Thanks for your email... Even though you are not a Vermonter, I will
attempt to answer your email.
Before I go further, what happened to Brooke Bennett was a heinous,
despicable crime. Justice must be served.
I have a daughter and cannot imagine the hate and anger I would feel if
something happened to her.
I am not sure where your info came from, but over the last 4 years, the
Vermont Legislature has reviewed and changed our laws over sexual abuse
to the point where Vermont's laws are nationally acclaimed and
considered very strong.
• Vermont has a comprehensive set of laws in place to prevent sexual
• These laws are specifically designed to prevent the offender from
commiting any further acts of sexual violence.
• While serving a jail sentence, presumed to be at least 10 years, the
offender must successfully complete a rehabilitation course.
• The offender is automatically placed on the sexual offender registry,
which is on the internet and can be accessed by the public. This
registry ensures that the offender will be under supervision of the
Department of Corrections for the rest of their life.
• It is important to remember that Vermont is one of the safest states
in the nation with one of the lowest crime rates per capita in the
• While it may seem counter intuitive to argue against long mandatory
minimums, these long mandatory minimums often result in the offender
bringing the case to trial. Sexual violence cases are difficult to
prove and under this process half of the perpetrators are released onto
the street having served no jail time, received no treatment, and
without their names being placed on the sex offender registry.
What do we have in place to protect Vermont’s children:
Vermont’s laws have two main components – special sexual crime
investigative units and indeterminate lifetime sentencing. Special
investigative units, with specially trained police officers and social
workers, have proven successful in Chittenden and Grand Isle County at
gaining confessions from sex offenders. The Chittenden SIU opened in
1997. New units will now come to Bennington, Franklin-Grand Isle,
Windham and Windsor counties. Through the work of trained investigators,
SIUs bring more predators to prosecution, conviction, imprisonment and
treatment. Abused children and their families receive treatment to heal
the trauma and to help break the cycle created when untreated victims
grow up to become abusers themselves.
Once the offender confesses, he will serve time in prison - presumed to
be at least 10 years. He will also receive treatment as a condition of
release, and, upon release, will become part of the sex offender
registry. If the offender refuses to take part in treatment or violates
conditions of the sex offender registry he can be pulled back into
incarceration. He is under the supervision of the Department of
Corrections for life.
During the 2006 legislative session we closed one last loophole for
violent sex offenders who were imprisoned prior to passage of our new
laws. Under this new change, if an offender who has refused to undergo
treatment comes to the end of his maximum sentence, and if he is judged
to be at high risk to re-offend, he will be subject to a heightened sex
offender registry requirement. If he violates the terms of that
tightened registry he will be re-incarcerated with terms similar to
those of our more recently passed laws.
In 2006, Vermonters told their representatives that child sex offender
sentencing was not tough enough. In response, the legislature enacted
new, tougher child sex offender legislation (widely known as the “Sexual
Violence Prevention Act”), which includes but is not restricted to the
• An increase to 10 years as a minimum sentence for aggravated sexual
assault, unless the judge deems a lesser sentence to be appropriate and
goes on record with his reasoning. Now, anyone convicted of aggravsexual assault must spend at least 5 years in prison, and as much as
life in prison.
• Offenders must stay in jail until they successfully complete a
rehabilitation course, regardless of how much of their sentences they
• Vermont has expanded the sex offender registry, with stricter
guidelines for previous offenders. Sex offenders will now be under
supervision by the Department of Corrections, every day for the rest of
• The public can now access the online sex offender registry without
having to login or provide personal information. All repeat sex
offenders will appear on the internet registry, as well as all high-risk
lewd and lascivious offenders.
• Special investigative unites specializing in sex crimes are now
expanded to serve every region of the state.
Prior to the passage of this law, offenders would choose to max out
their sentence rather than receiving sex offender treatment. During the
most recent legislative session, legislators again worked to improve our
laws around child abuse. After findings showed the state could more
effectively manage the way in which it handles children who either
commit delinquent acts or who are badly abused or neglected, the
legislature rewrote our laws that guide our state’s response to child
abuse and neglect. The legislation emphasized the need for family
members to be considered before a child is committed to state custody
and extra support services for families were created in cases of
reported child abuse. The legislature also obtained written assurance
from the administration that staff cuts would not reduce services to
Vermont’s children at risk of abuse or neglect.
What about Jessica’s Law?
What distinguishes our laws from the so-called “Jessica’s Law” is that
our laws are more effective at keeping our communities safe from sexual
The Vermont Network Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, a victims’
advocacy organization, supports Vermont’s laws and does NOT support
Jessica’s Law. And, that may be why the National Council on State
Legislatures has informed us that fewer than 20 states have adopted
Jessica’s Law. According to the Center for Sex Offender Management, a
program of the U.S. Department of Justice, there is no data or evidence
that high mandatory minimum sentences improve public safety.
Sexual violence is a horrible crime that we all want to eradicate from
our communities. It sounds counter-intuitive to argue against long
mandatory minimum sentences for sex offenders. But, if the accused
faces a mandatory sentence of 25 years, he is much more likely to take
the case to court, requiring a trial. Sex crimes, especially those
against children, are hard to prove. There are few witnesses and often
victims are unwilling to stand at the trial – it’s like going through
the crime all over again. As a result, generally only half the court
cases are successful. The other perpetrators go free, with no jail time
and no need to register on a sexual offender registry.
In fact, there are cases where states that have Jessica's laws are still
having sexual attacks on children. Even if we had passed the so-called
Jessica's Law in the last 3-4 years - it would not have done anything to
prevent what happened here in this case.
Child sexual abuse is a national problem, both serious and widespread.
Estimates say 1 in 7 boys and 1 in 4 girls has had some experience with
The most recent US government statistics show a rate of overall child
abuse at 11.9 victims for every 1,000 children. In Vermont, the rate was
8.4 – placing Vermont in the safest third of all states.
Nationally, the vast majority – possibly as high as 90% -- of child
sexual abuse is committed not by a stranger, but by someone the child
knows and trusts – a parent, grandparent, sibling or other family
member, a teacher, coach, clergy, camp counselor, scout leader, or
Vermont has one of the lowest crime ra2004 and 2005 ours was the third safest state in the U.S. Indeed,
Vermont is among the safest states in our nation for children to grow up
in and for families with children to visit.
The legislature is committed to maintaining this high standard of safety
and will continue to seek ways to further prevent child molestation in
our state and to bring offenders to justice.
Brooke Bennet Case Specifics
If Jacques is found guilty of sexual violence towards Brooke Bennet,
under the new sexual predator laws that came into effect in 2006 the
perpetrator he can be given an indeterminate sentence, which means he
will essentially be sentenced to life in prison unless and until he
completes sex offender treatment to the satisfaction the Department of
Corrections under the control of the Governor.
After being convicted of aggravated sexual assault in 1993, Jacques
served time in prison and did receive sex offender treatment. He was
and is still listed on the sex offender registry.
In ‘93 people maxed out their sentences as an untreated sex offender.
Once a maximum is served in a facility or served on parole. Offenders
were choosing to max out their sentence rather than complete sex
offender treatment. More often than not they were in denial.
Hope this helps - you don't always get the real truth from the talking
heads on TV.
Sen JIM Condos