A hearing is being held in Jacksonville to discuss Florida’s sexual predator laws, Wednesday.
State Representative Janet Adkins organized the legislative hearing to bring law enforcement officials and the public together to discuss what she calls gaps in the laws.
Representative Adkins said she watched that case unfold since the morning Cherish Perrywinkle went missing, and she thinks there is a lot that can be done to make sure it doesn’t happen to any other child.
She said this hearing is the first step to fulfilling her commitment of filing legislation during the next legislative season.
“It’s every mother’s worst nightmare, the tragedy that occurred that day and as those events unfolded there were a lot of questions that certainly I had as a legislator and I think that the community has… how did this happen,” said Adkins.
As a mother of two children herself, Adkins is one of many people in our community still shocked by what happened in our own backyard with Cherish Perrywinkle.
Adkins said the kidnapping and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle, is proof that laws related to sex offender crimes against children need to be discussed and adjusted.
“The perpetrator allegedly had community supervision earlier that morning so the question is, what does community supervision entail? What does that mean? Does it simply mean that they are looking at you to say are you dressed? Do you look okay today? Or are they really getting in their head to figure out what are they thinking? Are they a threat to our children,” said Adkins.
Adkins is talking about convicted sex offender, Donald Smith, who is accused of the crime against Cherish. That’s just one of the things she wants to discuss Wednesday afternoon at the hearing she planned.
“We want to look at the barriers for getting harder sentencing when you look at the history of this individual several years ago he had allegedly committed some crimes and the three felonies were reduced to two misdemeanors so how did that happen? What are the barriers for getting stronger convictions,” said Adkins.
Adkins is inviting the public to join her and people who work with children, criminals and the law every day, Wednesday afternoon to discuss and share ideas about Florida’s sex offender laws.
“This will be a very collaborative process as we look to identify ways that we can improve public safety, so certainly the public is invited to come and to participate, to share your thoughts and ideas as to how we can improve our sexual predator laws,” said Adkins.
People from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Department of Children and Families, local sheriff’s offices and the state attorney’s office will all be part of the panel today.
The hearing will be held at Jacksonville City Hall in downtown Jacksonville from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. If you can’t be there but want to talk to Representative Adkins about it, you can e-mail her.