We can support a proposal in Missouri’s General Assembly to refocus the state’s sex offender registry on fewer crimes and make it more relevant to protect our neighborhoods.
House bill 1700 would not require individuals convicted of offenses such as promoting obscenity and furnishing pornographic materials to register. However, it will continue to keep such crimes as forcible rape, forcible sodomy and child molestation on the registry requirement. The home address and photograph of a man or woman convicted of these sorts of crimes would still be available to the public. We feel that neighbors want and now expect to be able to identify when someone with this background is living on their street.
What the neighbors will no longer be able to get is the offender’s temporary, work and school addresses or a description of their vehicle. According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rodney Schad, R-Versailles, some of these offenders have become targets and the state shouldn’t provide the information publicly to be used to track someone down.
We agree with Schad in that the primary purpose of the registry is for notification and not additional punishment. Far too often the issue of dealing with sex offenders is dealt with on an emotional level rather than one backed up with facts. This has led to the extreme belief among some that all sex offenders are incurable and recidivism rates are extraordinarily high. We don’t believe this extreme view is supportable.
Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott and Prosecutor Dan Patterson are opposing a portion of the bill. That is the section allowing a convicted person to ask a judge to remove his or her name from the registry after 10 or 20 years depending on the crime.
The sheriff points out that the required registry allows law enforcement to track offenders in the area. We would agree with Arnott that the registry is a valuable law enforcement tool. But, as Patterson points out, a mechanism for review is needed. Not all offenses involving sex should be “painted with the same, broad brush,” he says.
We can support this portion of the bill because it gives incentive to those convicted of these heinous crimes. They have reason to hope that if they follow through on all requirements their lives may – after decades – be more normal. This proper behavior will benefit our communities.
Importantly, the bill requires notification to prosecutors when release from the registry requirement is sought and, in turn, the prosecutor must make an effort to contact victims about the request.
It also requires that the person complete all prison and probation time, required treatment programs and not face new charges that would involve the registry.
The bill, which needs a second vote of approval in the House and then Senate consideration, strikes a reasonable balance between public safety and giving some convicted offenders a second chance at a more normal life.
Copyright Springfield News-Leader. Reprinted with permission.