A Linn County lawmaker wants longer prison sentences for people convicted of child sexual abuse. Earlier this year, Senator Chuck Larson, a Republican from Cedar Rapids, tried to double the prison time for those convicted of engaging in “lascivious acts” with a child, but other lawmakers blocked his proposal. Larson is hoping the tragic death of a 10-year-old Cedar Rapids girl, allegedly at the hands of a convicted sex offender, sparks action on his proposal. He also wants those who’ve preyed in the past on kids to be supervised once they’re released from prison, whether they’ve completed a treatment program or not. “Obviously, this is incredibly sad and these were changes that many of us had attempted to make long before this case emerged,” Larson says. “I believe now we have an opportunity to make these changes which will ensure public safety in the future,” Larson says. Roger Bentley of Brandon, who has two sex crime convictions, has been charged with the girl’s murder. Elizabeth Robinson, chairwoman of the Iowa Board of Parole, says under current law, someone convicted of lascivious acts will be released in just two-and-a-half years. Robinson says Bentley refused treatment when he was in prison, and they kept him to the last day they could, but then had to release him back in 1997. Robinson says her personal feeling is that sexual offenders should be under “lifetime” supervision once they’re released from prison. “I think they should have someone to answer to always,” Robinson says. Bentley got time off for good behavior in prison, and Larson wants to deny that kind of early release to sex offenders who refuse to undergo treatment while they’re behind bars. “At a minimum, I think we as lawmakers need to consider significant, very significant increases in teh penalties,” Larson says. The Parole Board chairwoman says she was heartsick when she first heard about the abduction and murder of Jetsetta Gage. “I’m telling you it is very frustrating and this is not the first case. We have a lot of the ‘short-termers’ (sex offenders) who refuse treatment,” she says. “I’m a mother and a grandmother and when I go to bed at night, I think about the children. I think about the releases that we’ve done.” Karen Muelhaupt, a member of the Board of Parole, also met with Larson this (Tuesday) afternoon, Muelhaupt says the Parole Board has for years been concerned about the short sentences for sex offenders convicted of engaging in lascivious acts with a childn. She says unfortunately, it takes something like the death of the 10-year-old Cedar Rapids girl to raise public awareness of the problem. Muelhaupt says if sex offenders who prey on extremely young kids are going to get more time behind bars, the state needs to commit more money to treatment programs for those offenders. Larson also wants the state to set aside more money to compile a D-N-A registry of everyone who’s in prison and everyone who’s admitted to prison.
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