- By Pacific island Times News Staff
Bills seek to beef up public safety by fixing legal loopholes
“I pray no one would ever have to experience what I have. I hope that no one will have to live their lives feeling unsafe knowing that their perpetrator is able to roam freely,” sex assault survivor Hannah L. Rebadulla said in a written testimony in support of Bill 157-35.
Introduced by Sen. Amanda Shelton, Bill 157-35 seeks to close the loophole in sex offender registry law by requiring sex offenders appealing their convictions still register as sex offenders.
“I do not want the members of our community to live in area where have no knowledge of convicted sex offenders living near them – just because they were waiting for an appeal and exempted from registering. Guilty is guilty,” Rebadulla said.
Rose Hermosa, another sex assault survivor, said closing the loophole would reduce the likelihood of a sex offender victimizing other women. “My story is just a minute part of this community. For those victims who turn survivor and now advocate, I say let’s go close that loophole with Bill 157,” Hermosa said.
“The Guam Sex Offender Registry is vital to protect existing victims, to deter recidivism among offenders, and to prevent future sexual offenses. A study published in the Journal of Law and Economics finds sex offender registration reduces the overall number of sex offenses by about 13 percent,” Shelton said. “It gives our people greater access information of convicted sex offenders in their area so they can make the best decisions and remain vigilant for their children.”
Bill 157-35 was among the bills publicly heard at the Guam Legislature on Thursday.
Other bills heard included Sen. James Moylan’s Bill 175-35, which seeks to establish limits to loitering in areas where minors are present for registered sex offenders; Sen. Therese Terlaje’s Bill171-35, which would limit magistrates from handling cases involving felony charges, criminal sexual conduct charges, or repeat offenders.
In addition, Bill 171 also seeks to require judges to preside over treatment court status and progress hearings upon appointment by the presiding Judge.
Bill172, also introduced by Terlaje, ensures that the Guam Parole Board utilizes pre-sentencing reports and assessments prior to releasing any offender on parole. It is an effort to eliminate any barriers to the Guam Parole Board’s review and to better ensure the safety of the public. Pre-sentencing investigation reports and recommendations made at the time of sentencing have not been available to the Parole Board, though it is mandated by statute.
“The social workers and the parole officers are in support of this bill because it gives us access to more information,” said Mark T. Perez, social worker at the Department of Corrections.
Former Parole Board chair Michelle Taitano said, in the past, the Guam Parole Board has asked the courts for information on offenders but never received requested information. “I’m hoping that the courts will allow us to access that because it has been an issue. And again, I just want to thank you for making this more definitive,” Taitano said.
“It is our duty to safeguard the peace of mind and well-being of our community and to achieve true justice for victims and survivors of these terrible crimes by closing gaps in the law that jeopardizes justice and safety,” Terlaje said.
“If a judge needs to see those things in order to decide whether to release, not release or to sentence, the same should apply for anyone who has the authority to release, to give that person back to the community and put that risk on the community,” she added.
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