Some Want Death Penalty for Repeat Molesters

A drive in South Carolina seeks to impose the death penalty for second convictions of raping children under age of 11.

"Raping a child is as horrific as taking a life," said South Carolina State Sen. Kevin Bryant, R, "and I would like South Carolina to make a statement to the nation that we take these crimes extremely seriously."

The new initiative coincides with the recent arrest in South Carolina of Kenneth Hinson, a convicted rapist who allegedly raped two teenaged girls in an underground "dungeon."

Hinson was released early his 18-year sentence for raping an 11-year-old girl despite objections by prosecutors who said he would likely strike again if freed.

'An Eye for an Eye'

Although Florida teacher Debra LaFave recently avoided jail time after being charged with sexual assault involving a 14-year-old boy, more states are imposing harsher sentences for child molesters.

Louisiana already has such a law on the books.

In Oklahoma, a similar proposal sailed through the state senate last week. Other states have imposed longer sentences and tighter parole restrictions for sex offenders and children.

Even in Florida, where the LaFave case too place, lawmakers enacted tougher laws after the 2005 rape and murder of nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford. John Couey, a neighbor who had previously been convicted of molesting a young girl, was found guilty of that crime.

"If you want to rape kids, you want to kill them?" said Mark Lunsford, Jessica's father. "Death -- it's an eye for an eye for children."

Lunsford has been traveling the country, pushing for harsher penalties for child sex crimes.

"I'm not a lawmaker, I'm not a politician, I'm a citizen," Lunsford said. "It's okay, you know, to let them know … [that] if you want to hurt a child, you're going to get the death penalty."

Too Much?

Some say that the death penalty would encourage the offenders to kill child victims because they would face the death penalty anyway. Other critics say the punishment does not fit the crime.

"There's a real need to think about treatment and alternatives for sex offenders rather than increase the punishment and … the death penalty," said Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch.

Supporters of the tougher penalties say anyone who would sexually attack a child twice should never get a third chance.

The last execution for a sex crime was for a 1964 Missouri rape. The U.S. Supreme Court declared Missouri's law unconstitutional in 1977 because it was disproportionate to the crime.

If South Carolina and Oklahoma pass these laws, the Supreme Court could be asked again to decide whether they are legal.

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