Bill Would Expand Vermont Sex Registry

April 20, 2009

Rutlandherald (Vermont) : Bill Would Expand Vermont Sex Registry.
Timesargus : Expanded Sex Registry Sought For Vermont.

Proposed legislation would quintuple the number of people on Vermont’s Internet sex-offender registry and add the home addresses of residents convicted of certain crimes.

The bill, which passed through the Senate last week and is set for debate in a House committee today, expands the list of crimes that make sex offenders eligible for the Internet registry. Vermont currently has about 2,400 sex offenders on its statewide registry, but only about 400 meet the threshold required to land on the more public Internet registry. The Senate bill would add another 1,600 names to the Web. The bill also would revise the registry to include the home addresses of registered sex offenders. The existing registry lists only the offenders’ hometowns. (This only serves to promote vigilante violence against these people)

The committee did add certain crimes – such as lewd and lascivious conduct, second-offense voyeurism, and all sexual assaults – to the list of crimes that would land offenders on the publicly accessible Internet database.

Allen Gilbert, head of the Vermont ACLU, said there’s no data to support a link between bigger registries and better public protection. He points to a 2005 legislative study, conducted months after Vermont first implemented its Internet registry, that found “no studies or statistics regarding a correlation between the establishment of sex offender Internet registries and rates of recidivism.”

“We’ve always contended that Internet registries are a bad idea, mainly because there’s no evidence that they work,” Gilbert said. “They provide an illusion of public security, and we also think they stigmatize offenders, thereby making it difficult for them to be assimilated into society again.”

Gilbert also opposes the inclusion of home addresses on the online registry. In 2006, two men were gunned down in their Maine homes by a 20-year-old Canada man who reportedly targeted them after finding their names and locations on the state’s Internet sex-offender registry. Gilbert said the practice of including offenders’ home addresses risks similar vigilantism in Vermont. “We think it’s a really bad idea,” Gilbert said.

Retroactively applying new Internet registry protocols to previously adjudicated cases, according to Gilbert, could be constitutionally questionable. “We think it is indeed a punishment and should not be applied to people who were convicted prior to the time when the provision goes into effect,” Gilbert said.

Adding so many more offenders to a sex offender registry is not better ; it dilutes the purpose of the registry by including many people who are not at-risk of re-offending, and it raises the public hysteria while actually giving them a false sense of security

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