February 3, 2015

Bill tightens restrictions on sex offenders released from prison

2-3-2015 Vermont:

The Vermont House last week passed a bill tightening restrictions on how long sex offenders who have maxed out their sentences have to report to the state’s registry after being released from prison.

By a unanimous vote Thursday, the House approved H.16, requiring convicted sex offenders to report information about where they intend to live to the Department of Public Safety before their release.

As the law stands, a sex offender who is completing his or her maximum sentence has three days to report to the registry after they leave the correctional facility.

“Those can be three very long days for a community,” said Rep. Maxine Grad, D-Moretown, who sponsored the bill.

All sex offenders are required to tell the state where they plan to reside within three days of their release from prison. The deadline has served as a catchall for offenders since the registry was established in 1996.

Grad said the bill responds to concerns that victims would not have any notice that their attacker may have returned to their community until three days after they arrived. With this new regulation, the public will have some warning before a sex offender comes to their area.

“I do hope this law will provide some level of support to our communities and victims,” Grad said.

The Sex Offender Registry has come under fire in recent years for inconsistencies and inaccuracies. An audit in 2010 found that several people were erroneously listed on the registry, while some offenders were left off it. A 2014 audit found that those discrepancies continued.

A bill being reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee attempts to tackle some of the ongoing issues with the registry, such as inconsistencies in registration requirements for offenders and establishing a system for removing a name that has been placed in error.

H.16, which will come before Senate Judiciary this week, is a more targeted attempt to patch a hole in the sex offender registry system.

In 2009, Vermont adopted indeterminate sentencing, which encourages offenders to participate in rehabilitative programs to shorten their time in prison. Once they are released, they remain under some form of supervision.

The bill will impact only about two dozen offenders in Vermont who refused treatment and served their full sentence. However the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence considers that group to be very important.

“We have concerns over offenders who have refused treatment and maxed out,” said Auburn Watersong, the associate director of public policy at the network. “It can be some of the most dangerous cases.”

Offenders who serve the maximum sentence generally have chosen not to participate in counseling or other services while in prison. While some offenders may opt for an earlier release date with parole, those who serve a maximum sentence have no supervision other than being included on the registry.

“We feel like it’s much better protection for victims and communities as a whole,” Watersong said. ..Source.. by Elizabeth Hewitt

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