Lawmakers are proposing thinning out the state sex offender registry so that only dangerous offenders would be listed for public distribution.
Chairman of the Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee Rodney Schad (R-Versailles) is proposing the state go to a tiered system, ranking sex offenders by how dangerous they are or how likely they are to re-offend.
He says the committee has been working with experts over the past 18 months and has heard enough testimony to know that the registry does not reduce recidivism, does not keep people from re-offending, and does not keep communities safer.
“With our current registry, the public is not able to sort out who the true threats are,” Schad says. “In addition, for those on the registry, the successful reintegration into the community is increasingly difficult. Indeed, some studies have found that some provisions of our current registry lead to more crime, not less. Any probation officer will tell you that the stability in work and living arrangements increase the chances of successful reintegration.”
Schad says assessing offenders and placing them on a tier system would identify those who are a true threat.
“Risk level tools are inexpensive and effective,” he says. “Tiers should be based on actuarial information … and we should limit online notification to only high-risk offenders.”
Schad also wants to move resources to monitor former offenders who are at high risk.
Clinical Psychologist Dean Rosen is one such counselor who assesses how dangerous sex offenders are. He has treated and evaluated sex offenders for family courts and social services, determining their risk of dangerousness, risk of re-offending.
Rosen says there are a lot of stigmas attached to sex offenders that are simply not true, such as the statistical fact that most victims know their offenders. Another is that many of those who possess child pornography are looking for victims. Rosen says the majority of those offenders have never and would never make contact with anyone. He admits it’s tough to get the public to believe otherwise.
Sheriff of Cape Girardeau County and President of the Missouri Sheriffs Association John Jordan agrees, saying the current registry gives people a false sense of security. He used the analogy of holding a box of 100 spiders when in fact only a few of them are poisonous. He too admits the registry process is something that needs changing, but “It scares folks when you do it.”
Schad’s bill “Requires the classification of sexual offenders, establishes the Sex Offender Classification Board, creates the Sex Offender Classification Fund, and changes the laws regarding sexual offender registration.”
Missouri Citizens for Reform and Missouri Family Network testified in favor of the measure; no one spoke in opposition.
The Department of Public Safety, Missouri Sheriff’s Association, and Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence spoke for informational purposes only and suggested improvements to the bill.
For instance, Colleen Coble with the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence suggests that a provision of the bill that identifies offenders who were “No threat of force” not include those who have drugged their victims, or “who chose a vulnerable victim who was not able to consent.”
Coble also stressed the importance of victims’ need to be notified if an offender is removed from the registry.