The application and development of laws and public policies pertaining to sex offenders are often a “very politically charged and emotionally charged issue,” according to Andrew Clark, acting executive director of the Connecticut Sentencing Commission. The Commission, thanks to a recently passed legislative measure, has been tasked with conducting a full review of the state’s sex offender registry and its effectiveness in promoting public safety. In order to do so, the Sentencing Commission has created a task force co-chaired by Robert Farr, former chair of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles and longtime legislator, and Stephen Grant, executive director court support services for the Connecticut Judicial Branch.
The State of the Sex Offender Registry
Connecticut’s sex offender registry was created by law in 1999 and now consists of more than 6,000 names in an online database. While it was designed to help alert the public about potentially dangerous sex criminals, critics maintain that the lack of organization and the use of unnecessarily complex language makes the list all but impossible for most citizens to utilize easily.
As it currently stands, low-level offenders, including those who have had consensual sex with an underage partner, are mixed in with truly dangerous predators who have bene convicted of violent sex crimes. Each offender is listed by the crime for which they were convicted, but terms like “risk of injury” or “third-degree sexual assault” often mean little to someone without legal background or point of reference. There is also no existing official risk assessment as to the danger a particular individual may present to the community at large.
Rights of Registrants
The law requiring the sex offender registry review began as a 2015 bill to impose limitations on sex offenders, including prohibiting them from living within 1,000 feet of a school. It quickly became clear, however, that the current state of the registry required closer inspection and possibly revisions before additional blanket limitations should be applied. Many low-level offenders, critics point out, have paid their debt to society and truly pose no public risk. These individuals should not be grouped in with those who do present danger to the community, particularly those convicted of violent crimes who may still be on parole.
There are likely to be several options available to the panel for improving the sex offender registry. The first would involve a tiered approach, which clearly delineates the severity of particular offenses and offenders. Currently in use in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Maine, the ranking system helps those who access the list to understand the threat presented by a specific individual. In New Jersey, for example, certain lower-tiered offenders are made known only to law enforcement.
The other likely approach is the application of risk assessment to determine if an offender is likely to commit subsequent crimes. Since the registry’s inception nearly 16 years ago, the science of risk assessment has experienced exponential growth and is used in a wide variety of applications, including DUI-related evaluations in many states. Risk assessment takes into account an offender’s circumstances, influences, education, and countless other factors to establish the degree of likelihood that he or she will continue to commit sex offenses. By including risk assessment in the sex offender registry, citizens are likely to have a better understanding of who and what to be aware of in their neighborhoods.
While the review committee continues its task, which is expected to be completed by December 2017, the current sex offender registry remains part of the Connecticut justice system. If you have been charged with a sex crime, landing on the registry can serious damage your future and available opportunities. Contact an experienced Hartford criminal defense attorney today to schedule your confidential consultation. We will review your case and help you take the necessary steps in protecting your rights. Call [[phone1]] for an appointment at the Woolf Law Firm, LLC.