This is the time of year when many state legislatures seek to finish any remaining work. There are always many issues in play.

This year, in Missouri, one of them is revising what many consider to be an overly-expansive sex offender registry law.

No one denies that, in its origins, the idea of sex offender registry had a public safety purpose. But the way it has been applied has subjected even minor offenders to ongoing ordeals that last year after year.

One such offender was convicted more than ten years ago of a misdemeanor offense of possessing child pornography. But with his name and address present on the sex offender registry, he has kept paying for that old misdemeanor in many different ways.

He has lost out on job opportunities. He has been subjected to neighbors who circulate flyers warning about him. And he was even arrested for trespassing merely for dropping off his son at school.

Some Missouri legislators have recognized that there is a problem here. The problem is with treating virtually everyone convicted of any type of sex offense with the same one-size-fits-all registry list. The list fails to distinguish between degrees of offense.

This is not only unfair to people convicted of less serious crimes. It also stretches scarce criminal justice resources far too much. As a result, the public safety effect of the sex registry becomes blurred because it tries to include too many people.

In our next post, we will discuss legislative efforts to revise the registry in Missouri this year.

Source: “Missouri considering changing its sex offender rules,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Virginia Young, 4-1-13

Please visit our page on sex offenses.