Protecting Kids from Sex Offenders

I am very pleased to let you know that the only bill that I submitted for the next session of the Maine Legislature was unanimously approved for consideration by the Legislative Council last week.

For much of my legislative career, I have been working on improving the various laws over the years designed to protect kids from sex offenders and correct problems with the sex offender registry, and this bill represents an important continuation of this process.

The purpose of the sex offender registry is to allow people to determine the relative risk posed by the sex offenders in their community. In order to do that effectively, the registry must be clear and readily understandable. Unfortunately, as it currently is designed, the registry does not meet this standard. This new bill entitled, “An Act to Rescue Children from Sexual Abuse and to Make Improvements to the Sex Offender Registry and the Computer Crimes Unit,” calls for establishing four rating levels in the registry based on the severity of the crime committed by the offender. These levels would have different requirements concerning the amount of time the offender must stay on the registry.

Furthermore, the bill requires that the registry describe the offenses in layman’s language in order to make the crime clearly understandable by the average Mainer. These changes are very badly needed, as the registry currently lumps together offenders who represent very different levels of threat to the community, and only describes the offenses in legalistic jargon.

The bill also calls for elevating the status of the State Police Computer Crimes Unit. This unit of the State Police is critical to the arrest and conviction of sex offenders, who use their computers as an integral part of their crimes, storing, sharing and manipulating images. Despite their importance, they live on a shoestring, existing largely on grants and handouts, and they have a huge backlog of work. These backlogs equal evidence of a pedophile abusing children and/or collecting child pornography. For as long as the evidence sits 20 feet away in a closet because we have no one to look at it, the terrible abuse continues. This is intolerable, unforgivable and shameful. This bill would make the Computer Crimes Unit a separate bureau within the Department of Public Safety, and it would give them a line in the state budget.

I will have some impressive allies on my side with this bill. The National Association to Protect Children, as well as its partner organization PROTECT, have recognized this bill as part of their effort to improve the laws regarding sex offenses against children. They will make its passage an important part of their national campaign.

I welcome your opinion on this issue, so please feel free to call my office at the State 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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