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Bill Name: AN ACT TO REQUIRE SEX OFFENDERS TO VERIFY REGISTRATION IN PERSON AT A LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY AND TO REQUIRE ELECTRONIC FILING OF THE VERIFICATION.
Sponsors: Justin Harris (R-87), 479-871-8542, Justin.Harris@arkansashouse.org; Jon Woods (R-93), 479-200-3100, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Purpose: To amend Arkansas Code Annotated § 12-12-909 by requiring in-person address verification every six months by anyone required to register as a sex offender in Arkansas. Currently, the local sheriff is required to mail a nonforwardable certified letter to the last listed address every six months. This bill would also require the local law enforcement agency to file the completed address verifications electronically, and it allows for certified mail verification in certain situations.
Pros for Average Arkansans: As of 8/10/2010, there were 9,871 registered sex offenders in Arkansas and between 75 and 83% of them were in compliance with the address verification requirements. This compliance rate is lower than the rates for Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Louisiana (oddly, Arkansas’s raw total number of offenders is higher than Missouri, Mississippi, and Oklahoma). If this law increased compliance, that would be a good thing in that it would make it easier to track offenders and would lower the number of people put back in prison for failure to register.
Cons for Average Arkansans: On the flip side, if an in-person requirement decreases the percentage in compliance simply because it requires more effort on the part of the offender than does the current system, you run the risk of increasing the number of people convicted of the C felony for failure to register, which would exacerbate an already overcrowded prison problem. That said, Mississippi has an in-person requirement every 90 days, and they have a 97% compliance rate, so there might be something to this.
Recommendation: If you are going to change the system such that there’s a chance you’ll see a spike in failures to register, I’d like to see the first offense for failure to register by non-violent offenders lowered from a C felony.
Official BHR Position: Support, with recommendations.