People who commit crimes against children could face longer prison sentences as a result of legislation that reorganizes Missouri’s criminal laws and has passed in both the House and Senate.
Missouri KidsFirst, a child advocacy group, said Friday that the proposed changes would go a long way in holding child sex offenders accountable for their crimes. The group’s top priority was making sure the criminal code overhaul did not reduce punishments for people who hurt children.
Lawmakers agreed and included several provisions to strengthen penalties.
For example, the bills would give longer jail stays to family members who sexually abuse children or leave them without proper care. Incest would be added as a factor that could result in longer prison stays for people convicted of child sexual abuse.
Two-thirds of child sexual abuse cases involve incest, Missouri KidsFirst said.
“The closer the child is to the person that is harming them, the more long-term health and social impacts on the child,” deputy director Emily van Schenkhof said.
She added that the change could be helpful to prosecutors during plea bargaining.
The Senate bill increases penalties for child abandonment if the child is seriously injured or dies when left without proper supervision.
The two houses now must resolve differences between their bills.