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Sex offender registries in Colorado: More harm than good?

Sex offender registries are designed to help keep communities safe, but various critics including the Council of State Governments argue the program causes more harm than good.

Sex offender registries are designed to help keep communities safe. Although steps to change the laws governing how these registries work are likely taken with good intentions, critics argue that all these changes have led to a registration that ultimately does more harm than good. A recent article in Slate addressed the issue, noting that state sex offender registries became required by Congress in 1994. Since then, laws have changed. These changes have led to an increasing number of offenses that qualify for the registry, contributing to two problems: increased difficulty reestablishing those accused of low level crimes as positive members of the community and managing those who truly pose a risk.

Essentially, this means the registries have made it extremely difficult for relatively low risk, non violent individuals who were convicted of a sex crime to restart their lives. In addition, it also makes it next to impossible for law enforcement officers to protect their communities from dangerous individuals.

Is change in the future?

In response to these issues a variety of organizations are pushing for change. Two groups joining this push for reform include the Council of State Governments and the Center for Sex Offender Management.

The Council of State Governments reported that there was little data to support the notion that these registries increase the safety of communities. In fact, the California Sex Offender Management Board not only agreed with this statement but also explained that they found use of the registry counterproductive. This statement was based on the fact that these registries are generally based on a one size fits all type of model, lacking a distinction in treatment between the severities of offenses of the registered individual. Since every offender is viewed as a significant risk, California’s Board noted that enforcement officers were overtaxed and unable to focus efforts on those who were a true risk to the community.

California is not the only state falling into this trap. Colorado also faces issues with its registry. The state’s program was recently criticized for ineffective treatment programs and the inability to keep track of homeless individuals who are required to register.

How do sex registries work in Colorado?

The registries can lead to harsh treatment in Colorado. In addition to the conviction penalties for a sex crime, failure to register can lead to criminal charges. In Colorado, simply failing to register or providing false information on the registry can lead to a prison sentence of 6 to 24 months.

Colorado is also one of few states with lifetime minimum registration duration. Those placed on this list can petition for removal, but need to attend a court hearing and plead their case with a judge. This often requires paying filing fees and other costs associated with a legal battle, and nothing is guaranteed. Ultimately the judge gets to decide whether or not the petition needs to continue with registration.

Legal counsel can help

These issues highlight the importance of taking allegations of sex crimes in Colorado seriously. Those who are accused of these crimes should contact an experienced sex crimes lawyer to help discuss their options and better ensure their legal rights are protected.

Keywords: criminal defense sex crimes