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Sunday, March 31, 2013
Sex offender registries are relatively new legal instruments used by states, including Virginia, in the war against sexual predators. Nationwide, the number of registered sex offenders has increased at an alarming rate, from 606,816 in 2006 to 747,408 today.
One only has to watch the nightly news to see that sexual offenses by predators are on the rise. With the advent of the Internet, these criminals now have access to illicit materials that further their criminal desires. And the World Wide Web now provides a gateway into our homes through our computers, where these criminals can gain access to our children.
Consider these disturbing facts: According to the U.S. Department of Justice, on any given day there are approximately 234,000 sex offenders who were previously convicted of a sex crime, who are now under the custody or control of state or federal corrections agencies in the U.S.; the median age of the victims of these predators was less than 13 years old; in this group of offenders, approximately 21 percent of those currently confined for either rape or sexual assault had been on parole or probation at the time they committed their offense; and, after their release, the recidivism rate of sex offenders for subsequent criminal offenses of all types is nearly 43 percent. Shockingly, of those released sex offenders who were accused of another sex crime, 40 percent were arrested within a year of their release.
The federal Adam Walsh Act of 2006 requires all 50 states to maintain sex offender registries, and details who must register (and what sex offenses qualify for registration), how long they remain on the registry, and what information of the offender must be maintained.
Virginia’s registry is maintained by the state police and Department of Corrections. Persons on the list have been convicted of certain sex crimes, as defined in Virginia’s criminal code, that require registration as a part of their punishment. With few exceptions, once sex offenders are put on this registry, they are on it permanently.
This public registry details the home location of each released sex offender throughout the commonwealth. The registry serves multiple purposes, including deterring sex offenders from reoffending, and providing access to valuable information for both law enforcement agencies and the general public.
The sex offender registry is an evolving program, and admittedly, the registry is not the be-all and end-all in the battle to deter and punish sex crimes. As it is further developed and refined in its continuing evolution by the Virginia legislature and law enforcement, it will remain an important tool in keeping our fellow citizens and our children safe from sexual predators both now, and in the future.
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