KQED Radio: Chelsea’s Law. I happened to hear a portion of forum with Michael Krazny this morning about the Chelsea’s law. AB 1844 calls for mandatory life sentences for forcible violent sex crimes against children. The bill was introduced by assemblyman Nathan Fletcher
The bill previously passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee and has been endorsed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Debate rages about the utility of administering harsher penalties for serial offenders and sexual predators, utility of testing all rape kits, whether or not such testing actually promotes public safety and public health by changing offender behavior. It is a complex issue that deserves critical discourse and investigation from all interested parties. A recent article entitled “Beyond the Cold Hit: Measuring the Impact of the National DNA Data Bank on Public Safety at the City and County Level” (Gabriel, M., Boland, C., Holt, C, Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Summer, 2010), raises several very important policy, public health and public safety issues. So much attention has been directed at the backlog of rape kits and the utility of testing all kits. What this article so elegantly states is that even when there is some success in DNA identification other factors compound the issue of DNA utility. Their study suggests that offenders still offend so the larger issue is what happens downstream in the administration of criminal justice. Which brings us back to the Chelsea’s law. On Thursday February 25th 2010, Chelsea disappeared after going for a run in a Rancho Bernardo Park. Law enforcement and thousands of volunteers searched for days, until they finally found her by Lake Hodges in San Diego. She was the victim of a terrible crime. A man who was convicted of violently molesting a 13 year old in 2000, but was freed after only 5 years in prison, has now pled guilty to the rape and murder of Chelsea King as well as that of Amber Dubois, a 14 year old who went missing a year previously. Gabriel, Boland and Holt (2010) note offenders have a propensity for “rapid and frequent re-offense” which raises an issue about the utility of DNA given that many perpetrators continue to commit offenses even when under mandated supervision. This raises more questions about competing forces that impact offender’s behavior. Clearly DNA data basing has utility in identifying alleged perpertrators or offenders or exonerating them. Other salient issues have to do with how the criminal justice system responds to offenders, how to develop more effective intervention and outreach to both victim and perpetrator to promote public safety and awareness and or to intervene in offender behavior early in the chain of custody. Chelsea’s law is likely to pass. Listen to forum with Michael Krazny