Gov. Rick Perry today praised the important work of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA), and reiterated his call for expanded monitoring of the most dangerous sexual offenders and stronger laws that could put more of them in prison for life without parole. The governor spoke at TAASA's luncheon honoring John and Weisie Steen, who have worked to support TAASA and the victims of sexual abuse in the San Antonio area over the past seven years.
"While the physical wounds of sexual assault can heal over time, the unseen damage can linger for years, decades or even lifetimes," Gov. Perry said. "TAASA's work has resulted in more effective laws relating to sexual assault, programs to raise awareness of this blight on society and ultimately better lives for survivors of such a nightmare."
The Steens have helped mobilize the San Antonio community around the issue of sexual assault by increasing visibility of the issue, and raising more than half a million dollars to support TAASA's public awareness campaign for survivors and other advocacy work across the state
Gov. Perry also introduced featured speaker Jennifer Schuett, who in 1990, endured a vicious sexual assault and was left for dead. The then-8-year-old Schuett survived her ordeal and worked with investigators for 19 years until her assailant was arrested in another state, identified and charged in her case.
TAASA is a statewide non-profit organization committed to ending sexual violence in Texas through education, prevention and advocacy based in Austin. TAASA member agencies comprise a statewide network of more than 80 crisis centers serving rural and metropolitan areas. Founded in 1982, the association handles community education, legal services, youth outreach, law enforcement training, legislative advocacy and curricula and materials development.
Protecting the safety of our communities and ensuring those who commit crimes in Texas are apprehended and appropriately punished is a priority for Gov. Perry. The governor recently announced initiatives to increase the monitoring and punishment of the most dangerous sex offenders, building on the success of recent initiatives like the Texas Ten Most Wanted Sex Offender list.
The governor's initiatives include:
* A pledge to work with lawmakers during the upcoming session to pass legislation allowing prosecutors to seek life without parole for repeat offenders convicted of sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault. While Jessica's Law provides this option to prosecutors for repeat predators of children, Gov. Perry is proposing it be expanded to include those who target adults. The governor also is proposing legislation requiring the active monitoring of high-risk sex offenders using tracking technology as part of the sex offender's sentence, and requiring all high-risk registered sex offenders who have served their entire prison sentence be actively monitored for three years upon release from prison.
* A $1.7 million grant from the Governor's Criminal Justice Division (CJD) to help TDCJ actively monitor all high-risk sex offenders on parole with tracking technology.
* The OAG, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and local law enforcement will work together to create Sex Offender Parole Violation Apprehension Teams, which will arrest high-risk sex offenders who have violated parole. These teams will coordinate with local law enforcement to conduct additional registration compliance checks on predatory, high-risk sex offenders.
* Encouraging governors across the country to enter into reciprocal agreements on sex offender registration to prevent individuals from circumventing sex offender registration laws by moving from one state to another. The governor also tasked DPS with providing recommendations to the Legislature on how to close loopholes related to out-of-state sex offenders.
The Texas Ten Most Wanted Sex Offenders list, which identifies violent sex offenders who have either violated their parole or failed to comply with sex offender registration, has led to the capture of six of these dangerous fugitives since its introduction in July 2010. Rewards of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of a Texas Most Wanted Sex Offender are funded by CJD, with the support of the Texas Crime Stoppers Council and DPS.
For more information about TAASA, please visit http://www.taasa.org/