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Georgia’s sex offender registry a mess, state auditors say



Georgia’s sex offender registries are inaccurate, outdated and incomplete, potentially misleading the public about the threat of  offenders living or working in their communities, state auditors say.

An outdated and inflexible computer system is the cause of many of the troubles, State Auditor Russell W. Hinton said in a report released Wednesday. The system “is not easily adapted,” so it doesn’t contain all the information that the state’s 11,000-plus registered offenders must report and does not easily accept data transfers from state prisons and other agencies that often have more up-to-date information, the report says.

Auditors also found:

  • The state’s 159 sheriffs, required by Georgia law to maintain their own separate registries, often have information that conflicts with and is more current than the statewide registry kept by the GBI.
  • The registry has inadequate controls to check the accuracy of the information once it’s entered.
  • Data is not updated in a timely manner, particularly descriptions and photos
  • Data entry errors abound, including incorrect street addresses and cities that many people use to search for offenders in their communities.
  • The state’s online registry, used for 8 million searches a year, reports where offenders reside but not where they attend school or work, information the law also requires the offenders to report.

Auditors also observed that the state registry is missing “contextual information important to the public’s perception of risk.” What’s missing? It doesn’t inform the public “that most sex crimes are committed by acquaintances of their victims, not unknown registered sex offenders.”

GBI officials agreed with many of the auditors’ findings but cited funding and staffing as major obstacles to improving the registry.


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8 Responses to “Georgia’s sex offender registry a mess, state auditors say”

  1. VDog says:

    What is insane is the registry itself. If it included only those determined to be a real risk, through professional evaluation, then law enforcement might have a chance of maintaining and supervising the truly dangerous. As it is now, our law enforcement is required to find the needle in the haystack while many of our legislators would like to help by increasing the size of the haystack. Do not get me wrong, recently our legislators passed a very important bill making significant changes and improvements to the sex offender registry. This took a lot of guts because they removed the residency and work place restrictions from thousands of those on the registry. These changes also enable some of the lowest risk offenders a legal avenue for removal from the registry. Granted, the courts have been, and were continuing to force these changes, but it still took guts.

    This of course makes sense when you consider virtually all of the studies and research done on this issue have proven that these residency and work place restrictions have absolutely no effect on recidivism, and greatly increase the risk to our families and children. But most people do not know is that even the Department of Justice study proved that first-time convicted sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rate, second only to murder. This is why someone on the registry charged with any type of new crime, sexual or not, makes such headlines. The media has discovered that sex sells. Most of these laws are the result of knee-jerk reactions to isolated instances or politicians grandstanding for votes by claiming to be tough on crime.

    Fortunately for us, the Georgia Legislature realized that spending tens of millions of dollars implementing laws and restrictions that were constantly being found unconstitutional, completely ineffective, and actually doing more harm than good, was a tremendous waste of valuable resources. Perhaps now we can focus those funds on keeping track of and apprehending the true pedophiles and predators. Perhaps there will be a little left over to address the real problem, that 95% of sex offenses and child molestations that actually occur in the home by parents, family, friends, relatives, and trusted acquaintances. Remember, less than 3% of sexual assaults are committed by strangers and less than 1/10 of 1% by those on the registry.

  2. Bill Bozarth says:

    Thank you, VDog for your thougtful post. You cut right to the heart of one of Georgia’s biggest problems. In every legislative session, we see so much energy devoted to passing laws that might appease the anger and fear of some voters, but ulitimately are ineffective and in some cases have serious unintended negative consequences. Voters should demand that those they send to the General Assembly have the good sense and integrity to resist passing poorly thought-out legislation.

  3. VDog says:

    So glad to hear you agree! This has become a bloated issue blown way out of proportion. There were less than 70 abductions and child murders nationally last year. It has become obvious that our once great country has decided to sacrifice nobility for retribution, freedom for security, and personal responsibility for government dependence and intrusion into every aspect of our lives. For the most part I find the media to blame.

    Rather than choosing true professionals who have dedicated decades of their lives to research, study and address this issue, they have instead chosen the likes of Mark Lunsford and Wendy Murphy to defend these radical, expensive and ineffective laws. Sex sells! It is almost as if the media and the politicians would rather risk innocent lives to keep the stories coming, so they can boast “tough on crime” and whip the poor hysterical misinformed public into frenzy, rather than develop cost efficient, effective measures to solve the problem.

    As I have said often, while the goal to avoid even one child from being abused or mistreated is most laudable, the reckless endangerment of tens of thousands of children lives, their families, friends and neighbors to do so is neither logical or sensible.

    I will leave you with two important quotes and observations. You may also wish to check out my blog to find further information regarding the people pressing for these registries:

    “Those who are willing to sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither freedom nor security, and will loose both.” Benjamin Franklin.

    “The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation. ” From “Mein Kampf” by Adolf Hitler

  4. VDog says:

    Correction! I should have said there were less than 70 child abductions and murders BY STRANGERS nationwide last year, and damn few by those on the registry. There were thousands abducted and harmed by parents and family during divorce, child custody battles etc. Of course, that’s not as sexy for the media, and of course, we do not have the resources to deal with this since our brave and highly trained officers are checking up on Bob who got busted for streaking in the 80’s.

    I guess I should also point out: The NCANDS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services both reported continuing declines of sexual assaults against children through 2006. These long term rates of declines were preceded by a 15-year period of annual increases in child sexual assault cases. The downward turn of sexual assaults against children began in 1991, some 15 years before the enactment of SORNA and a litany of other state Megan Laws, which clearly indicates that sex offender registration laws had nothing to do with the declines.
    These declines have to do with two factors child protection advocates refused to accept. First, sex offenses, especially those against children (and even more so in cases of those offenses committed by children), are typically one time offenses; and, second, sex offenders are more receptive to “treatment” than most hardened criminals. For example, University of Law Professor Franklin Zimring found after exhaustive studies that juveniles who commit non-sexual offenses are twice as likely to become sex offenders as adults compared to juveniles who commit sex offenses. Last year the National Geographic Channel, in its excellent documentary “Prison Nation,” found that over 60% of all prison inmates released nationwide will recidivate within three years while the U.S. Justice Department put the nation’s recidivism rate at a lower 43 percent with less than 15% of those being for sex offenses. Convicted first time sex offenders… less than 5% for sex offences.

  5. VDog says:

    OH! and the articles you may wish to review on that blog are under: “I HAVE SEEN THE DEVEL, AND SHE NOW HAS RED / BROWN HAIR” and “Examine Who is Behind Sex Offender Registry Laws”

  6. Ann Solomon says:

    There is often talk in the media that sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated. This is a false statement and it does nothing but perpetuate hysteria. Studies done by the United States Department of Justice have concluded that sex offenders have the second lowest recidivism rate (murderer’s are first) out of all criminals. Re-offense rate averages:auto theft 78%, burglary 74%, robbery 70.2%, larceny 74.6% sex offenses 3.5% . So you can see just how low the recidivism rate is with sex offenders. Offender treatment works and is effective.

    The registry has proven to be ineffective. The sex crime rates have remained constant for decades. Over 93% of all sex offenses are committed by someone not on the sex offender registry.(USDOJ). Ninety percent of sex offenses are committed by family members or someone already known and trusted by the family and child (USDOJ). The current system is not working! What if there was a better way? It is time we step back and craft effective legislation with a multidisciplinary approach. Laws should be made with guidance from social scientists, therapists, law enforcement agencies based on research.

  7. Ann Solomon says:

    Sex offenders are not a homogenous group. Somehow the public is under the assumption that all sex offenders are baby rapist and pedophiles ! This is not true. Not all sex offenders commit crimes against children. Many are on the registry have not even had sexual contact with anyone. Do we treat those who have shoplifted the same as those who rob a bank? The sex offender registry is a life time sentence. According to the law it is considered a “status”. Well when you start telling people where they can’t live or work it sounds like punishment to me. THe public shame of being on the registry sounds like punishment to me.
    We in Georgia have put teens having consensual sex with peers and sexting on the sex offender registry. YOu can get on the registry in Ga for acts most of us have committed at one time or another. For example if you urinate outside and a child sees you the charge could be child molestation or lewd acts. If a tattoo artist inks someone under the age of 18 that is aggravated assault on a child. It does not matter to the law if someone misrepresents their age. How about making a prank phone call? It can get you on the registry in GA. I could go on and on!! These people are not predators! I do not want to give my tax dollars to monitor these type of offenses. Please it’s time for common sense!!!

  8. common sense says:

    The Georgia Registry is a mess, for sure, because it represents a bloated list of people who range from dangerous and violent individuals who prey on children (a very small percentage) to older teens and young twenty-somethings who had consensual sex, or just talked about consensual sex, with 15-year-olds and who pose no threat to anyone. The registry has become a political tool, and because it works so well when waved in front of a public led to believe that every sex offender is a child rapist, legislators do not want to listen to documented facts that would lead to the total dissolution of their most effective political weapon. The media also has a vested interest in hyping the small minority of heinous, violent sex offenses, because sex offender stories = ratings.
    Years of research, much of it done by state and federal criminal justice departments, demonstrates the following:
    Residency and work restrictions have no effect on preventing sex offenses
    Sex offenders have a 5.3% recidivism rate, which is extremely low as compared with other crimes
    Recidivism rates increase when people can’t get jobs, decent housing, or lose the support of family and friends, which is exactly what the Registry does to sex offenders
    The majority of those listed on Georgia’s Sex Offender Registry have been assessed, by the Governor’s own Sex Offender Registry Review Board, to pose no threat to the community
    The Registry creates collatoral damage to wives and children, who are punished and ostracized along with the person listed

    Read the Justice Department stats, read the Colorado White Paper on Residency Restrictions, read the studies done in New York and New Jersey, and you will become informed.

    Georgia has made some reforms, but we have a long way to go. I work in a large University System, and I have seen, first hand, how overly harsh punishment and continued punishment through the Registry has ruined young people’s lives, all in the name of politics. Their ability to lead productive lives has ended before they have even reached 25, and they never hurt anyone. What a shame, and what a waste of taxpayer dollars.