10/24/2014

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Politics

Bill to expand sex offender list also contains looser restrictions

Bill to expand sex offender list also contains looser restrictions

PORTLAND, Ore. – A proposed law in the state Legislature would add more sex offenders to the website the public can search, but it could actually loosen the restrictions for high-level rapists.

Many members of the public are upset that Oregon protects the privacy of sex offenders by not listing them all on the public website. But if the bill becomes law, some might get out of having to register all together despite the severity of their crimes.

State Rep. Wally Hicks, R-Grants Pass, is among the lawmakers who've had a hand in crafting House Bill 2549 (pdf).

It's a bill that would add about 400 sex offenders to the 800 currently listed on Oregon's public website. That's out of the 18,000 sex offenders required to register with the state.

"Regardless of how many convictions they've had, even if it's their first conviction, if they are deemed predatory through the evaluation system that we're going to put into place, then the public will know about them," Hicks said.

But after taking a closer look at the fine print of the bill, KATU News identified how it actually reduces the requirements for people convicted on the most serious of sex crimes.

The crimes include first-degree rape, sodomy, sex abuse, sexual penetration, child pornography, encouraging child sex abuse, compelling prostitution and kidnapping. 

If House Bill 2549 passes, the offenders convicted of those crimes can ask to be taken off the state's registry within as few as five years after they're done with probation or parole.

Right now those sex offenders are required to let law enforcement know where they're living for the rest of their lives.

Hicks said he has major reservations about changing that.

"That's a provision that needs further work in my mind," he said. "There's a variety of implications to the length of time that a person has before they can be relieved of registration requirements, and so I'm going to need to see a lot more information before supporting that particular provision in this bill."

There is a group called Oregon Voices made up of sex offenders, their supporters and their family members.

It has lobbied hard to get these changes made into law, arguing that being a sex offender is the new scarlet letter of society and that being on the registry, especially being on the public website, makes it very difficult for offenders to find jobs and places to live that will give them stability.

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