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Sex offender registry: change on lifetime listing for juveniles?

It's been a few months since we've written about the lively debate about possible revisions to the Missouri Sex Offender Registry. As we discussed in our April 30 post, several proposals have been made, including one that would open up the right to any offender to file a petition for removal, if the petition was supported by appropriate risk assessments.

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a bill that would have removed from the sex offender registry Web site the names of those who committed their offenses before turning 18.

Advocates for being more selective about which names stay on the list point out, however, that it can be very unfair to keep someone's name on the list for life. This is especially true when the offense was a relatively minor one committed by someone very young.

For example, what about someone who was under 18 when caught with child pornography on a personal computer? Sex offender status can make it extremely difficult for a young person like this to find a job or obtain housing. Indeed, people who carry this status can often not go freely to parks or shopping malls.

In other words, there is a sense in which sex offender status has become a contemporary equivalent of the "scarlet letter" made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel set in Colonial America. 

And so supporters of changing Missouri's sex offender registration law are intending to try again by seeking to override Gov. Nixon's veto. The issue is expected to come up with the Legislature meets for a veto session on September 11.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Is it fair for sex offenders to stay listed on a registry for life?" Kevin McDermott, August 26, 2013

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