Little Trust for Courts When Sentencing Child Rapists
6/15/2016
Recently, the LNP reported that Lancaster County has the third most sex-abuse prosecutions over the past three years of any county across the Commonwealth. That figure is startling, but it is not because there are more sex offenders located in Lancaster County. Instead, we are putting more child predators in jail because of the tireless efforts of local law enforcement, District Attorney Craig Stedman and Assistant District Attorney Karen Mansfield.

While we can be thankful to have these truly dedicated public officials putting sex offenders behind bars, the Commonwealth has a dire problem with the sentencing of child sex offenders, who are now receiving shorter sentences for their crimes due to a recent Superior Court decision.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court’s 2014 decision in Commonwealth v. Matthew Wolfe invalidated all of the mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for criminals who are child sex offenders, who are truly the most depraved and despicable among us.

The ruling in Wolfe now has opened the flood gates for men and women who have been convicted of raping children to appeal their sentences and receive lighter penalties for their crimes. One Lancaster City man, Kevin Getchius—a child rapist—is appealing his sentence under this loophole created by the courts.

Without these mandatory minimum sentences in place, these heinous individuals will be back on the streets, where they are likely to reoffend, placing our children and communities in grave danger.

Some studies suggest that over 50 percent of child sex offenders will go on to reoffend in their lifetime. What is even more troubling is that without these mandatory minimum sentences in place, someone convicted of these crimes could be released from prison before their victim turns 18. Children should not have to live with the knowledge that their offender will be released from prison before they have the opportunity to graduate from high school.

Later this year, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office will argue the Superior Court’s decision in Wolfe, but when it comes to the safety of our children we have a moral obligation to do the right thing and reinstitute the mandatory minimum punishments that fit the nature of these twisted crimes against children. While we hope our judiciary rightfully comes to its senses, we cannot wait for its deliberations.

The General Assembly must act immediately to reinstate mandatory minimum sentences for child sex offenders. Of all the responsibilities that lawmakers have, one of the most important is ensuring that the public, particularly children, are safe. Hoping that a sexual deviant who serves a short prison sentence will not reoffend is not good enough – there must be a strong minimum sentence that will be served in the event someone commits these terrible crimes. Working with District Attorney Stedman, we have introduced identical legislation in the House and Senate to do just that.

Opponents of mandatory minimum sentences believe judges should have greater flexibility in determining the severity of prison sentences. While there is certainly room for judicial discretion in some criminal cases, those people who rape or sexually abuse children do not deserve the benefit of a judge’s individual choices. As a society, we must put the safety of our children as the top priority and owe it to the victims of these horrible acts and their families to do everything necessary to prevent these kinds of crimes from happening. When they do, our legislation would ensure that they are met with a fitting punishment.

We call on our colleagues to stand up for the rights of victims and justice. While there are many issues we debate in Harrisburg, protecting innocent children from sexual predators is something we should all agree on.

by State Rep. Keith J. Greiner, CPA (R-Upper Leacock) and Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Landisville)

Representative Keith J. Greiner, CPA
43rd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Eric Reath
717.260.6187
ereath@pahousegop.com

Senator Ryan Aument
36th Legislative District
Pennsylvania Senate

Media Contact: Jake Smeltz
717.787-4420
jsmeltz@pasen.gov

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