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Aimee’s Law Approved by House

A bill (H.R. 894) intended to deter states from granting early release to convicted murderers, rapists, and child molesters was approved, by voice vote, by the House under suspension of the rules on July 11. The legislation, known as “Aimee’s Law,” is named after a young woman who was raped and brutally murdered in Pennsylvania by a man who had been previously convicted of murder in Nevada and released after serving 11 years of a life sentence.

The bill would require a state that granted early release to an individual convicted of murder, rape, or child molestation to pay for the costs of prosecution and incarceration if that individual is then convicted of one of the three listed crimes in another state. The penalty would be taken out of federal law enforcement assistance allocated to the state that had granted the early release. The law would apply only to those states that had not adopted federal “truth in sentencing” guidelines, had an average prison term that was less than 10% of the national average for that crime, or that allowed release of an individual who had served less than 85 percent of the prison time for which the individual was sentenced.

The bill also would require the Attorney General to collect data from the states regarding the number of convictions for murder, rape, and child molestation, and the percentage of those crimes that represent repeat convictions. The Justice Department would also be required to submit an annual report to Congress.

Arguing in support of the bill, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) stated: “More than 14,000 murders, rapes, and sexual assaults are committed each year by previously-[convicted] murderers and sex offenders. In my community, …one of the biggest concerns and complaints of the police is that they are constantly seeing the revolving door of locking up the same people over and over. One [out] of eight of these 14,000 murders, rapes, and sexual assaults [is] committed in a second state.”

Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) expressed his concern with the legislation: “…We get the National Governors Association saying on August 5 of 1999 about this bill, and I quote, ‘This mandate is onerous, impractical, and unworkable.’ We get the National Conference of State Legislatures on May 11 of this year 2000 saying, ‘Aimee’s Law is worse than an unfunded mandate.’” He continued: “I understand that people are outraged about what happened to Aimee, but our objective here as Members of Congress is not to let our outrage overtake our common sense and set up a bureaucracy that makes no sense; that does nothing, really, to address the real issues that we are sent here to address.”