Should we reform the sex offender registry?

The Missouri legislature is debating a bill, HB 1700, that would end restrictions on where convicted sex offenders can live. It would remove juveniles from the public registry. It would create four tiers of registrants, ranging from those least likely to re-offend to those who are assessed to be a continued threat to public safety. It would publish the top two tiers on a website, but not their workplace addresses. It would provide paths to get off the registry, which right now, is a lifetime listing.

Missouri's registry, like most across the country, has grown large. It has 16,000 names, including the foolish who urinated in the vicinity of a parking lot security camera, enraptured high school partners (one of whom is 18) and dangerous predators. The sheer number as well as the range of crimes makes the list as it is useless.

The Crime Prevention & Public Safety committee has held numerous hearings and meetings about the registry in the last year. Committee members agree that neither housing restrictions (like living no closer than two blocks from a school) nor public website listings enhance public safety.

We say: Charlottesville reveals the weeping wound of racism. What do we, the American Catholic faith community, do next? Read the editorial.

While the intent of Congress in creating the registry was to inform the public instead of extending punishment on the offender, the registry is a continued public shaming, an enormous burden to families and a severe obstacle to employment. What business wants to be listed as a place where a sex offender works?

The assessment to place persons in tiers would rely on counselors trained to use assessment tools to measure the likelihood of future behavior. It would use risk, not past behavior, to determine rank.

One of the consequences is that Missouri could lose $500,000 in federal money. States not in substantial compliance with the Adam Walsh Act (SORNA) will lose 10 percent of highway patrol aid. Whether the feds would consider the above to be substantial compliance is the question. Another consequence could be that legislators are accused of being "soft on crime" and voted out of office.

Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg

Show comments

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.