Bradford’s bill loses on two counts

We’re all for legally hammering sexual predators who prey on young children, as state Rep. Laura Bradford seeks to do with House Bill 1144. But Braford’s bill, which would require a minimum 20-year sentence for sex offenders who target children age 14 or younger, has two major strikes against it.

First, prosecutors who have to enforce the bill — people who harbor no kindly feelings to those who prey on children — don’t like the bill. They want the discretion to seek varying sentences on a case-by-case basis.

That’s understandable. Not every case is identical and there may very well be cases where a lesser sentence is appropriate, such as when a sex offender works with law enforcement to catch other, more dangerous offenders.

Furthermore, Colorado and most other states have already experienced what happens when hefty mandatory minimum sentences are established for things like drug crimes — exploding prison populations and skyrocketing costs.

Cost is the second big obstacle to the passage of HB 1144. Colorado’s Legislative Council estimates the bill would cost the state $139.5 million over the next five years. At a time when the state is cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from its budget, and potentially closing prisons to help meet those cuts, adding significantly to prison costs and inmate population is not garnering a lot of support among Bradford’s fellow lawmakers.

The bill was left alive, but on life support, in the House Judiciary Committee last week, and Bradford said she is trying to amend it to make it more acceptable to prosecutors. An on-air thumbs up last week by Fox News talking head Bill O’Reilly failed to give it any additional momentum.

That’s not surprising. When both prosecutors and those trying to balance the state’s budget have serious problems with a piece of legislation, it should not become law.


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