By Katie Wedell . . . Two decades after Ohio began labeling sex offenders on a public database and setting restrictions on where they can live, a major overhaul to the law is being proposed that could drop thousands of lower-level offenders off the list.
Some critics are even calling for doing away with the registry entirely, saying it’s been an expensive effort with little benefit to the public.
The Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee — tasked with overhauling Ohio’s criminal code — delivered recommendations to the state Senate last month that they say will save local sheriffs’ departments money on administration while ensuring the most serious offenders are still monitored.
The committee, in its notes on the changes, says the goal was to give judges more discretion on whether to put low-level offenders on the registry and, “to prioritize registration for those who remain a danger to the community and not to dilute the registry with offenders who no longer remain a danger to reoffend.”
Ohio currently has more than 17,000 individuals on the sex offender registry. Less than a third are labeled Tier III, the highest tier, meaning they committed crimes like rape of children, sexual battery or murder with sexual motivation.
Opponents of registration have long argued that it does more harm than good to keep those who have served their time from re-integrating into society, and they say the registry unfairly labels people who commit low-level, non-violent crimes.
“It’s the greatest reform we’ve seen in Ohio since registration originally came to be,” Barb Wright, founder of Families and Individuals for Reform, said of the committee’s report.
Residency restrictions, which currently bar sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or day care, have been a particularly hot button issue and the committee recommends getting rid of them.
“Empirical data shows there is no evidence to support that residency restrictions impact public safety,” the committee’s notes say.