PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Allegheny County is beginning a program that it hopes will help keep the public safe from repeat sex offenders.
It’s a special court to handle cases requiring suspects to register under Megan’s Law. Only New York and Ohio have such courts now. This will be the first in Pennsylvania.
Allegheny County’s sex offender court will open next month.
Judges will hear cases involving those accused of crimes for which they would have to register under Megan’s Law, crimes such as rape and sexual abuse of children.
“I am particularly pleased that this program is specifically designed to include sexual crimes against children,” said Judge Debra Todd, of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Many say it’s higher, but a psychologist and author on the subject puts the recidivism or reoffending rate among convicted child molesters at 32 percent.
The new court will require those on parole or probation to report directly to the judges who heard their cases and to specially-trained probation officers.
The district attorney hopes tighter monitoring will prevent cases such as that of convicted sex offender Tushon Brown who was released on parole, but not effectively monitored.
“Brown was released. He had a 10 year sentence, he was released at five,” said District Attorney Stephen Zappala. “He was supposed to be living in Wilkinsburg; he winds up living in Sheraden. He murdered a 14-year-old girl.”
There will be two phases to this court – one is to ensure that Megan’s Law offenders are where they’re supposed to be, and the other is to try to ensure a speedy trial for the benefit of victims.
Judges hope the new court will reduce the time it takes to bring a sex offender to trial from one or two years to just a few months, hopefully creating less stress on victims.
“It’s very frustrating for victims, and as the judge has talked about, especially when you’re a child,” said Allison Hall, of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape.
The new court, which starts next month, will be funded out of existing funds and won’t require any new tax dollars.