Taking Aim At Violent Crime

A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress Thursday would let the federal government go after the pocketbooks of states that fail to adopt stiffer guidelines on keeping murderers, rapists and child molesters behind bars.

The bill has been dubbed "Aimee's Law," after Aimee Willard, a George Mason University athlete who was murdered in Philadelphia in 1996 by a man who had been released from prison after serving twelve years for murder.

One of the bill's sponsors, Arizona congressman Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., told CBS News This Morning Co-Anchor Thalia Assuras that every year 14,000 murders, rapes and sexual assaults on children are committed by felons who had been freed from prison for similar crimes.

"We're forgiving. We do believe in redemption," said Salmon. "But when it comes to those crimes, the statistics are so harrowing, and the rates are so heinous, we ought not take that chance with innocent people."

Since the federal government cannot dictate sentencing guidelines to the states, the bill, also called "The No Second Chances Act," aims to provide incentives for states to impose their own tough guidelines.

"What I'm proposing," said Salmon, "is if a state lets one of these monsters out of prison and they cross state lines and then commit the same crime, the money associated with prosecution, incarceration and up to $100,000 for the victim's family, would be taken away from the state that let the person out and given to the state that is now the new victim."

The transfer of funds would be in the form of federal crime grants taken away from the first state and given to the second.

Aimee's mother, Gail Willard, and other victims' relatives joined Salmon at a news conference Thursday in Washington to urge states to pass tougher sentencing guidelines.

"We as citizens can no longer assume that what we hear is the truth," said Willard, of Brookhaven, Pa., complaining that states too often parole criminal offenders before their terms are up.

"If they are going to lose funds for failing to protect citizens, then they are going to start listening," said Marc Klaas, whose 12-year-old daughter, Polly, was taken from her Petaluma, Calif., home and killed in 1993 by a man with a long criminal record.

The bill would also change federal sentencing guidelines to recommend the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole for convicted murderers, and life imprisonment for convicted child molesters or rapists.