WISCREPORT.COM (10/9/07) - State Representatives Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford), Frank Boyle (D-Superior), and Suzanne Jeskewitz (R-Menomonee Falls) have introduced bipartisan legislation at the State Capitol that would create a public information system and online registry of violent felons living in Wisconsin. The lawmakers’ legislation has been named “Leah’s Law” after a Superior woman, Leah Gustafson, who was brutally murdered last year by a neighbor with a violent criminal past.
Over the past several months, Suder, Boyle, and Jeskewitz have been working closely with Leah’s family and friends to craft legislation which will create a searchable violent criminal database and information system, similar to the Wisconsin Sex Offender registry, to enhance awareness of violent criminals living in our communities.
“The more we can increase public awareness and community notification of violent felons moving into our local communities the better,” added Suder. “This strongly bi-partisan public safety initiative will ensure that this criminal information is fully open and available to Wisconsin’s law abiding citizens.”
“Leah’s Law” will require the Department of Corrections to create and maintain a Violent Offender Registry website which residents will be able to access via the internet to determine the whereabouts of dangerous criminals in their area.
The department must organize the site so that the public has access to information about the specific crimes the offender has committed, their current residence, and place of employment. The DOC may also include any other information they deem relevant to public safety.
“Leah had no idea that a previously violent offender was her neighbor,” said Boyle. “Had she had access to a violent offender registry such as the one created by our proposal, she would probably still be alive today.”
Murderers, violent abusers, batterers, arsonists, hostage takers, kidnappers, and carjackers will be required to register with the department following their release from prison.
Violent felons who commit a single offense would be required to maintain their registration with the department for 15 years. Criminals who have committed multiple violent acts would be on the registry for life. Those who commit similar violent offenses in other states and move to Wisconsin would also be required to register with the state.
“Citizens must have a tool to become aware of these violent perpetrators,” stated Jeskewitz.
"These criminals relinquished their right to privacy as soon as they committed their atrocious crimes; our families and neighbors have every right to protect themselves and their families,” Jeskewitz says.
Five states including Florida, Montana, Kansas, Oklahoma and Ohio currently have Violent Offender Registries.
The lawmakers anticipate continued bi-partisan support for “Leah’s Law” as it moves through the legislative process this fall.