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Texas Lawmakers Look to Make Changes to Sex Offender Registry

| May 25, 2011

Texas is one of only a few states that includes in its public sex offender registration database the contact information of a sex offender’s employer. (A majority of the states exclude this information from their databases.) This has harmed some employers who become publicly linked with the database, while also forcing employers to be hesitant in hiring registrants.

The recidivism rates for sex offenders can be aggravated by barriers that restrict their ability to successfully re-integrate into society—in this case, barriers to employment. This is particularly troublesome in “Romeo & Juliet” cases wherein, for example, a consenting 19-year-old has sex with a consenting 17-year-old, and the 19-year old is required to register as a sex offender. While SB 198 looks to address the Romeo & Juliet problem, HB 3346 seeks to address the harm to employers by removing employer information from the database. HB 3346 passed with bipartisan sponsorship and overwhelming support in the House (138-2), while SB 198 is awaiting a signature from Governor Perry.

The Department of Public Safety unilaterally decided to add employer information to the registry in 2008, apparently in anticipation of its requirement by the federal Adam Walsh Act. However, Texas has been resisting the requirements of the Act, “saying the cost for Texas to comply would be $38.8 million.” The federal Act bases registration on offenses committed, while Texas’s current sexual offender registry is based on risk assessment.

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