For the sake of argument, let’s make a few assumptions.
Let’s assume that a sizable enough chunk of Florida’s $2.2 billion surplus goes toward permanent funding aimed at making our kids safer from the state’s 5,000 sexual predators. Measures taken would include more probation officers and a sophisticated system of monitoring those would-be threats to our communities and neighborhoods. That includes information sharing among probation personnel, police and judges.
Let’s assume that the Legislature – in the aftermath of recent tragedies, national notoriety and lots of tough talk — acts appropriately tough.
That means fast-tracking bills that would impose significantly harsher sentences and global positioning satellite surveillance of all those on probation or any kind of community control. Lifetime supervision would certainly be in the mix – as would a stricter definition for who qualifies for probation in the first place.
And nothing – from castration to town square pillories — should be ruled out. Moreover, serious slammer time should await those who harbor either a registered sex offender (29,000 in Florida) or predator.
Let’s assume that Attorney General Charlie Crist maintains his high profile bully pulpit on the issue of probation abuse and stays on the Fox News circuit with O’Reilly and Geraldo. And let’s also assume he persuades the Legislature to pass the “Anti-Murder Act” and keeps those op-ed pieces coming so society doesn’t let down its collective guard.
But there’s one critical variable unaccounted for. And it has nothing to do with budgets or political process or civil liberties.
Arguably, none of these get-tough measures would have prevented the murder of Ruskin’s Sarah Michelle Lunde by registered sexual offender David Lee Onstott, a life-long loser and convicted rapist. Nothing can legislate parental responsibility.
The reason that 13-year-old Sarah was proximate enough to Onstott to be endangered was that he was familiar with her family. He used to date her mother. Repeat DATE her mother. There are no mandates that insulate kids against that sort of egregious judgment.
And it wasn’t a particularly prudent move for the mother to leave Sarah and her teen-aged brother alone while she was out of town. The 17-year-old was hanging out with buddies when the post-midnight strangling occurred.
For the sake of argument, it wouldn’t have taken much – certainly well shy of tough, new sex-offender and predator laws – to have ensured that Sarah Lunde was still among the living.