THIS is how Obama should have sold the Stimulus Package!!!

Well in Idaho at least.

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Molesters spared by recession

By NICK DRAPER

BOISE — Lawmakers say the state’s budget shortfall will keep them from passing mandatory prison sentences for Idaho’s worst child molesters.

After conferring with legislators, Pocatello’s Paul Steed decided not to offer a bill guaranteeing prison time for those convicted of Idaho’s worst sex crimes: lewd conduct with a child younger than 16 and sexual abuse of a child younger than 16.

Mandatory sentences for child abusers, lawmakers told Steed, would mean putting more people in prison. There was little support, Steed said, for passing a law that would further deplete the state’s general fund. Idaho taxpayers spend roughly $52 per day for every person housed in a state prison.

Steed said he appreciates that the government is being responsible with taxpayer money.

“But on the other side, it’s unfortunate that comes into conflict with protecting children from pedophiles,” he said.

Current laws set a maximum prison term for offenders and give judges full discretion to fashion a sentence they deem appropriate, from probation to life in prison.

A Post Register analysis last year showed that eastern Idaho judges vary in their approach to sentencing pedophiles. District Court Judge Brent Moss sent the vast majority of his lewd-conduct cases to a minimum security prison for 180 days to determine whether or not prison or probation was the best option.

Most inmates sent on a “rider,” experts say, end up on probation.

Most eastern Idaho judges sent about half their lewd-conduct cases directly to the penitentiary.

Steed’s bill would have required an offender convicted of lewd conduct to serve at least seven years in prison and mandated a five-year prison term for someone convicted of sexual abuse of a child.

His sons blew the whistle more than a decade ago on serial child molester Brad Stowell, who was originally convicted on two counts of sexual abuse of a child and received probation. Stowell has been sent to prison twice for violating the terms of his probation.

Steed wanted to eliminate the possibility of sex offenders getting off lightly, but said this is the wrong year to push for that.

“It’s just smarter for us to wait for a better financial climate,” he said.

Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, agreed.

“I think the concern is additional cost in a year when we don’t have additional funds,” said Hill, who was a potential sponsor of Steed’s bill.

Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello, said she considered drafting a mandatory minimum bill similar to Jessica’s Law, a Florida statute that mandates a 25-year sentence for those who sexually molest children younger than 12.

But financial considerations kept Bilyeu from presenting her bill.

Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, has introduced his own version of Jessica’s Law. But Schroeder’s bill won’t receive a hearing in the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, according to Chairman Denton Darrington, a Republican from Declo.

Darrington said the cost of imprisoning pedophiles isn’t the reason he’s denying Schroeder’s bill a hearing. Taking sentencing discretion from judges is.

“The problem with it is it paints every offender with the same brush,” he said.

This setback doesn’t mean Steed won’t pursue mandatory sentences for pedophiles in the future or that he’s finished pushing legislation this year.

He has three other bills that will be presented this session.

He wants to provide anonymity to adults who come forward about being abused as children.

He wants sex offenders who complete their prison sentences to continue to be supervised once they get out of prison to make sure they don’t re-offend.

He wants to add sexual abuse to the felony injury to a child statute and force people convicted of that crime to register as sex offenders.

There appears to be widespread support for those measures, said Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls.

“Paul is, in my mind, creating a groundswell in the Legislature,” Simpson said.

Reporter Nick Draper can be reached at 317-7720.

The Post Register