'2 Strikes' Sex Offender Bill Mandates Life Sentences

Houston Chronicle Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The House passed legislation Thursday mandating automatic life sentences for two-time federal child sex offenders. The vote on the "two strikes" bill was 382-34. "Take these sick monsters off the streets," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mark Green, R-Wis. "End the cycle of horrific violence that is every child's nightmare."

Life sentences would be mandatory for any federal child sex offense if the defendant was previously convicted of a federal or state sex crime involving children. Green described a scourge of repeat-offender pedophiles that need to be locked up. But some lawmakers painted a different picture: a high school senior boy sentenced to life for touching his freshman girlfriend. That's because one of the sex crimes covered is engaging in a sexual act with a minor between the ages of 12 and 15, if the two are at least four years apart in age.

"Two strikes, you're out is not even good baseball policy," said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va. "Why would we think it's good crime policy?" Michigan Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said Congress shouldn't "expose countless teen-agers to life sentences for being involved in consensual relationships." Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said that argument misses the point of the bill. "This is not some post-adolescent whose hormones have run amok. It is someone who is preying on someone 10 or 15 years younger," said Sensenbrenner, the committee chairman. The House defeated Scott's amendment to give judges the discretion, but not the requirement, to hand down life sentences for two-time offenders.