New law tough on offenders: Those with sex convictions must register with state Boston Globe 15 Aug 1993 Laura A Kiernan
CONCORD, N.H. -- The man, convicted of rape several years ago, served time in prison, and later, during counseling sessions, had done "a real good job" learning to control his behavior, according to his therapist. The man had looked forward to the upcoming end of his parole term, until he learned last week that -- for as long as he lives in New Hampshire -- he must register with state and local police as a sex offender.
"He was irate," said the therapist, who has worked for six years with adult sex offenders. The man saw his name on that list as a constant reminder of what he had done, the therapist said, which meant no release from his shame.
Unlike some other states, New Hampshire does not make the names on it's sex offender registry public. But the whereabouts of sex-offenders -- like this man -- will be known to law enforcement officials from now on.
"It's sort of a scary thing to do, but then again, I have no sympathy for the offense," said State Rep. Gary R. Gilmore (D-Dover), a co-sponsor of the New Hampshire legislation that this year established the sex offender registry.
Determined to try to protect the public from the possibility that these offenders will prey on adults or children again, lawmakers in 23 states from Maine to California have established a variety of laws that require convicted sex offenders to file their name and address, and information about their convictions, with safety officials. Some see it as unfairly stigmatizing offenders trying to straighten out their lives; others say that in the crusade against sex-related crimes, it's worth a try.
"If they have their name on a list, that only helps them remember again and again what they are capable of doing," said Lance Messinger, who directs the sex offender treatment program at the New Hampshire state prison, where 22 percent of 1,700 inmates are serving an average of three to five years for sex-related offenses.
"There is no cure for sex offending," Messinger said, "They will have to stay in treatment all of their lives and they are always capable of reoffending." According to one reported estimate, within five years of release 40 percent of sex offenders will commit another offense.
Last week, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety said Gov. Weld's administration is "looking very closely" at the issue of establishing a sex offender registry in Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, in in Sturbridge, Mass., investigators searching for more than a week now for 10-year-old Holly Piirainen, have worked with probation and parole officials, police and the state correction department to compile a list of known sex offenders in that area.
In Massachusetts, which has unusually strict laws, compared to other states, on access to criminal records, a sex offender registry could raise a problem with privacy laws, said State Police Sgt. Joseph Parmakian, who is with Crime Prevention and Control. But, he added "I suppose any tool that would help us solve crime is useful."
In the state of Washington, local officials may notify the public if a sex offender they consider a threat is in their community; in Louisiana, the offenders themselves are required to send postcards to their neighbors describing their criminal history. In Maine, where the registry applies only to sex crimes committed against children, the public can be told if a person is on the sex offender rolls. In Rhode Island, which applies the registrtion law to juvenile offenders until they are 25-years-old, and in New Hampshire, access is limited to law enforcement officials.
"What it allows us to do is be conscious of the fact that they are in the community and pay attention to that," said Chief Steven Monier of Goffstown, N.H., a former president of the state police chiefs' association.
"We know their recidivism rate is high, and this is a particularly heinous crime and we want to protect children," Monier said.
State Rep. Donna P. Sytek (R-Salem), whose committee handled the bill this year, said last week she intends to explore whether the list should be made available to the public. "What's the sense of registering if the only ones who know about it are the police?" said Sytek, who is chairman of the House Committee on Corrections and Criminal Justice.
Critics, notably the American Civil Liberties Union, have said that when names on the offender lists become public -- whether authorized to be released or simply leaked -- it makes it difficult if not impossible for offenders to reintegrate into society. In Washington state, the home of a known child molester just released from prison was burned to the ground after his identity was revealed by police.
They also argue that the list will be abused by police who will use it to simply "round up the usual suspects" when a sex-related crime occurs.
"It simply gives the police one more opportunity to engage in harassment of people who have admittedly committed a very serious crime," said Steven Brown, the executive director of ACLU's Rhode Island chapter. "But once they have served their time, that should be it."
In New Hampshire, all sex offenders convicted after Jan. 1, 1993, must notify officials of their current address, among other things. As of July 16, all persons on probation or parole for sex offenses must also register, and by next January, all offenders who had been on probation or parole since 1988 must register as well.
Offenders who move must notify officials of their new address, even if they leave the state.
Persons convicted of the most serious sexual assault must remain on the list for life; in other sex-crime cases, the term on the registry is 10 years. Anyone convicted of those sex crimes who moves to New Hampshire from another state must also register with the safety department.
So far, there are 46 persons on New Hampshire's list, 33 of whom have signed up just since last month, according to assistant safety commissioner Robert Dunn. Failure to register is a misdemeanor, and a violation of parole rules, officials said.
"I can see the public at large is struggling to protect itself and they are perfectly willing to sacrifice the rights of one person to do that," a convicted sex offender now living in New Hampshire said during a telephone interview last week. The registry, he said, is tantamount of a "scarlet letter" when it becomes known to the public.
"Why not take it one step further and make me wear an electronic collar?" said the man, whose sex-related crimes, both misdemeanors, involved children. "Why not paint the letters `S.O.' on the side of my house?" Still, the man, who described himself as a recovering pedophile, said, legislators were "trying to do their job . . ."