(Host) The Senate Judiciary committee is expected to vote on legislation this week that will create an Internet Registry for convicted sex offenders. Governor Jim Douglas says he supports the proposal.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) Backers of the plan say the measure is needed, because at this time Vermont has one of the weakest laws in the country concerning public notification of convicted sex offenders. In some states, law enforcement officials take an active role in making sure that neighbors of convicted sex offenders are aware that the person has moved in nearby.
Under Vermont’s current law, convicted sex offenders register with the state and local law enforcement. Officials have access to the registry but members of the public can only obtain this information after convincing the police that there’s a good reason for them to have it.
The Senate Judiciary committee is considering several bills to expand the existing law. Committee chairman, Dick Sears, thinks it’s a good idea to put the names of convicted sex offenders who pose the greatest risk to the public on the Internet.
(Sears) “There are trade offs, there’s no question about it, but we think in the overall for public safety that it could have a dramatic effect in lowering the likelihood to re-offend. And today’s system, even when used correctly, sometimes makes it difficult to know about somebody who perhaps may not be living in your neighborhood, but may be working in your neighborhood or may be at playgrounds around your neighborhood.”
(Kinzel) Governor Jim Douglas says he’s backing the plan and the governor is not swayed by arguments that convicted sex offenders have paid their debt to society once they’re released from jail and that the proposal is an invasion of the person’s privacy:
(Douglas) “I’m not persuaded by some of the testimony I heard reported about the convicted criminals and their need for privacy. The most important thing is the protection of the public, the protection of the children of Vermont, and I think it’s important to maintain that as our primary objective and find a way to provide that information.”
(Kinzel) Douglas says he’d like to see the Senate add the names and addresses of convicted drug dealers to the Internet registry site.
For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.