Mahoning Co. maintains exemplary compliance rate for 300-plus sex offenders

Controversy has long dogged the practice of compiling public registries to monitor the whereabouts of sex offenders in our state and nation.

Some critics have likened their impact to that of the fate of Hester Prynne, the protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 masterwork novel “The Scarlet Letter.” Prynne, many will recall, was sentenced to wear a scarlet-colored A for life after having committed adultery. The punishment subjected her to enduring public shaming and humiliation.

Amid the debate on the propriety of today’s sex-offender registries, studies have shown they do achieve one of their primary goals by severely reducing recidivism among sexual offenders.

State data show only about 8 percent of sex offenders released from Ohio prisons are recommitted for a new sex offense.

Surveys also show the public regards the registries as effective tools in monitoring public safety in their neighborhoods.

The effectiveness of state and federal sex-offender registries, however, relies heavily on their accuracy. Toward that end, the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office merits commendation for its exemplary record in ensuring offenders on the county’s list maintain accurate documentation of their whereabouts.

As Vindicator reporter Justin Wier reported in a Page 1 story of Wednesday’s newspaper, Mahoning County ranks among the highest in Ohio and the nation in registry compliance rates for convicted sex offenders.

As of this week, only seven of the county’s 305 sex offenders listed on the sheriff’s office online registry (located on the public services menu at www. mahoningsheriff.com) are noncompliant, meaning they have inaccurate addresses or have changed their address without notifying the county.

“These numbers are so good; you rarely see them anywhere,” commented Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene. The 2 percent noncompliance rate compares very favorably with the national noncompliance rate of about 10 percent.

COMMENDABLE MARSHALS’ ASSISTANCE

The sheriff’s office checks the compliance rate regularly with the help of the U.S. Marshals Service by going to registered addresses and verifying that the offenders are still living there.

That cooperation and close working relationship between the sheriff’s staff and the 229-year-old federal law- enforcement service no doubt plays a key role in the success. The marshals service also has contributed to that success by helping to pay deputies the overtime needed to conduct comprehensive checks.

If the registries are to accomplish one of their primary missions of community protection, the information the listings share with the public must never be compromised. We therefore salute the Mahoning Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service for their successful collaboration that keeps our community’s compliance rates enviably high.

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