August 6, 2015

Do sex offender laws do more harm than good?

8-6-15 Texas:

(KYTX) -- It's a story that has gotten national attention -- a 19-year-old Indiana teen forced to register as a sex offender after having sex with a girl he thought was of age. It turned out she was only 14.

Now, many are asking if sex offender laws do more harm than good.

With the click of a mouse, you can find out who the registered sex offenders are in your neighborhood. But while it may provide some peace of mind to the people living nearby, critics argue the registry should be reserved for only dangerous criminals who are likely to re-offend.

State representative Matt Schaefer calls the current state laws counterproductive. saying the punishment needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

"What we need to do is punish the crime according to its seriousness," he said. "In time, that person needs to have a fresh start in life, because that's what's best for society and what's best for the individual. And right now, our laws are not flexible to allow that."

But many parents disagree.

Back in 2006, former Brownsboro ISD high school teacher Donald Dudley was convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old student.

But the victim's mother says Dudley never followed through with his required sex offender registration, and was back on the streets after his jail sentence, working at a local produce stand.

"He had not let his parole officer know where he was working, what he was doing, he had not registered with local police," said Gina Magee, "It takes a community constantly checking on these people and helping support those laws."

But with nearly 85,000 registered sex offenders in Texas alone, critics say the dangerous sex offenders are getting lost in a crowd of people who just made a mistake.

For now though, Schaefer says many lawmakers are unwilling to speak up.

"it's something that we need to have the courage to look at and say, 'let's be strong and firm on the people that have committed sex crimes and protect the public, but then look at a class of individuals that commit crimes that are not going to be a threat to society in the long run,"' he said.

Unlike some states, Texas lists juveniles -- and adults who committed crimes as juveniles -- on its public sex offender registry. ..Source.. by Nina Harrelson

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