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Missouri proposal could pare names from sex offender registry

People in Missouri who are on the state's sex offender registry find it difficult to lead a normal life. Having to publicly register for crimes that may have happened decades ago can lead to difficulty finding work, harassment from neighbors and trouble when it comes to child custody issues.

However, a bill in the Missouri House may put an end to that for some people. The bill would allow for the removal of thousands of people from the registry, thus lifting the burden on those people as well as law enforcement officials, who are tasked with tracking them.

Under the proposed legislation, up to 5,000 people could be removed from the list in the first year and about 1,000 more could be dropped in subsequent years. The bill would also allow more people who had been on the list for a long time to petition for their removal. The bill would remove people who were convicted of such crimes as promoting obscenity, furnishing pornographic materials to minors and public urination -- people who generally have a low risk to reoffend.

According to the bill's sponsor, removing the people whose offenses were fairly minor or happened long ago would also make the registry more effective. That way, the remaining names on it would be the ones the government really does need to track, and would be a better indicator to the public about whom they really should be mindful.

However, according to some, the proposal does not go far enough. Experts say that people on the sex offender registry would not be able to afford the fees required to petition to be removed from the list, and judges have historically refused many requests for removal by people who were already eligible.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Proposed law may help some sex offenders get off registry," Valerie Schremp Hahn, March 29, 2012

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