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Sex offender registry update: the California case

We recently presented the subject of sex offender registries, noting the view of a growing band of critics who cite multiple reasons why widespread employment of such a law enforcement tool across the country is misplaced. Many opponents of registries say they should be abolished. We examined the anti-registry view in some detail in our blog entry dated May 13, 2014.

Today’s post is a tandem entry to that earlier piece, with information specific to California, a state where strong impetus has emerged supporting fundamental changes to the state’s sex offender registry.

Although many people know that California has a registry based on offenders’ past sex crimes, a good number of them might not know this: California’s position on offender registration is the polar opposite of 46 other states, with only California and three other states mandating lifetime registration for all offenders, regardless of the crime committed.

In other words, a young adult who had consensual sex with a minor on the verge of adulthood is lumped together with a serial rapist on the registry, undifferentiated and for life.

That has been the case since the inception of the registry in 1947, and many criminal authorities and politicians say that the law needs to be revisited and changed.

The California Sex Offender Management Board itself -- the state entity that oversees offender registration -- is among the proponents of change. The board recommends a tiered registration system similar to that operative in the majority of states, pursuant to which not all offenders are destined to be registrants for life. In most states, registrants with crimes deemed comparatively less dangerous than certain other offenses and viewed as being at a low risk for reoffending can be dropped off the registry after due consideration and the passage of a stated term of years.

“We have to prioritize,” says one county district attorney.

The California registry currently contains the names of nearly 100,000 offenders.

Source: SFGate, “Board wants to remove low-risk sex offenders from registry,” Melody Gutierrez, May 25, 2014

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