Starting this week, Texas will dramatically change its system for classifying sex offenders, after years of complaints that the current risk assessment overpenalizes young, low-level offenders and lets some of the worst slip through the cracks, reports the Dallas Morning News. The new policy will apply only to offenders being discharged from prison, meaning those already in the community won’t get the chance to have their risk status revisited. “If there’s no re-evaluation, how can it be accurate?” asked Sam, a sex offender who was charged with rape when he and his victim were teenagers.
Rep. Jerry Madden, the House’s criminal justice guru, said that although it would be ideal to re-evaluate all of the state’s 45,000 sex offenders, the task is nearly impossible. Rankings assigned by the current test – called the Static 99 – determine which offenders must publicly declare their crime and can affect everything from sex offenders’ chances at employment to their housing options. The test, which bases its risk assessment on factors such as age, marital status, previous offenses, and the victim’s gender, can often be misleading even for adult male sex offenders. Officials will overhaul the classification system to include several risk tests, a legislative mandate that treatment providers and criminal justice experts say is long overdue. Research shows that only 10 percent of sex offenders are predatory With the new tools, one expert says “you will see a better accounting of who truly belongs there” in the high-risk category, predicting that it will be more women and fewer juveniles.