WASHINGTON — More than 800 sex offenders are being removed from Maryland’s Sex Offender Registry. While some victims’ rights groups are disturbed by the move, others believe the registry has always been an imperfect tool.
Now, Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has started the process of removing names of offenders convicted before the state sex registry was created in 1995.
A Court of Appeals ruling declares that retroactively requiring sex offenders to register violates Maryland’s constitution, making it equitable to imposing new punishment or putting someone on probation for life.
Some victims’ rights groups are disturbed by the ruling, saying sex offender registries are useful tools to warn communities about potential predators.
But, “most sex offenses are not reported, most sex offenders are not convicted, and so most sex offenders are not on the registry,” says Lisae C. Jordan, Esq., executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
“We always worry that the registry created a false sense of security,” she says.
Communities can protect themselves from sexual predators through prevention, education and awareness, Jordan says.
“Things that will make people more aware of how sex offenders operate,” she continues. “The things we can do to help stop them, and the things that will send a message to potential sex offenders that we are going to stop them … arrest them and convict them.”
- Be sure children know not to keep secrets. Sex offenders often tell kids: Keep this a secret.
- Teach children their bodies are their own and it’s okay to say, “no, don’t touch me.”
- Caretakers should realize sex offenders also groom parents to gain their trust and availability to be alone with children.
“Unfortunately, you need to be suspect when someone is trying to get you to allow them to be alone with your child, or take care of your child and do things that might be helpful to you,” Jordan says. “But you really need to make sure that the motives there are not ones that will be harmful to your kid.”
While strongly promoting prevention, Jordan says she’s concerned the Court of Appeals ruling will make the sex offender registry less useful.
“We’re going to have less information and there are some very scary sex offenders who we used to know about and were able to easily find that we’re no longer going to be able to keep track of,” Jordan says.
Corrections officials say victims will be informed before their predator’s names are removed from the Maryland registry.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network offers information and resources to victims, available by zip code.