PA lawmaker wants increased penalties for repeat child abusers and people who fail to report them

HARRISBURG, Pa. --  A proposed bill would increase the penalties for repeat child abusers as well as the people who fail to report child abuse, from misdemeanors to felony charges, which means longer prison sentences.

Supporters believe House Bill 1051 will increase protections for children all across Pennsylvania.

"Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time with families and abused children," explained Representative Todd Stephens of Montgomery County.

Rep. Stephens is the bill's prime sponsor.

Over the phone, he explained how before he represented the people of Montgomery County, he represented those children and families in court in his role with the District Attorney's Office as prosecutor.

"I have just seen firsthand the devastating effects childhood abuse can have on a child and their family," he attested to FOX43.

The bill is 8 years in the making. Flashback to November 2011 when multiple allegations of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of Jerry Sandusky Penn State University's Assistant Football Coach made national headlines.

Then, last year, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Grand Jury report was published. It detailed widespread sexual abuse of children within six dioceses of the catholic church in Pennsylvania and the systemic cover up by senior church officials in Pennsylvania and at the vatican.

"These folks will be locked up behind bars and unable to hurt other children for a longer period of time which is so important," explained Stephens.

House Bill 1051 is receiving undivided support in Harrisburg, at least for now. It passed unanimously through the Senate Aging and Youth Committee and is reported as committed to the Senate for full consideration.

Stephens says the message it sends is crystal clear.

"There is no question that abusing multiple children or leaving children in harm's way with somebody who has abused other children will suffer and face serious consequences under the law," he told FOX43.

Stephens is very optimistic it will pass through the Senate and onto Governor Wolf's desk where it is expected to be signed into law.

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