Legislation Assembly Democrat Daniel Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex) sponsored to strengthen Megan’s Law and better protect children from sex offenders has been signed into law.
“When it comes to protecting our children, we can never be too cautious,” said Benson. “Almost 20 years later, Megan Kanka’s story is still a vivid reminder of why we need to be continuously vigilant. This new law will give law enforcement and state agencies the ability to better coordinate their efforts in order to place families and children out of harms way from registered sex offenders.”
Megan’s Law already requires county prosecutors to assess a sex offender’s risk of re-offense and categorize the offender as low, moderate or high risk. The records and files containing the information and documentation used to make this assessment are available to law enforcement and authorized to be released to the Department of Children and Families for use in carrying out its responsibilities.
The new law (S-1945/A-2131) will now make these records available to the Department of Human Services and county and municipal welfare agencies for the exclusive use of placing homeless families and individuals in emergency shelters, which include but are not limited to hotels and motels.
Benson noted that incidents such as Superstorm Sandy and the derailment of a train in Paulsboro carrying hazardous chemicals have prompted numerous evacuations of families in recent months, creating a need for temporary housing. As was the case in the Paulsboro incident, a family with teen daughters was located to a motel in Gibbstown, unaware that a registered sex offender was living on the premises.
The bill passed the Assembly 75-0 in December and the Senate 37-0 in February.