November 22, 2011

Oops! Wrong Names Posted on Ohio Sex Offender Site

11-22-2011 Ohio:

Nov. 21--False information related to thousands of people's names was published erroneously on the state's sex offender registry website recently. Authorities attributed the mix-up to a test of the site.

Huron County Sheriff's Sgt. Lisa Schaffer, who oversees sex offender registration for the county, said the mix-up was related to some technical issues from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's office, but she didn't know if there had been any information published about any local people.

Schaffer referred further questions to the attorney general's office (AGO).

"From what I understand, there is no immediate way to determine whether anyone from Huron County was affected since the correction was made all together at once," said AGO public information officer Mark Moretti.

"This happened because of an error by a company redesigning the website; it was doing a test, but accidentally posted the page live. The AGO noticed the problem and had it corrected. None of the names listed were unrelated to the sex offender registry; that is, of the individuals (who) were displayed incorrectly, all were convicted sex offenders. But some were no longer to be listed because of changes in their status," Moretti said.

Ellen Shores, of Families Against the Registry, discussed this mix-up with the Reflector.

"People who had fully served their time and by law were no longer required to register found their profiles suddenly publicly listed. Others were incorrectly reclassified as (sexual) predators and Tier III offenders, which they were not."

People called the attorney general's office as early as Oct. 18, "loudly complaining" but, as of Oct. 22, when her organization sent a press release, the problem has not been corrected, Shores said.

"Some people have been on and off the registry several times over the week," she said.

A Mansfield-based organization, Families Against the Registry, is a newly-formed group of people opposed to the sex offender registry.

"We are the family members of registered sex offenders and are currently filing to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit," Shores said.

Families says its mission is "to restore the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for United States citizens who have a sex crime in their past, as well as their family members. We shine a light on the human face of repressive registry schemes, advocate for registry reform and mobilize individuals and families whose lives are adversely impacted by unjust registry laws."

Shores blamed the mix-up on a third-party vendor, Watch Systems, LLC.

Watch Systems controls many of the nation's state sex offender registry databases.

"The attorney general contracts its sex offender database, Internet and community notification services to this out-of-state private company," Shores said.

"Ohio pays Watch Systems over a half million dollars each year to manage its sex offender data. Watch Systems is also the parent company of several additional companies, including Family Watchdog and the Notification is Protection Foundation," she said.

On its website --, Watch Systems describes itself as "a leading technology partner and consultant to law enforcement nationwide" and "the industry innovator in sex offender registration, management and community notification."

Offender Watch, officially endorsed by the National Sheriff's Association, is Watch's "sex offender management solution (which) has been in use in hundreds of local and state agencies of all sizes for over a decade," according to the Watch Systems website. The site also says Offender Watch "is regularly updated to incorporate the latest user group input and legislative changes."

Shores said she isn't surprised Ohio's registry was in shambles.

"Contracting registry services to a for-profit company puts sensitive information in the hands of a business whose primary goal is to perpetuate the registry and make money. Watch Systems and the Ohio attorney general do not seem to care that when you list a man on the registry his wife and children suffer," she said. ..Source.. by Cary Ashby, Norwalk Reflector, Ohio

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