There are several different issues this post will address concerning the MS Sex Offender Laws. The sex-offender topic has been in the news recently regarding a new law that goes into affect in Georgia on July that would make many sex-offenders have to relocate because of newly created buffer zones that include school bus stops. For more on the Ga. story see here and for an update here.
Mississippi law defines “sex offense” in 45-33-23(g) and includes acts such as rape; sexual battery; enticing a child for concealment, prostitution or marriage; unnatural intercourse; touching of children for lustful purposes and other assorted offenses. Additionally, upon the convicted sex offenders reentry to society (assuming they served time) They must register with the Department of Public Safety within 3 days of release and the DPS then notifies the local sheriff and the FBI. Additionally, if you are a sex-offender who is coming back into the state you must inform DPS 10 days prior to doing so. Sex-offenders must also give notification if changing addresses, reregister in person every 90 days and disclose his conviction if he wants to work with minors. Violations of doing all of these things may result in a felony conviction with a term of up to 5 years per 45-33-33. Now we have the basics of the law on to the juicier topics.
The Sex Offender Registry (SOR) – if a sex-offender is convicted and released he is placed on a sex-offender registry in MS that is available for public viewing here. This list is also good fodder for television stations that bandwagon this “service” such as here as this station runs ads about its access to the registry. There are several issues regarding the SOR that have been brought up with regards to MS and other states (my answers will be below and will kind of start the debate).
1. If this is a criminal penalty for a crime that has been committed why is DPS doing it and not MDOC; 2. If these offenders have to stay registered for life is their sentence ever really over? 3. Should the life-time registration offset some of the jail time or fine imposed on the convict? 4. What is the proper penalty to be assessed to these individuals?
My answers (not the law because the law has really not been thoroughly vetted in this area):
1. DPS does the registering because, despite the parole-like feel to reregistering, this is about protecting the Public from repeat offenders. There are also statistics that help show that compared to non-sex offenders released from State prisons, released sex offenders were 4 times more likely to be rearrested for a sex crime, per DOJ. So the state feels like it is allowing a potential danger into the area and as such they have a responsibility to protect the public.
2. The registration for life problem is one that I support; there is no age limit on being a sex-offender and once a sex-offender always a sex offender to me. Even those who help sex offenders say: "It is important to realize that this study does not claim we are curing sex offenders through treatment. The fact is, sex offenders are never considered cured."
In my book this is purely a part of their penalty of committing their original crime and reregistering every year for life is better for them than being in jail for the remainder of their lives (more on this in #4).
3. Offsetting some jail time or fine with the registry condition is no different than saying since I have to report for parole shouldn’t I get less time. The answer is no. Registering is simply part of the penalty along with the jail time and fine, not a tradable commodity. This thesis is closely tied to #2.
4. What is the proper penalty for sex offenders? Over the years offenses have ranged from death (Rape is/was a capital offense in Mississippi) to castration to chemical castration to years of hard labor to plain jail time. In my opinion we should lock them up with life sentences plus 20 to make sure they don’t get out on the whole lifespan deal with life sentences. As addressed above, the recidivism for this crime combined with the harm caused by it (as compared to recidivist auto burglaries for example) plants me in the throw away the key group. Some might argue for the harsher death penalty which I don’t go for but we can save that discussion for a different topic.
This post is created for the purpose of seeing what the mindset is in the community out there and both agreement and disagreement are welcome, just bring some thought with your post.