Sex Offender Registry Law Gains Momentum

February 2005

Colorado's sex offender registry law has been stuck in the legislature because of dissension over a right-to-know provision. No more, not after the recent reign of terror believed to have been caused by formerly convicted and now accused rapist Brent J. Brents.

A measure by Democratic Senator Suzanne Williams would remove a provision that requires residents to give a reason to find out if their neighbors are sex offenders and would allow authorities to post their records on the Internet. House Bill 1035 removing the "need-to-know" restriction was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday and sent to the full Senate for debate. The measure also allows the release of information on the sex offender registry to a person not residing in that jurisdiction. Information on a juvenile may be released only in certain circumstances.

Objections to deleting the "right to know" provision were made by Republican Senator Norma Anderson who pointed out...

... some records are inaccurate or incomplete and should be carefully reviewed before being posted on the Internet.

Why release the records on the Internet? What possible interest does someone in Tokyo have in learning the identitites of sex offenders living in Capitol Hill in Denver? What about the poor Joe Schmoe who is erroneously listed? Should a Peeping Tom be on the same list with a violent rapist? Is it too much to ask for those concerned about their neighbors to check at their local police department? Treatment works for many low-level offenders, which in turn has lowered recidivism. A Justice Department study has found that sex offenders are less likely to return to prison than other kinds of offenders. Considering that most offenders' victims are known to them, i.e, not strangers, community notification seems unnecessary in a great many cases -- and counterproductive. Registration causes great difficulty for ex-offenders both in finding housing and jobs -- key ingredients to staying out of trouble and re-integrating with society in a positive manner. Bottom line: Laws should not be passed in response to a singular event, no matter how horrific. Cooler heads must prevail.