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Goodbye to sex predator classifications

Probably the only thing I've whined about more frequently than the idiocy of the current sentencing laws and decisions is the idiocy of the current laws and decisions on sexual predator designations.  Well, it turns out that beginning next year, I won't have as much to whine about.

Why?  Because on January 1, 2008, Ohio's new sexual offender classification system takes effect.  Instead of a risk-based system -- one which attempts to gauge the chances of recidivism of an offender -- it becomes an offense-based system:  an offender's classification, and duty of registration, is based solely on the type of sexual crime committed.  It basically sets up three classifications:  "Tier I sex offender/child victim offender," "Tier II...," etc., with 15-year, 25-year, and lifetime registration requirements, respectively.  Voyeurism will land you on Tier I, rape on Tier III.  What's more, the new law scraps the recently established Juvenile Sex Offender Registry and Notification System; anyone 14 or over gets placed on one of the three tiers.

The motivation for this was money:  it brought Ohio into compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, and when Congress passed that act, it stipulated that any state which enacted the law by July 27 (Ohio's was signed by the governor on June 30) would get a 10% bonus in grants created by the Walsh Act.

Turns out that's 10% of nothing:  Congress hasn't appropriated any money for the Act.

One would think that the logical starting point for a massive revision in sex offender registration would be some empirical research into how the current system is working.  If one thought that, though, one would be wrong.  What research has been done has not shown that sex offender registration laws have any effect whatsoever on the one thing they're supposed to affect:  the incidence of sex crimes.  In fact, as I mentioned several months ago, there's some basis for believing that they're actually counterproductive, in that they force sex offenders "underground," making them that much harder to track.

I'll have more on this as the new year gets closer.  I'm looking forward to it every bit as much as you are.

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