Kentucky Coalition Against Sexual Assaults
GOVERNOR ERNIE FLETCHER SIGNS HISTORIC LEGISLATION TO CRACK DOWN ON SEX OFFENDERS. See the latest news section for the full report.
The rise of sexual assaults is a growing concern to our citizens. Recognizing the importance and urgency of this issue, the Administration established the Kentucky Coalition Against Sexual Assaults (KCASA). KCASA studied all aspects of these sexual crimes, especially the victimization of children, including appropriate sentencing and effective monitoring. The Coalition gathered information from community leaders and citizens in a series of regional public forums. It issued a report October 27 with recommendations for strengthening our laws and policies dealing with these crimes. Those recommendations requiring legislation appeared in the form of an omnibus bill known as HB 3. HB 3 was passed by the Kentucky General Assembly in the 2006 Regular Session and signed by the Governor on April 18, 2006.
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||Protecting Kids From Predators
By Steve Pence
(Special to The Courier-Journal)
I want to commend Gov. Ernie Fletcher and thank the General Assembly for working in a bipartisan manner to pass a historic piece of legislation, which will undoubtedly save many children from the trauma of being preyed upon by sexual offenders.
By setting aside political differences and uniting in the effort to better protect the families of Kentucky, we have reached a goal that some believed wouldn't happen during this session: strengthening the laws pertaining to sexual predators.
Information is the most powerful tool parents can have in shielding their families from danger.
Citizens of Kentucky have a right to know if there is a person in our children's classrooms who poses a threat to our sons or daughters.
Parents have a right to know if there is a person in their neighborhood who has a history of burglaries or violence.
For far too long we lived in ignorance of these risks.
That is why when the Kentucky Coalition Against Sexual Offenders (KCASA) began the process of strengthening Kentucky's sexual offender laws, one of the most important aspects for our group was to open juvenile felony court proceedings from the time of arrest through conviction.
Lawmakers told me and my staff time and again that changes to our current juvenile code had no chance of passing the General Assembly. In fact, we were told to leave the juvenile court system alone.
However, through continued meetings with legislators of both parties in the House and Senate, as well as with public defenders, a consensus was achieved.
Juvenile courts are now going to become a little more accountable, and the police and public will gain a lot more information about who is committing crimes in our communities.
House Bill 3, as it pertains to the juvenile courts in Kentucky will have two notable effects:
It will require court clerks to keep a public record book of juveniles who have committed crimes such as burglary, drug trafficking, rape or homicide, and crimes involving a deadly weapon.
It will allow law enforcement officers to gain access to all juvenile court proceedings for use in investigations and prosecutions.
It is difficult to believe that this information is currently being withheld from the police and the public, and when we first began our research, we were repeatedly told that current laws already allow the public to have access to the records of violent juvenile offenders.
But when I talked with the police, I found as so often in life, what may be true in theory is not the case in practice, and the police and public were being denied this basic information.
KCASA did not get all that it sought in this legislation, and I think there is a lot left to accomplish in ensuring accountability in the juvenile court system. However, compromise is the key to getting things done in Frankfort, so we were willing to bend a little.
Allowing the public to have some information about juvenile felony records is an improvement over what it has access to now, which is virtually nothing.
There is still much to be accomplished and improvements to be made to laws pertaining to juvenile records. I plan to work toward more progressive changes with the General Assembly in upcoming sessions.
Perhaps in the future, lawmakers will decide that all juvenile court proceedings should be open to the public. Many other states have followed this path.
Although we should not pass laws just because other states have them, I pledge to the citizens of Kentucky that I will make every effort to make the current changes in juvenile courts work for the betterment of our police and communities.
For a parent, there is no price too high to pay to protect our children from predators.
However, as helpful as these new laws may be in certain areas, every parent will agree that knowing where your child is, who the child's friends are, and what the child does on the computer will remain the first line of defense.
Steve Pence, a former prosecutor from Louisville, is lieutenant governor of Kentucky; he also serves as secretary of the state Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.