Protecting Florida’s Vulnerable initiative passes House

400-JIMMY-RYCEIn 1995, 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce was murdered by Juan Carlos Chavez, and yesterday evening, at 8:17 p.m., 19-years later, a corrections official declared Chavez dead after injecting him with a lethal combination of drugs in the death chamber of Florida State Prison.

Also, yesterday, the House Appropriation Committee passed a package of bills expanding the reach and increasing the penalties contained in the Jimmy Ryce Act. Under the 1998 law, sexual predators can be detained through civil commitment — even after they have served their prison sentences.

The most far-reaching measure approved yesterday was HB-7027. It would impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 50 years for those convicted of the rape or torture of children, the disabled and seniors. The measure cleared the committee with a unanimous vote.

The other five bills approved by Appropriations dealt with provisions of the Jimmy Ryce Act. They are:

• HB 7013 directs the Department of Children and Families to conduct a long-term study of the recidivism data of people released from the Civil Commitment Center;

• HB 7017 would no longer allow confinement at the Civil Commitment Center to be considered time spent under community supervision. Many sexual offenders are sentenced to a prison term and a period of community supervision;

• HB 7019 expands the Ryce Act to include state attorneys among officials authorized to refer people for involuntary civil commitment;

• HB 7021 requires the multidisciplinary team that determines whether a sexual offender is released from custody to include psychiatrists with experience in treating people with mental abnormalities. Plus if one member of the three-person team disagrees with an evaluation then a second evaluation is required;

• HB 7025 brings Florida law further in line with the federal Adam Walsh Act (named after a Florida victim of sexual child abuse and murder) by including misconduct with a developmentally disabled person, a patient and a forensic client. The proposal also requires convicted predators to provide their county sheriff and FDLE with any Internet identifier and information about vehicles and professional licenses.

The set of bills is being termed the House’s Protecting Florida’s Vulnerable Initiative. The next committee stop for HB 7021 is the Health and Human Services Committee. The other four bills are referred to the Judiciary Committee.

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