Senate and House committees on Tuesday speedily passed additional measures to tackle the issue of sexually violent predators, considered a major priority for the upcoming session.
Sen. Eleanor Sobel, chairman of the Senate’s Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, said the proposed bills would “plug in the holes in the program and protect our vulnerable children and protect others from sexually violent predators.”
She held up a photo of 8-year-old Cherish Perrrywinkle of Jacksonville, who was murdered by a newly released sex offender, before the panel began reviewing two bills.
Senate Bill 522, sponsored by Sen. Denise Grimsley, would add a prosecutor, victim’s advocate and law enforcement officer to the multidisciplinary team that evaluates offenders considered for civil confinement. It would also expand the scope of inmates who can be evaluated under the predator law.
“The bill addresses the weaknesses in the current Sexually Violent Predator Program” that allows some violent predators to avoid evaluation and civil commitment, said Grimsley, R-Sebring.
The bills include recommendations made by Esther Jacobo, interim secretary of the Department of Children & Families after a September review of the Sexually Violent Predator Program.