TN Hopes Tougher Sex Offender Laws Will Prevent Crimes


Gone are the days when lax laws made Tennessee a safe harbor for sex offenders, law-and-order advocates say. The state could emerge from the current legislative session as one of the toughest in the nation on child rapists, molesters, and other offenders, reports The Tennessean. Tennessee politicians are proposing stiffer penalties – including death – and more rigorous tracking for the convicted. The rape and slaying of 9-year-old Floridian Jessica Lunsford, whose killer was found guilty last week, is an example of the crimes state Sen. Tim Burchett wants to prevent. “The child molesters are getting more and more innovative in getting around laws,” said Burchett. “They go to states where the laws are weaker. In Tennessee, that just isn’t the case anymore.”

Some experts say there’s no proof that the stricter and politically popular laws deter repeat offenders. Others argue that in the frenzy to get tough on sex offenders, many laws unfairly lump lesser criminals in with those who commit more serious crimes. In 2004 the state began requiring people to register in person for Tennessee’s sex-offender registry and made it a felony punishable by prison time if they were late. That improved the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s ability to track offenders and notify the public, said spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson. The registry now lists 10,000 people. “There were no teeth to the law,” Johnson said. “Everyone would rather have a misdemeanor on their record than their face on the sex-offender registry.”


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