Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Iowa: Rethink Lifetime Sex Offender Supervision Panel: Rethink lifetime supervision for sex offenders.

Lawmakers should revise state law to limit the number of sex offenders subject to lifetime supervision, focusing the state's scarce resources on the highest-risk offenders, a state panel recommended Tuesday.

The move comes after a Des Moines Register probe in July showed Iowa's experiment with lifetime monitoring of sex offenders would cost at the very minimum about $168 million over the next 20 years.

Iowa's Sex Offender Research Council also advocated greater prevention efforts and additional research on how best to monitor offenders.

State Rep. Clel Baudler, who has long served on the House public safety committee, said he has heard no proposals thus far aimed at recommendations from the panel. One law change that quietly went into effect in 2006 required most sex offenders to serve "special sentences" after completing their original prison or probation sentences. The law was intended to better protect Iowa children from sexual predators, who previously could walk out of prison after serving their time with few restrictions. But since then, the number of offenders under 10-year and lifetime monitoring has grown from six in 2007 to 113 by September last year. By 2019, the number under 10-year supervision is expected to grow to 962, while those under lifetime probation will grow to 954.

The report also said lawmakers should reconsider the wisdom of subjecting juveniles to registration and residency requirements. The council said more juveniles are being adjudicated for sex offenses, but research shows only a small number commit new crimes as adults. Before revisions in Iowa's sex offender laws last summer, some 42 of the 5,041 offenders on the registry were juveniles. Prior to that, only 27 of 312 juveniles adjudicated for sex offenses from fiscal year 2006 to 2008 were placed on the registry.
The law change took away juvenile court discretion in placing juveniles 14 or older on the sex-offender registry for certain offenses. More offenders ages 14 and 15 are winding up on the registry as a result.

Read report here (PDF).