Correcting Our Flawed Sex Offender Registry

By State Senator Bill Diamond

It was almost exactly five years ago, on April 16, 2006, that two Maine men who were on the sex offender registry were murdered by a man who had used the registry to pick his victims.

While the registry can be a valuable instrument for keeping citizens informed of convicted offenders who may pose a danger to them or their families, its current set-up is such that all it gives is a general warning with no detail. There is no differentiation between the people on the list. While the suspect in those murders, Stephen Marshall, killed himself before he could be questioned by police, and we will never know his real motive, I often wonder if Marshall would have killed anyone, let alone these particular men, if the list had been more descriptive. For example, one of the two who was killed was William Elliot, who was on the list because his girlfriend was two weeks shy of her 16th birthday when they became sexually involved.

There are two serious problems with the registry, and I have submitted legislation, LD 1025, entitled “An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Sex Offender Registry,” to correct them. The primary problem is that the current registry makes no distinction between a young person who is dating another young person who is just under the legal age of consent and their relationship becomes sexual, and a person who violently preys upon and molests children. LD 1025 would change this by creating a multi-tiered classification system based on the risk the offender poses to the community. This classification system would be developed taking such things as the level of violence involved in the original crime and the likelihood that the person will re-offend.

What information there is in the registry needs to be clearer as well. If you take a look at the registry (the website is http://sor.informe.org/sor/), all that is clear is the name, age and address of the offender. While the classification system I am proposing will help, I believe that people need some idea of the crime(s) involved to help people make up their own mind about the danger a particular offender may pose. What little specific information is on the current registry is both overly vague and in complicated “legalese.” My bill calls for fixing this with information that is both readily understood and more complete.

The sex offender registry is a critical tool for helping people determine the safety of their community, but to be really useful it must provide more and clearer information. I believe that “An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Sex Offender Registry” will do that. While it has not been scheduled yet for public hearing, the session is winding down, and the hearing will probably occur in the next two or three weeks.

If you would like any more information on this bill, or need any other help with the state, you can call me at the State House at 287-1515 or visit my website, www.mainesenate.org/diamond to send me an e-mail.

Senator Bill Diamond is a resident of Windham, and serves the District 12 communities of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish, Windham and Hollis.

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