OK Reform Sex Offender Tier System

April 13, 2009

newsok.com (Oklahoma) : Tier drop – State should revisit sex offender rosters.

When the Legislature passed a law two years ago creating a three-tiered system for rating sex offenders (a.k.a. Adam Walsh Act) , a veteran Tulsa police officer warned it would be bad news. He was right.

In advance of the law taking effect in November 2007, Sgt. Gary Stansill, a sex crimes officer, said the language was too broad because it would wind up placing too many offenders in the tier reserved for the worst offenders. Sure enough, two years later the state has 6,084 registered sex offenders and 5,026 of them are on the list for life.

The Oklahoman’s Jay Marks reported recently that since the new law went on the books, the number of offenders in the worst tier — the lifetime registration list — has doubled. That means these people must forever register as sex offenders when they move into a new city. Of course they must disclose their criminal histories on job applications. “Sex offender” ensures a lifetime of menial work, if they’re lucky.

That sort of burden should of course be borne by pedophiles and the worst sex offenders. It should not be borne by people who commit much less serious offenses that are deemed sex crimes.

In 2007, an official with the Oklahoma Sex Offender Management Team said he felt the public would likely favor lawmakers changing the laws “to make more sense and to protect children, because the laws as they are written are not protecting children.” No doubt that’s still the case. The Legislature should give this issue another look.

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