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A diverse smattering of groups — from law enforcement officials to victims advocates — have argued that the current registry, which requires most offenders to register for life, is too much of a blunt instrument.“They’re all lumped into one category and they all get a life sentence,” said Rep. Phillips, a retired highway patrolman, is sponsoring a bill that would keep minor offenses off the registry and allow nearly a third of the roughly 14,000 people on the registry to petition for removal from the list within the next 20 years. How long they have to wait would be determined by individual “risk assessment reports” done by mental health professionals.Both bills have made it out of the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee, leaving Republican legislative leaders to decide which bill to present to the full House.
Most are moving toward more stringent requirements to comply with federal guidelines, said Wayne Logan, a professor at Florida State University’s law school.“There is a lot of flux right now,” said Logan, author of the book, “Knowledge as Power: Criminal Registration and Community Notification Laws in America.”Logan said research into the effectiveness of public registries is limited, and offers mixed results.
And, she pointed out, they were found in a secret, password-protected file. As a prosecutor, it’s very burdensome for the state to maintain a registry.”TRIMMING THE LISTTo winnow the registry’s rolls, both bills in the Missouri House would group sex offenders into three tiers. Phillips’ bill would rely on the severity of the criminal charge.
Kilgore also said that according to a Hazelwood police report, Bacon admitted downloading the images. People who fall in the least serious tier — convicted of crimes such as second-degree endangering the welfare of a child — could petition to get off the registry after 10 years.
“I don’t have a problem with him being on the sex offender registry,” she said. The second tier — those convicted of crimes such as second-degree statutory rape — could seek removal after 25 years.
Eric Bacon fears he will forever occupy a shameful sliver of cyberspace known as the sex offender registry.
Type in his name in the state’s search engine, and you can see where he lives and works, the cars he drives, along with the crime he committed more than a decade ago: Possession of child pornography — then a misdemeanor.
The registry, Bacon said, has cost him jobs, prompted neighbors to distribute fliers about him, and led to his arrest on a trespassing charge last fall when dropping his teenage son off at school.“At 25, my life basically was over,” said Bacon, now 36.
Bacon, however, sees hope in proposed changes to the registry that legislators are debating in Jefferson City. Clair, would give all offenders on the list a chance to petition for removal from the list eventually.
One recent study showed that while registries can serve as a deterrent, Logan said, they can also promote recidivism by making life too difficult.“They can never get out from that shadow,” he said.
Eleven years ago, Bacon, a former Marine, had gotten in the habit of downloading large files of heavy metal music at work from the then popular file-sharing service called Morpheus. Charles County, where police found different images on a disc that he had brought home from work.
But one day, a human resources officer at his company summoned him to a conference room where two detectives were waiting. Bacon pleaded guilty in both instances in exchange for probation and suspended imposition of sentence.
He was informed that images of children in sexual acts had been found on his computer. The images, he said, were embedded in the music files he downloaded and he had no knowledge of their existence. The crime, he was told, would never go on his record.“I was young,” Bacon said. I was scared.”He now wishes he would have fought the charges. Charles County judge who presided over Bacon’s case, wrote in his order that “although the defendant did not intend to download and transfer the images to the compact disc, the discs were in the defendant’s custody and control.”A few years later, new state and federal laws required Bacon to register as a sex offender. Louis County assistant prosecutor who has specialized in sex crime cases for the past 10 years, said one of the images depicted a 4-year-old.