View Full Version : Article: (Mississippi) Registration for sex offenders has kinks

03-31-2005, 10:49 AM

Registration for sex offenders has kinks

by Hannah Donegan
Staff Reporter
March 31, 2005

Nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford, of Florida, and Jetseta Gage, 10, of Iowa, were allegedly kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered by registered sex offenders within a month. These cases raise questions about local response to registered sex offenders in the Oxford community.

According to Mississippi Code Section 45-33-21, anyone convicted of a sexual offense must register with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. Offenders must give a DNA sample as well as fingerprints, photos, current address and name and address of current place of employment.

According to the Mississippi Sex Offender Database Web site, there are 19 registered sex offenders living in Oxford.

Failure to register can result in a five-year prison term, according to Lafayette County Sheriff Buddy East. He said the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department tries to keep track of the registered sex offenders in the county as much as they can.

“We try to make sure we know where they are and where they’re employed,” East said.

East said the sheriff’s department checks up on all sex offenders to ensure they have registered and arrests those that do not.

Even with these techniques, tragedies like that of Lunsford and Gage still occur.

Phillip Broadhead, clinical professor and director of the Criminal Appeals Program and the National Center for Justice and the Rule of Law, said that the problem with the sex offender registration program lies in enforcement.

“Well over 50 percent of persons who should be registered have either old addresses or fake addresses,” Broadhead said.

Sex offenders represent a difficult paradox, according to Broadhead. The issue of privacy versus public safety is difficult to balance, and the fact that pedophilia is a medically recognized mental illness makes the situation even more difficult, according to Broadhead.

Options for fixing this system aren’t clear, Broadhead said. One option is electronic tracking bracelets like those used for people on house arrest. Another is permanent state supervision. Neither option is cost effective.

House Bill 1340, which was approved by the governor in 2004, requires all sex offenders to disclose their criminal history if they volunteer with an organization where they will have contact minors. Failure to do so, according to the bill, is a felony and will result in up to five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

Mississippi abolished the parole system in 1995 with the Truth in Sentencing law, which mandates that those convicted of serious crimes such as rape, murder and kidnapping must serve out 100 percent of their sentence while those convicted of less serious crimes are only required to serve 85 percent of their sentence. People released from prison are placed under post-release supervision.

Another option many states have chosen to pursue is chemical castration. Sex offenders must take a shot of Depo-Provera, a popular birth control medication. Broadhead believes that the eighth amendment to the Mississippi constitution, which bans cruel and unusual punishment, prevents Mississippi from enacting such laws.