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Sex Offender Registry redesigned

BY MARLEEN LINARES | NOVEMBER 13, 2009 7:20 AM

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The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s recently redesigned Sex Offender Registry website is bringing more information to community members.

The site now provides e-mail notifications when an offender moves into a neighborhood, additional information on registrants, including photos and conviction information, and advanced map functions.

Karla Miller, the Rape Victim Advocacy Program executive director, said the site is useful when wondering about sex offenders in the area.

“It’s paramount to know that kind of stuff,” she said.

Some officials, however, had mixed feelings about the general idea of a sex-offender website.

The registry sites can provide a false sense of security, said Alisa Klein, the public-policy consultant at the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

“[The sites] make people feel like they have the ability to protect their children better,” she said. “In reality, a very small percentage of offenders make their way onto the registry.”

Klein, whose company works with sexual offenders, said the site also has a negative effect on offenders, particularly those with low chance of re-offending.

“These people can’t find jobs, housing, and are kicked out of faith communities,” she said. “These are risk factors that puts them at risk to re-offend.”

According to the site, there are 83 registered sex-offenders within a 10-mile radius of Iowa City.

The conviction rate of sex offenders is very low, meaning there are many more potential offenders beyond those listed on the website, said Beth Barnhill, the executive director of the Iowa Coalition against Sexual Assault.

Terry Cowman, a DCI special agent in charge, said the redesign of the site came in response to the Jacob Watterling Act, which requires states to make information about sex offenders public.

“Our duty is to provide information as required by law,” Cowman said. “When technology grows, we strive to grow with it.”

The site allows anyone to search for an offender by name, address, telephone, e-mail address, or license-plate number.

The redesign of the website was in production for one year and cost $77,000, paid for through a grant from Iowa Access.


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