We’re about to find out how much a child’s life is worth — at least in the eyes of our state lawmakers.

Gov. Joe Manchin’s sex offender bill, heavily amended and advanced by the Senate last week, is now up for debate.

House leadership and the governor have raised questions about the Senate’s version of what has become known as “Logan’s Law.”

Top concerns involve the almighty dollar.

The new proposal estimates an annual cost of either $91.5 million or $167 million to the state (it depends on whether or you listen to the Division of Corrections or the Department of Health and Human Resources) because it creates new jail terms and increases others for 39 different crimes.

Granted, those are big bucks, but the costs don’t actually kick in for five years when increased prison sentences take effect and then increase to the full amount in 15 years.

If the bill is enacted into law, it would mean about 3,900 sex offenders would be held in the state’s prisons in 15 years. Right now, there are only 5,300 prisoners altogether, and about one is five is there for a sex offense. The Division of Corrections believes the total prison population will double in that same 15-year period.

We have all kinds of repeat offenders out on our streets ready to pounce on some other innocent, unsuspecting child.

They don’t worry about getting caught because sentences are too light. Law enforcement and social services agencies are strapped for cash. There is too little manpower in these agencies to identify and apprehend sex offenders more quickly and efficiently.

Therefore, the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against the most powerless in our society don’t have to worry too much about consequences. They’ll get a smack on the hand, a light jail sentence and be back up to their old tricks in no time.

If legislators have identified all of these different sex crimes against children, then penalties should be high. If it takes more money and manpower and longer jail sentences to protect our children, what better way would we invest those dollars?

Children who survive child abuse often suffer life-long mental and physical consequences. The state, in many instances, winds up paying for much of the care of those children.

The state will have to pay a high price for sex offenders one way or the other. Why not put more money on the end of the scale that provides greater protection for children?

A law with no teeth won’t get the job done. If a more effective law takes a bigger bite out of the budget, so be it. Hopefully, it will also take a bigger bite out of the sex offender crime rate.

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