Legislation that would mandate a sentence of 25 years to life in prison for the aggravated sexual assault of a child under 13 years of age has passed the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.

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            The bill, dubbed the “Jessica Lunsford Act” in memory of the Florida nine year old who was raped and murdered in 2005 by a previously convicted sex offender, is sponsored by Senators Diane Allen, Tom Kean, Jr., and Steve Oroho.

            “Jessica Lunsford was assaulted by a repeat offender, as was New Jersey’s own Megan Kanka,” said Oroho (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris).  “Keeping child predators incarcerated for extensive periods of time is the only way to prevent tragedy like that experienced by the Lunsford family from happening again.”

            Jessica Lunsford’s father, Mark, traveled to New Jersey in 2011 and joined Senator Allen at a press conference advocating for the measure.  Under the act, offenders could only be paroled after serving a minimum of 25 years in prison.

            In the Assembly, the bill (A-2027) is sponsored locally by Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose and Assemblyman Gary Chiusano.

            “We must do all we can to protect our children from predators,” said McHose, herself a mother of three children.  “The Jessica Lunsford Act will go along way to protect our most vulnerable amongst us and send punish those who seek to do them harm.”

            “It is about time the New Jersey legislature is moving this legislation,” said Chiusano.  “New Jersey has been behind the majority of the country on this very important issue.  I am proud to say today that the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee took a giant leap forward.  We will be urging the Assembly Judiciary Committee to do the same.”