Opponents say many of the changes, proposed in bills filed for the upcoming Legislature, actually could make it harder to get convictions in jury trials and give sex offenders greater incentive to kill young victims.
Other proposals, including increased electronic monitoring and further limits on where sex offenders may live, give the perception of safety but may actually prompt sex offenders to slip below the radar, opponents say.
"Sex offenders, child molesters, they're the topic du jour in criminal justice this session," said Shannon Edmonds, a former prosecutor and director of governmental relations for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. "But just being tough on crime doesn't necessarily advance the ball for public safety."
When even Shannon Edmonds opposes a penalty increase, that means it's a really terrible idea. On balance, prosecutors lobby at the Lege for increased penalties on nearly everything to maximize their leverage during plea bargaining. So for them to come out and say increasing penalties won't "necessarily advance the ball for public safety" should give penalty boosting pols pause.
One has to wonder: Why, oh why can't we have this kind of sensible discussion about crime and punishment during elections? Then it's all demagoguery on crime, and IMO it's a disservice.
For years it has been a biennial rite of passage for nearly all Texas legislators, liberals and conservatives, Republican and Democrat alike, to carry penalty-increasing bills so they can claim to be "tuff on crime" when they ran for re-election. But Texas has pretty much jacked up all our penalties as much as is reasonable - in many cases much more than is reaonable. We shouldn't now pass boldly UNreasonable laws just because legislators can't get out of the political habit of boosting penalties.