May 27, 2012

Change takes offenders’ work addresses off (PUBLIC) registry

How will this affect whether or not the state remains complaint?
5-27-2012 Kansas:

Residents who check the state’s public offender registry — which lists people convicted of sex crimes, violent crimes and serious drug offenses — will see a change beginning July 1.

Addresses of offenders’ employers will no longer be listed, as a result of employers’ concerns and a compromise approved during the latest state legislative session.

For example, say a mother wants to know if a certain offender lives in her neighborhood or works near where her children play. She will still be able to see his home address on the state’s offender registry, although his work address will no longer be listed because of the new law. The work address is still considered public information, and she can request it.

She can get the work address two ways: by going to her sheriff’s office and asking for the address, or by signing up for an electronic message system that will send an e-mail to her saying that an offender has taken up residence or employment in her neighborhood.

That’s the plan according to Kyle Smith, deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which keeps the offender registry. Details of the electronic alert system are still being worked out, and it might not be available until fall, Smith said. The KBI will provide information about it on its website.

The offender registry has been listing offender work addresses since 1997. Now, someone can search the registry by an address to see if offenders are employed at the address, Smith said. Once employer addresses are removed from the registry, it’s not clear whether people will be able to request the information by address from a sheriff’s office, Smith said, adding that it will likely vary from county to county.

State Rep. Pat Colloton, R-Leawood, said she was hearing concerns from employers and the Kansas Department of Corrections that listing workplace addresses could scare away customers and make it less likely for people to hire offenders and keep them on. Having a job is considered crucial to an offender’s chance of not committing new crimes.

Colloton said federal officials approved of the address change, and other states have taken similar steps.

“It’s a very serious matter, and we want to be careful,” she said. “Public safety is always our No. 1 concern. But we do believe that these offenders” are much less likely to commit new crimes if they have a job.

To the employers, having their address on the offender registry was bad publicity.

State Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, heard from a constituent whose hotel address was listed as a site where an offender works. His concern was that potential customers might see the address and not stay there, Mah said. The employee who was the offender was a good worker and is “a good guy now,” Mah said.

Because the change allows the public to request the work address yet keeps it off the registry, “We think we’ve got a good compromise to protect the public,” Mah said.

Wichita police Deputy Chief Tom Stolz said, “I can understand business concerns with this type of matter,” and said the change appears to be good policy. “We want offenders to be able to go back to work” after serving their time in prison, he said. And if the change makes it easier to hire offenders, “I don’t disagree with the legislation,” he said.

The change will not affect the information that law enforcement has access to and will not hamper investigations, Stolz said.

For the Department of Corrections programs that help people reintegrate after leaving prison, “having that job and keeping that job is vital,” agency spokesman Jan Lunsford said.

The Department of Corrections advocates public awareness but not discrimination in dealing with offenders, Lunsford said. At the same time, he said, the agency is sensitive to what kind of job a particular offender is suited for. If the offender, for example, was hired for a maintenance job at a hotel or motel, the agency wouldn’t approve of the person having a pass key. “We work hard to match them up properly,” Lunsford said. ..Source.. by Tim Potter

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