A special panel created after the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal is recommending a complete overhaul of how Pennsylvania addresses the crime, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer
In its report unveiled Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection outlined a number of immediate steps, ranging from expanding the list of people required to report abuse to strengthening existing laws that were designed to protect children but have failed to do so.
In addition, the panel urged the state to redefine what constitutes child abuse, expand the definition of "perpetrator," and pursue tougher punishments against people who fail to report abuse.
"We did our best to improve a system that is woefully failing," said task force chairman and Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler. "This was not a knee-jerk reaction [to the Sandusky scandal at Penn State]. It was the seizing of an opportunity to look at a system and say, 'How do we make this better.'"
Heckler noted that if the panel's recommendations had been in place in the late 1990s, Sandusky, a former Penn State coach, would have been jailed sooner and fewer young boys would have been victimized.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett praised the panel's work, but noted the state would have to tighten gaps in communication and enforcement among various police and other agencies to accomplish the goals set out in the report.
"It's my hope that we can take the work of the task force to help create a culture that promotes greater awareness, more accountability, and better coordination," he said in a statement.
Corbett made no mention of a time frame for acting. But state legislative leaders, who praised the panel's work as well, promised to move quickly to address some of the recommendations.
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