Making Sex Crimes Against Kids a Capital Offense

In the last year, Lunsford has visited one state every month lobbying for the passage of the Jessica Lunsford Act. Florida passed the law last spring, establishing mandatory sentencing of at least 25 years in prison and lifetime tracking by a global positioning system after release for people who commit sex crimes against children.

Several other states are working toward passing their own versions of Jessica's law.

On Tuesday, the State Senate in Michigan approved legislation that would require a mandatory life sentence for repeat offenders with no possibility of parole.

The death penalty amendment in South Carolina is part of a larger bill that would impose mandatory sentencing and electronic monitoring for some sex crimes against children.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there are 549,038 registered sex offenders in the United States.

Bryant said he had a message for convicts. "I hope they leave our state and never return. I hope those people who have these tendencies will go elsewhere," he said.

Although the legislation is likely to face court challenges, those who support it believe the mere prospect of execution will prevent crimes against children from occurring in their towns.

In Levine's opinion, however, proposing the death penalty for child molesters is not the most efficient use of lawmakers' time and resources.

"A lot of times, legislators do these things for symbolic reasons -- for political capital. They're doing this to show they're tough, and it sets up the courts as a bad guy," Levine said.

Recent cases show that execution is not always a deterrent. Earlier this month, a Florida judge sentenced Joseph P. Smith to death for the 2004 kidnapping, rape and murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia.

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