Under a 2006 Georgia law, nearly every person convicted of any of dozens of sex offenses must be listed on a public database. They must keep police notified of their address at all times and may not live or work near any banned area. The Wall Street Journal says Georgia’s statute is considered among the nation’s toughest for its living restrictions and sentences. The law has set off conflicts between politicians and others who argue sexual criminals should be aggressively tracked and isolated, and those who say lawbreakers — especially juveniles and nonviolent offenders — deserve a second chance. Among the most vocal critics are police. Some sheriffs say the crackdown on sex offenders forces them to divert many resources from investigating active criminals to tracking offenders who aren’t threatening.
Enforcing the 2006 law cost sheriffs’ offices about $5 million in 2007, says the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association. Some states object to a recent federal law requiring states to impose strict standards for registering sex offenders, arguing it’s too costly and no more effective than their own laws. It’s not clear whether the laws have had any effect on the frequency of sexual offenses in Georgia. Only 90 of the 15,800 listed sex offenders are classified as dangerous “predators,” which the state defines as someone at risk of perpetrating a future sexual offense. A Wall Street Journal analysis of Georgia records showed that more than 8,400 of the sex offenders on the registry, or 68%, moved between June 2006 and November 2008 — far higher than in previous periods.