California’s sex offender registry is broken, law enforcement officials say. As one of only four states that requires lifetime registration for all offenders, California has amassed more than 100,000 names on its list. The registry has become so large that it often produces too many potential suspects to be useful in solving sex crime cases, the Sacramento Bee reports. State Sen. Scott Wiener believes the system is “draconian” to low-level offenders. He cites gay men who have been “stuck on this registry” for decades because they were caught having sex at clandestine hook-up spots in public parks. “They are all treated the same as a sexually violent predator,” he said.
Wiener is proposing to give some registered sex offenders in California a way off the list. The measure – crafted and supported by an unusual alliance of law enforcement agencies, victims’ rights groups and civil liberties organizations – would create a three-tiered system. Someone convicted of a misdemeanor or nonviolent felony could petition a court to be removed from the registry after 10 years, and someone convicted of a serious or violent sex offense could petition to be removed after 20 years. High-risk, sexually violent and repeat violent offenders would still be required to register for life. The bill came to a halt this month when it failed to advance from a key fiscal committee in a secret vote. Wiener doesn’t know whether lawmakers balked at the cost, estimated to be $75 million over the first six years of transition to the new system, or at the political minefield of supporting a policy that might be seen as soft on crime.