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Upgrades to sex-offender list will offer greater protections

Published: Fri, July 11, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

For the past two decades, Ohio has acted to streamline and toughen its online registry of all sex offenders living in our midst. Today, detailed information about 18,000 such offenders, including about 500 in the Mahoning Valley, are but a click away for millions of Ohioans from their nearest PC, laptop or smartphone.

In 1997, Gov. George Voinovich signed the Sexual Offender Registration Bill, which required sheriff’s offices throughout the state to develop and implement a registration system for convicted sexual offenders. Over the years, through state initiative or federal fiat, that registry has been upgraded and made increasingly more user friendly.

The most recent upgrade to better serve Ohioans rightly concerned about convicted rapists, child molesters or other sexual deviants living in their neighborhoods debuted this month. At a press conference last week with representatives of the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association, Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that Ohioans now can use phone numbers, email addresses or screen names to learn whether they belong to registered sex offenders. The database’s new reverse-lookup feature lets people input that data to determine whether a registered sex offender has contacted them.

“In this age of technology, knowing which sex offenders live in your neighborhood isn’t always enough,” DeWine said. “Digital communications allow people to break geographical boundaries, and sexual predators can use this to their advantage to pose as peers and develop cyber friendships with unsuspecting children.”

The upgrade in the public website comes none too soon as the wide use of electronic technology in planning and perpetrating sexual crimes, particularly those against children, makes readily apparent. In 82 percent of online sex crimes against minors, the offender used the victim’s social networking site to gain needed information, according to a study in The Journal of Adolescent Health. The FBI estimates that 50,000 child predators are online at any given time trolling for potential victims.


Despite the widening scope of the threats and despite the lifelong emotional and interpersonal scars that sexual abuse inflicts on victims, the American Civil Liberties Union and others demonize the online registries as patently unfair to offenders. Many liken the impact of the long-lasting listings on convicted offenders to the shameful Scarlet Letter “A” prominently worn by Hester Prynne in Nathanial Hawthorn’s classic 1850 novel, branding her as an adulteress.

But arguments that sexual-offender registries unfairly stigmatize individuals who have paid their time for their committed crime pale in comparison to the benefits of such registries, which have been upheld by state and federal courts.

First, online registries provide a strong measure of accountability to the ex-cons. Because they are legally required to submit updated information of their whereabouts and forced to deal with their public record in other aspects of their lives, registries provide incentives for them not to reoffend. Second, registries provide a measure of comfort and security to residents, particularly parents, to know whether sex offenders live nearby. Furthermore, the former offenders are themselves protected by criminal penalties for those who would harass, assault or commit crimes against them.

On balance, the registry serves as one important tool to fight the scourge of sex abuse. But Ohioans must recognize it cannot be the only tool. Given that most sexual assaults are committed by family members or trusted friends and that many go unreported, such databases cannot replace close supervision by parents and proactive defensive behavior by everyone in all interactions — online and off.


1flast(1 comment)posted 2 years ago

The information provided by the ex-cons is only as good as their honesty. The registry is useless to prevent sex crimes. Arial Castro was not a sex offender but abducted three young girls. Of what value was the registry? The abductions could have been prevented by good parenting. C'mon, not to blame the victims but who lets a ten year old girl roam the streets alone? Sandusky was not on the registry yet parents actually dropped their kids on his doorstep. The registry is useless and a huge expense for taxpayers and makes the life of the registrant hell. It makes it so they can't find employment and they further become a burden to the taxpayer.

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2Rudy101(1 comment)posted 2 years ago

The registry is used to isolate a person from every aspect of the community. A person can be added to the list even decades after a conviction. The registry cannot be challenged on any forum and no person on the registry has any legal interest in his placement on the registry.

The registry has been PROVEN to make it more likely a person will commit criminal acts because it is well established that a person with no connections to the community and is alienated from it will give the community no value.

The reigstry is POLITICAL in nature whereby the freedom of individuals in the community are determined at the community's whim.

It is a legal RIGHT to flee the registry. Unitil there is some DUE PROCESS, the registry, as a matter of law, does not have to be followed.

I left the registry. All it did was harm to me and the community. I have no forum to bring my grienveances as an INVIDIVIDUAL BEFORE THE LAW.

You all don't care about processes and truely believe that you can vote on who in the community is an outcast. But your laws have been deemed illegal because of the lack of the ability to challenge conclusions. I laugh at your laws and ignore them with impunity.

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