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House Passes Bill to Limit Parole for Sex Offenders

Lawmakers give power back to the parole board to keep sex offenders in prison.
LITTLE ROCK, AR -- Lawmakers give power back to the parole board to keep sex offenders in prison. The idea for the bill coming after a church music minister admitted to sexual contact with children and served just a short sentence.

There was a real push to try and get this legislation passed last year.  It didn't happen.  But now lawmakers say they have closed what they call a dangerous loophole.

In 2009, Benton First Baptist Church music minister David Pierce faced 54 counts of sexual indecency with a minor.  He pleaded to four counts, and received a 20 year prison sentence.  Fast forward three years, Pierce was a free man.

State senator Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe) calls it a loophole.

"We went to the parole board and said how in the world does this happen and they said, well our hands our tied," Dismang says.

Dismang says the law allowed sex offenders that didn't commit rape or sexual assault in the first or second degree to be let out early.

"So that means they were serving about a third of their sentence and being released on the streets before they had a chance to be reformed, if it's even possible to reform a sexual offender," Dismang says.

After clearing the Senate last week, SB150 arrived in the house Tuesday.  A unanimous vote there now gives the parole board the right to deny parole for sex crimes.

"That's the kind of folks that we're trying to make sure aren't back on the streets, aren't a threat to our constituents, to our families," Dismang says.

Governor Beebe is expected to sign the bill later this week.
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