Effort seeks to keep sex offenders, violent criminals behind bars longer - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Effort seeks to keep sex offenders, violent criminals behind bars longer

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Posted: Thursday, June 30, 2011 10:52 am

A Tucson woman launched a petition drive Wednesday in a bid to keep those committed of sexual or violent crimes behind bars longer.

Tawna Leeson said some people are released before their full sentence. She said that means they are back on the street sooner, able to prey on new victims.

Leeson said she was particularly moved by the story of Jaycee Dugard, the California girl kidnapped in 1991 at age 11 and kept as a sex slave for 18 years. Phillip Garrido, who was eventually convicted in that case, had been released from prison early after serving just 10 years for a rape.

Her legislation would require that those convicted of sex crimes or crimes of violence serve the full term imposed by the judge. She needs 172,809 valid signatures by July 5, 2012, to put the issue before voters.

She tried to get an identical measure on the 2010 ballot but said her signatures fell well short of the goal. And she conceded she has no money now to hire paid circulators, which normally is necessary for this kind of effort. But she said an early start, coupled with familiarity with the initiative process, will help generate volunteers.

Leeson said she is not concerned about the financial implications of having people serving more time behind bars. “It’s more important that we protect innocent children,’’ she said.

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