Registering offenders

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Requiring sexual offenders to register after they are convicted so that anyone -- law enforcement, school administrators, day-care center operators and the public -- can keep track of them has been controversial since the first registration law was passed.

One complaint has been that sexual offenders aren't the most reliable segment of our population and can't always be counted on to obey the law every time they move. Another complaint has been that some sexual offenses are less onerous than others, and it isn't fair to brand someone as a sexual offender for life.

Proponents of the registration requirements are concerned about proposed changes that would allow some offenders to be removed from the list in certain circumstances. These proponents would like to see even stricter requirements, not fewer.

The bill to change the registration requirements is working its way through the Missouri Senate. The Judiciary Committee already has advanced the bill.

Key provisions include removing anyone convicted of kidnapping, felony restraint or nonsexual child abuse when the bill takes effect. Anyone convicted of prostitution, displaying sexual material in public or second-degree statutory rape could petition to be removed after 10 years, providing there are no other convictions for offenses that require registration.

Many experts on sex crimes maintain that it is all but impossible to reform a sex offender. If that's the case, the likelihood of repeat offenses is high, which makes the registration list a valuable resource.

And it is the same likelihood of repeat offenses that would keep incorrigible offenders on the list. And the bill would make penalties tougher for those repeat offenders.

For anyone who is able to straighten up his life and avoid sexual misconduct, allowing a way to get off the registration list may be a practical option.

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