Provision Would Close Jurisdictional Gaps That Leave Many Cases Unprosecuted
U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Angus King (I-ME) announced that the Senate Armed Services Committee included portions of their legislation, the Children of Military Protection (COMP) Act, in the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The legislation would close the jurisdictional gap across our military bases that has allowed juvenile perpetrators of sexual assault against other children on base to slip through the cracks without facing prosecution.
“For too long child victims of assaults at the hands of other children on our bases have fallen through the cracks of the judicial system,” Sen. Cornyn said. “By including this language in the NDAA, local prosecutors will be able to now pursue these cases when their federal counterparts cannot, empowering families to get justice for their children.”
“No child who is the victim of an assault should be let down by our judicial system – least of all the children of our men and women in uniform,” Sen. King said. “Our bipartisan language will help ensure that bureaucracy does not stand in the way of justice.”
Victims of child-on-child sex assaults on military bases often never see their cases tried due to loopholes in the law. Historically, federal prosecutors have pursued roughly one in seven juvenile sexual assault cases presented from military investigators. This prosecution rate is due, in part, to a lack of capacity for the federal system to handle these cases. In exclusive federal jurisdictions, this system creates a black hole for juvenile justice as local prosecutors lack the legal authority to apply state laws to juvenile criminal conduct on federal lands.
Provisions of the Children of Military Protection (COMP) Act included in the NDAA would close the jurisdictional gap across our military installations and provide legal protections with congressional oversight to ensure these injustices do not continue. Specifically, it would retrocede legislative jurisdiction of criminal offenses committed by juveniles on military installations to the state, commonwealth, or territory in which the base is located. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was a cosponsor of the original legislation.