Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Faces On An (Already) Old Argument: Ohio's Sex Offender Registration Law

As of yesterday, Ohio's sex offender registration law changed, becoming even more draconian than it had been. You've all heard the arguments as to why inflexible registration laws are a bad idea, so I won't repeat them here. I do want to highlight, though, two noteworthy articles on the topic that have appeared in the past week.

Too often, when people think of "sex offenders," they think only of guys like this (known in the press as the "Purple People Bridge rapist," he'll be locked up until 2076, when he'll be 101). That makes it easy for our legislators to pass laws that continue to punish offenders well after they've served their sentences.

But as two recent articles show, a whole host of individuals who most people wouldn't object to living near are included with the unduly broad label "sex offender." City Beat notes that Tammy Welton (convicted of having sex with an adult inmate while she was a prison guard) is now subject to a lifetime registration requirement (see also this article in the Cleveland Free Times for more on Ms. Welton). And in an unusually thoughtful article (at least by Enquirer standards), Sharon Coolidge points out that Holli Burd will also be subject to lifetime registration. When she was 29, Ms. Burd was convicted of having sex with a 14 year-old boy. Since then, she's married and had a child of her own.

The point is: when the public realizes that the unduly harsh (and probably ineffective) registration laws don't just impact the really scary people that make headlines in the newspapers, maybe attitudes towards them will change.

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