INDIANAPOLIS — State lawmakers are acting to prevent individuals convicted of rape or sex crimes against children from taking care of children or vulnerable adults in a professional or informal capacity.
The Indiana House voted 96-0 Monday for Senate Bill 258 imposing new restrictions on criminals designated as "sexually violent predators" or "offenders against children."
Under the measure, those individuals would be barred from working as a child care provider, babysitter, respite care provider or at an adult day care center, as well as prohibited from living in a home where child care or babysitting services are provided.
"All are, of course, vulnerable populations," said state Rep. Ethan Manning, R-Denver, the House sponsor.
Manning explained the legislation was inspired by a Madison County incident where a registered sex offender was advertising his babysitting services on a Facebook group.
He said that prompted state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, who has led Statehouse efforts in recent years to crack down on sex offenders, particularly those who commit crimes against children, to file the proposal that previously passed the Senate, 48-0.
State Rep. Carolyn Jackson, D-Hammond, persuaded the House to add to the measure a ban on sex offenders living within 1,000 feet of a registered day care center.
"Sex offenders already are prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of school property, a youth program center or a public park. It only makes sense to have the same protections for children in a child care facility," Jackson said.
"I believe you can certainly argue that these facilities care for younger children than any of the other places already covered in state law. Why shouldn’t they have the same protections?"
Mrvan said in a statement that he is grateful members of both the House and Senate see the importance of this legislation.
"Senate Bill 258 was drafted to address a troubling loophole in the law that allowed registered sex offenders to work in child care services," Mrvan said.
"I'm happy that we'll soon be able to close that loophole and make Indiana safer for our most vulnerable Hoosiers. They are not capable of looking out for themselves, so it's our duty to do everything in our power to protect them."
The measure now returns to the Senate for lawmakers there to either consent to the House changes, or agree to work with the House on a compromise proposal that must be re-approved by both chambers to advance to the governor.