Senate advances bill increasing sex offender supervision

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The Vermont Senate has given its strong preliminary approval to legislation that places additional reporting requirements on high risk sex offenders when they’re released from prison.

The bill is expected to directly affect roughly 50 offenders who are currently in the custody of the state.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Senate Judiciary committee chairman Dick Sears told his colleagues that the legislation is needed because there’s a group of high risk sex offenders who need additional supervision when they’re released from prison over the next 10 years.

Sears says this isn’t an issue for people convicted of sex offenses since last summer because a new law places all future offenders under the lifetime supervision of the state.

The bill mandates new reporting requirements for Vermont’s sex offender registry for all convicted offenders who’ve refused treatment in prison.

For instance, the individuals would have to immediately report any changes in employment and housing to the state.

Any violation of the law would result in life in prison or participation in the state’s electronic monitoring program.

Sears says it’s important to pass the law:

(Sears) “These are individuals who have served their sentence and will leave our correctional facilities untreated and remain a high risk. The good news is there are only a few of them. The bad news is that there is absolutely no supervision under current law for this group of individuals. This is a group that some advocated civil confinement for.”

(Kinzel) Under questioning from another senator, Sears said it would be possible for an offender to avoid these new requirements by moving to another state:

(Sears) “It may be that other states have fewer requirements than Vermont and some of these individuals may leave the state and go to some other state. One of the problems though, in other states, is that Vermont has like a 98% compliance rate with the sex offender registry. Some states, like California, have only 50%, but… any sex offender has an obligation to follow the laws of whatever state that they move into.”

The measure is strongly opposed by the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union because the group believes it’s unconstitutional to impose new penalties retroactively to inmates.

However no senator raised this argument during the debate.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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