Home > Constitution, Legal / Official Info, News / Blog Sites > TX Sex Offender Registry Toughest in Nation

TX Sex Offender Registry Toughest in Nation

October 16, 2008

mysanantonio.com : AG wants online IDs of sex offenders listed.

AUSTIN — Not sure who your kid is chatting with online? If Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has his way, the state’s public sex offender registry would include e-mail addresses and online names.

In what some are calling the toughest reporting proposals in the country, Abbott on Wednesday called for giving the public more information about the state’s 53,000 registered sex offenders. Aiming to crack down on cyberpredators, Abbott hopes to expand the state sex offender registry to include e-mail addresses and Internet screen names.

He said his proposal would provide Texans with the “most comprehensive reporting requirements in the country” and would provide law enforcement, and ultimately the public, “with new and better tools to track and monitor sex offenders.” The attorney general’s plan would need the Legislature’s approval; Abbott said he plans to meet with lawmakers in coming weeks.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said he doesn’t have any problems providing the public with more information on sex offenders and thinks Abbott’s proposals have a good chance of passing the Legislature next year. Texas leaders have enacted increasingly strict registration requirements for sex offenders. This year, the Texas sex offender registry expanded to include an offender’s school or place of work.

Some question whether the focus on online predators creates a false sense of security. Jill Levenson, a clinical social worker and professor of human services at Lynn University in Florida who has studied how sex crime policies affect sex crime rates, said children “are most often molested by people who are acquainted with the family, relatives and friends of the family, people who are trusted and use that trust to gain access.

“Parents certainly need to take precautions (regarding who their children are communicating with online) but in a way, all of this attention to Internet predators and stranger abductions and sexually motivated homicides takes away from important information we need to be giving parents, which is that children are much, much more likely to be abused by people (the family knows).”

As for whether tougher reporting requirements are effective in lowering the rate of sex crimes, Levenson said the studies she and others have done have been, at best, mixed. “Overall, the totality of research so far looking at the impact of registration and notification with sex crime rates does not really indicate there is a strong deterrent or preventive effect,” Levenson said.

She said she knew of no public registry in the nation containing offenders’ e-mail addresses or online names.
But Congress continues to pass stricter laws, as do states. Many registries, including the Texas registry, include at least some juveniles, their names, addresses and photos. Critics in Texas complain that the state registry includes anyone convicted of a sex crime, whether the offender had sex with a teen who was a few years younger or whether the offender repeatedly used force against a young child.

Bruce Siegel, 38, a convicted sex offender in the Dallas area, complained that Abbott’s proposal targets all offenders, not just the ones he believes the public needs to be warned about. “Now you’re asking police departments to monitor more, which spreads them pretty thin when they really need to ride herd on 10 or 30 percent of (all offenders), Siegel said. “It’s going to cause more paperwork and a lot of wasted time.”

Abbott’s proposal also would require offenders to report their cell phone numbers to law enforcement, though the numbers would not be made public. It would also restrict some high-risk offenders from using the Internet at all.

…UN-CONSTITUTIONAL ! And many courts still are unable to see that these restrictions are “punishment”.

%d bloggers like this: