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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Connecticut Begins 2.5 Year Study of Their Sex Offender Laws and Registry, Come on Virginia Let’s Do the Same!


I recently wrote an editorial that Virginia needs to study the last 20 years of the VSP Sex Offender Registry and all the laws directed towards those listed on it. 

I just found the below article and Connecticut is doing just that and they aren’t rushing the study to meet a 6 or 9 month deadline, they are taking 2.5 years to do a thorough job. 

Come on Virginia, it’s time for us to take a serious look at the last 20 years of our Sex Offender Registry and all the restrictions and regulations that have been implemented since it’s creation. 

Mary Devoy
 

State Set To Review Policies, Laws Relating To Sex Offenders, August 4, 2015
By Daniela Altimari

HARTFORD — An independent panel is poised to begin a review of Connecticut's laws and policies relating to sex offenders, including evaluating the state's sex offender registry. 

The Connecticut Sentencing Commission's committee on sex offenders is scheduled to hold its first meeting Wednesday at the Legislative Office Building. 

The group, established by the General Assembly earlier this year, has plenty of time for a deep dive into the controversial and sensitive topic. A final report isn't due to state lawmakers until December 2017, although an interim assessment is due in February.
 


"This is not an easy topic,'' said committee co-Chairman Robert Farr, a West Hartford lawyer and former chairman of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. "I think the legislature wanted us to stand back and take a look at what direction we're going in.''

One of the committee's chief objectives will be to assess the effectiveness of the state's sex offender registry. Established by statute in 1999, the online database now contains the names of more than 6,000 people who have been convicted of a sex offense. 

The aim was to alert members of a community about dangerous criminals, but critics have long argued that the list makes it hard to distinguish low-level offenders from those who pose a true threat. The database lists the crimes offenders were convicted of, but it uses legal language, which can be hard for those who are not lawyers to parse. 

"Unfortunately, our registry is essentially a large, uncatergorized list that does not identify who poses a risk to safety,'' said David McGuire, legislative and policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut and a member of the committee. "The trick is figuring out who really needs to be on it.'' 

The committee will look at whether Connecticut ought to embrace the science of risk assessment to determine if a sex offender is likely to commit another crime. Several states, including Minnesota and Colorado, have adopted such an approach. 

Other states, including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Maine, use a tiered system to classify sex offenders in an effort to help the public weigh the severity of the threat. 

"It's been quite some time since Connecticut has looked at the registry in a lengthy fashion,'' said Andrew Clark, the sentencing commission's acting executive director. "I think everyone agreed this was a good time to sit down and take a look." 

House Republican leader Themis Klarides has long pushed for changes that would make the registry more detailed.  

She would like to see the database include the name and address of the registrant's employer, the license plate number and description of the registrant's car, as well as the registrant's home and cellphone numbers. 

"The improvement of registered sexual offender laws is crucial to the protection of Connecticut's children,'' Klarides told a legislative committee in March. "The state's efforts to keep children safe must be an ongoing priority.'' 

During the 2015 session, lawmakers considered a bill that would have imposed new restrictions on sex offenders, such as barring them from living within 1,000 feet of a school. But as the bill made its way through the legislative process, it was amended to direct the sentencing commission to do the study.

The panel's charge isn't limited to the registry. It will also examine sentencing rules for sex offenders and look at methods and strategies for reducing the likelihood that offenders will repeat their crimes. Members will also assess the needs of victims and whether there are adequate services to help them. 

Clark acknowledged that crafting public policies relating to sex offenders is a "very politically charged and emotionally charged issue.'' 

The sentencing commission is a nonpartisan panel that includes representatives from law enforcement, the judicial branch, the Department of Correction and the Office of the Victim Advocate, among others.