By Anand Vasu
The Arizona House passed Bill HB 2889 that will ensure convicted child offenders would not have the option of probation, parole or work release. This means that an individual serving a 10-20 year sentence, would not have the chance of an early release.
Further, individuals convicted of producing or distributing pornography of a child 12 years of age or younger would serve life without parole, as well as someone convicted of sex trafficking. An exception would be a case of statutory rape where an 18- or 19-year-old had sex with someone under the age of consent.
This comes on the back of the Save Our Children campaign, and the hashtag that was front of mind through most of 2020. The Bill passed the house 51-1 with Rep. Pamela Powers Austin being the lone dissenter. Her objection was primarily to the wider problem of justice not being equal for all races in the U.S.
“Justice is not blind or color blind in the United States and so mandatory sentencing is a part of the problem,” Rep. Austin was quoted as saying by 3TV/CBS 5. “If we had a fairer justice system, then the population in prison would look more like the population of the country and that’s not the case.”
Rep. Leo Biasiucci, the Republican from Lake Havasu City who sponsored HB 2889, was emphatic in underscoring the need for the bill. “You’ve ruined people’s lives. There should be no getting out early for anything,” he said.
The Bill will go to Senate in the coming weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys would have experienced sexual abuse at some point in their childhood. According to the agency, 91% of child sexual abuse is caused by someone the victims or their families know.
After updates to Arizona laws, it was observed that more and more victims were were speaking out and seeking legal redress. In 2020, hundreds of lawsuits were filed seeking redressal or protection azcentral reported.
The CDC describes child sexual abuse as “a significant but preventable public health problem” and estimated that “total lifetime economic burden of child sexual abuse in the United States in 2015 was estimated to be at least $9.3 billion,” while warning that the true cost could be much higher.
But, it was not only children who were affected. A RAINN report said that an American was sexually assaulted every 73 seconds. Further, in the period spanning 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies found strong evidence that at least 63,000 children were sexually assaulted each year.
A majority of child victims are between 12-17 years old. Of victims under the age of 18, 34% of victims of sexual assault and rape are under age 12, and 66% of victims of sexual assault and rape are between ages 12-17.