New law widens ban on sex offenders


New law widens ban on sex offenders

Those guilty of assault of child younger than 16 can’t work with youths

By LISA SINK of the Journal Sentinel staff

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Waukesha — Anyone who has ever been convicted of second-degree sexual assault of a child younger than 16 may no longer work or volunteer with children, under a bill that Gov. Scott McCallum signed into law here Monday.

Starting today, the thousands affected will no longer be permitted to work or volunteer for parish youth groups, day care centers, pediatric hospitals, baseball leagues, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, youth camps or any organizations that interact with children.

Previously, only those convicted of first-degree sexual assault of a child younger than 13 were prohibited from working with children.

Violating either law is a felony, punishable by a maximum 10-year prison term.

McCallum and lawmakers said the expansion was needed to protect children.

“This way, we don’t have to wait until there’s another victim,” state Rep. Mark Gundrum (R-New Berlin) said.

Sexual assault of children “is a crime that has probably the single highest rate of recidivism,” Gundrum said.

Citing the national outrage over the Catholic Church’s handling of priests who are sex offenders, Gundrum noted that clergy are not exempt from the new law and would be barred from ministering to youths if convicted.

“Hopefully, this will give victims and their families the confidence to . . . go to the criminal authorities instead of just thinking that it will be handled behind the scenes properly,” he said.

“I think we’ve seen that it hasn’t been handled behind the scenes properly.”

After signing the bill at the Waukesha County Courthouse, McCallum said youth organizations should be vigilant about checking the backgrounds of their employees and volunteers.

People have a right to know that the person working with their young children “is not a sex offender,” McCallum said.

Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher, whose office urged the expansion after a case involving a Town of Mukwonago Bible camp, said youth groups should check their workers’ records once a year.

“You don’t know everything about your employees,” Bucher said.

Many churches and youth groups have been checking records for years, and others, such as schools and day care centers, are mandated to check.

Kriss Schulz, communications director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, said the agency has been checking records for every employee and volunteer since 1988.

“If any type of a conviction for a sex offense shows up on their record,” they are turned away, Schulz said.

The agency has about 400 employees and 300 volunteers working with 23,000 children ages 6 to 18 in the Milwaukee area, running summer camps, after-school programs and sports leagues, she said.

It was unclear exactly how many convicts will be affected by the expanded law.

The state’s sex offender registry lists 3,958 people who were convicted of second-degree child sexual assault. As of Dec. 31, there were 2,726 such convicts serving time in prison or on probation or parole, state records show.

But both lists include only people convicted of the crime in the past five to 10 years.

In 1996, Wisconsin became the first state in the country to make it a felony for certain child sex offenders to work or volunteer around children.

That ban extends to anyone convicted of first-degree sexual assault of a child younger than 13, sexual exploitation of a child, incest with a child, child enticement, repeated sexual assault of the same child, sexual exploitation by a therapist, and second-degree sexual assault of a person who has developmental disabilities or is intoxicated.

But it did not cover those convicted of second-degree molestation of children ages 13, 14 and 15.

Assistant Waukesha County District Attorney Dennis Krueger discovered the loophole in 1999, when he learned that a convicted sex offender had kissed a girl, 13, while volunteering at the Phantom Ranch Bible Camp in the Town of Mukwonago.

Because Steven Marschall’s past offense involved a teenager aged 13 to 17, the ban didn’t apply.

Marschall, 32, ultimately pleaded no contest to felony causing mental harm to a child and is serving an eight-year prison term.

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