RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Registered sex offenders and others who have been deemed a threat to children would be banned from schools, day care centers, churches, playgrounds, recreation parks and other places when children are present under legislation being introduced by Sen. Buck Newton (R-Wilson) Thursday.
The Jessica Lunsford Restoration Act would prohibit individuals determined by the courts to pose a threat to children from property where regularly scheduled educational, recreational and social programs for youth take place or from within 300 feet of places intended primarily for the use, care and supervision of minors.
“There is nothing more important than keeping our children safe and out of the reach of dangerous sex offenders and child abusers,” said Newton. “If this bill protects even one child, it will be well worth it.”
Jessica Lunsford was a 9-year-old girl originally from Gastonia who was abducted and brutally raped and murdered in Florida by a convicted sex offender, John Couey, in 2005. Couey buried her alive after raping her.
In the outrage that followed, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law in 2005 legislation that strengthened punishment for people who sexually abused children.
North Carolina passed a Jessica Lunsford Act for NC in 2008. But, Newton’s office said in a news release, a federal court struck down the act in 2009 in part because it applied to all registered sex offenders, regardless of whether their offense was against children or not.
The new bill is narrowly tailored to apply only to those a court considers to be a threat to minors. The state is continuing to appeal the court’s ruling and will maintain the 2009 law if the ruling is overturned.