California state officials are urging lawmakers to limit the list of registered sex offenders, saying that the registry has grown too big to function.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the California Sex Offender Management Board has recommended that the state Legislature limit the list to high-risk offenders who are likely to reoffend, such as kidnappers and violent predators. Others, it says, could be removed 10 to 20 years after the offense.
The justification for the move is that the list—now up to almost 100,000 offenders—has gotten too bloated to actually help law enforcement. In addition, the public cannot differentiate between sex offenders who pose a significant risk and those who do not.
The board wrote in a report last month that the list includes many people "who do not necessarily pose a risk to the community.” For example, 900 of the current offenders on the list committed a sex crime more than 55 years ago.
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“What we are proposing won't jeopardize public safety or unleash sex offenders who are dangerous in the community," said Nancy O'Malley, chairwoman of the state Sex Offender Management Board. "If done correctly and if done in a way that isn't so broad that no one is held accountable, then the public doesn't have to fear about their safety or their children's safety."
The board recommends changing to a tiered system, similar to that of other states, in which a person is not automatically put on the registry for life, regardless of the offense. In California, someone who made obscene phone calls or had consensual sex with a minor is put on the same life-long list as a repeat child molester.
But lawmakers are wary about being seen as “soft on crime” when it comes to such a sensitive topic.
"People are very concerned about this," Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) told the Chronicle. "I'm open and willing to be educated on the issue, but I'm not saying now I'm leaning toward it."
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Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) supports the change.
"It's a radioactive issue to a lot of people. Understandably. But, this can't be ignored," Ammiano said.
Sources: San Francisco Chronicle