Tempers flared at the statehouse (Thursday) as some Senators tried to blame other Senators for the recent murder of a 10-year-old Cedar Rapids girl. Senator Larry McKibben, a Republican from Marshalltown, ridiculed his “bleeding heart” colleagues who oppose the death penalty. McKibben made his comments while standing next to large pictures of Jetseta Gage and the repeat sex offender accused of her murder. “Who’s child is going to be next in this state?” McKibben asked in a loud voice. “Who’s granddaughter?” Senator Wally Horn, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids who opposes the death penalty, lives just blocks from Jetseta Gage’s home. “I feel like the death penalty right now. I think it should probably happen. I hope I can get through this emotional period and say, ‘No, let’s leave the state law like the way it is. Let’s let those people die in prison,'” Horn said. But Senator Gene Fraise, a Democrat from Fort Madison, said legislators should have seen this tragedy coming as lawmakers have repeatedly failed to provide enough money to treat sex offenders in prison. “It’s kind of sad that we have to get an accident like this to get people’s attention,” Fraise said. “I’ve tried to get more funding for it. I’ve actually had people from the facility come up here begging for funds on their own dime and we’ve ignored them so shame on us for not funding this to try to deal with the problem.” But many Republican lawmakers say money is not the issue, it’s that too many sex offenders refuse treatment in prison. Fred Scaletta , a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Corrections, said it’s actually a combination of both. Scaletta said some sex offenders have sentences that are shorter than the duration of the treatment program, so legislators’ discussion about lengthening sex offenders’ sentences would help. Senator Chuck Larson, a Republican from Cedar Rapids, wants to double the prison sentence for engaging in lascivious acts with a child. “Many of these offenders are just simply broken. They will not be fixed by the system and that’s when the system must recognize that or we as a society must recognize that and our goal must change from rehabilitation to simply incarceration,” Larson said. Larson also supports the death penalty in certain cases.
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