenders? You can commit a sex crime against a child and spend less time in jail than if you stole clothing from a retail store, noted Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law, commenting on some of the sentencing disparities between sex offenses and other types of crimes. Convicted sex offenders have a dramatically higher rate of recidivism than any other type of violent felon ... We want a minimum sentence of one year in jail for all sex crimes. There are approximately 823 registered sex offenders living in Suffolk County and more than 25,4000 residing throughout New York State. In some cases, getting less jail time in exchange for a longer term of supervision, such as probation, can be a good thin, according to Ahearn. We feel very strongly that there should be lifetime supervision, customized for each offense, she said. When a case is acquitted, it's often the result of a victim being unable to testify or the fact that there was no physical evidence. When they get nothing, it's worse for the victim.
First time offenders who are convicted of first degree sexual abuse, which carries a penalty of two to seven years in prison, could receive little to no jail time due to the variety of punishments a judge may impose. One example is a case that involved Suffolk resident Winston Lindsay, a Sunday school teacher in North Babylon who, in 2004, was convicted by a jury of sexually abusing an eight year old victim. While he faced up to seven years in prison, he was sentenced to six months in jail and 10 years probation in March of 2005.
Local advocates and elected officials say they are working on measures to toughen penalties for those convicted of sex crimes.