Effort underway to prevent early release for sexual assault offenders

Photo courtesy of the Daytona Beach News – Journal

Senate Bill 528 was filed for review on Feb. 6. If enacted, it will bar the Justice Department from granting inmates serving time for sexual offenses an early release.

According to Florida law, gain-time is the reduction of an inmate’s sentence for good behavior (depending on their edibility). The goal of so-called gain-time is to encourage prisoners to behave better and participate in their work and educational programs.

Senator Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, is the bill’s sponsor. Davis explained her inspiration for SB5 28 and the impact the bill will have if it becomes a law.

“Closing the loopholes of these plea deals in these sexual assault cases would mean everything to me,” she said. “Those people who have done harm to someone in such a foul way will pay for it. We are in an atmosphere, where women and men are feeling more comfortable with speaking up and speaking out about sexual assaults, but we also have to realize that this is something that will be a benefit for our children and a lot of these cases or fled out and predators are given eligibility for parole.”

“With passing this law, that eligibility is removed, and we have created a law makes sure that predator pays for what they have done,” Davis added.

Davis has helped construct and enact other sexual assault-related legislation such as Donna’s Law, which removed the statute of limitation on sexual battery offenses so victims can press charges on crimes regardless of the time frame.

Democrat representative David Silvers assisted Davis with construction of the House companion bill of SB 528 prior to the bill’s transition into a Senate bill. The bill was reviewed by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee during the first week of February. Davis explained her strategy of partnering with a Republican when constructing legislation to increase the bill’s chances of maneuvering through the law making process.

Hayley Giannuzzi, vice president of the FAMU chapter of Women Against Rape (WAR), said she supports  the bill, and described it as a step in the right direction for the “freedoms of women.”

“It sends the message that although there have been other laws passed that are attacking the freedoms of women, there is still a level of respect and consideration towards survivors of sexual offenses,” Giannuzzi said.

SB 528 could increase the likelihood of survivors reporting sexual offenses to the authorities in Florida.

“By barring inmates of sexual offenses from shortening their sentences it will continue to encourage survivors to speak out and get closure and justice for themselves,” Giannuzzi said.

Latrecha Scott, director of FAMU’s Equal Opportunity programs, could not be reached for a comment on the bill’s potential impact on the sexual assault culture on campus.