New Jersey’s new state law mandating life imprisonment without parole for anyone convicted of a sex crime and murdering a victim under 18 has become a valuable victory for the mother of a child rape victim.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a person is abused in United States every 9 seconds. And out of those victims, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys are sexually assaulted by the time they reach 18. These victims physically and mentally suffer extreme pain that cannot be put into words. According to National and State Child Abuse and Neglect Statistics, about 6 children commit suicide due to child abuse in a day.
Recently, the State Assembly of New Jersey unanimously approved a bill expanding “Joan’s Law” – a state law requiring tough sentences for those convicted of raping and murdering children – which was passed in 1997. This measure will expand “Joan’s Law” and require life imprisonment without parole for any sexual criminal who has been convicted of murder of a victim younger than 14 to under the age of 18.
Passing this law was a long journey of an innocent child rape victim’s mother who suffered inexplicable pain. On April 17, 1973, a 7-year-old Joan D’Alessandro disappeared while selling Girl Scout cookies to former high school science teacher, Joseph McGowan. He was convicted of heartlessly raping and murdering Joan, then dumping her in Harrington State Park. McGowan was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 13 years.
Rosemarie D’Alessandro, Joan’s mother, went through a long, never-ending campaign demanding stronger punishment for such crimes to the state legislature. After years of battling and campaigning, “Joan’s Law” finally was signed into New Jersey state law in 1997.
Unfortunately for Rosemarie, “Joan’s Law” would not apply to McGowan since the law was passed after his trial. Nonetheless, through the dedication of Rosemarie and her many supporters, all of McGowans appeals for parole have been denied.
Now, as if it is rewarding Rosemarie, her supporters, and other families of child rape and murder victims, New Jersey lawmakers unanimously agreed to expand Joan’s Law to prevent future suffering and bring justice to families. Hence, a long awaited, valuable victory that will set a precedent for years to come.