DAYTON, Ohio (AP) – Proposed changes to Ohio’s laws governing sex offender registration could give judges more discretion within that system and make it easier for people to get off the registry if they’re believed to have a low risk of re-offending.
The Dayton Daily News reports the state Criminal Justice Recodification Committee is set to vote Thursday on whether to recommend the changes.
They would keep the tiered classification system but incorporate more risk assessment and allow offenders to petition to change their status. Another proposal would remove residency restrictions, such as barring sex offenders from living near schools.
Judges would be able to consider medical conditions and age when determining whether to release people from registration requirements, said Blaise Katter, staff attorney for the committee.
Judges sentencing convicted sex offenders currently have to place them into one of three tiers depending on the severity of the crimes. Those individuals must then register their address for 15 years to life, depending on that classification.
The committee also wants to install a statewide offender database system that would replace an existing county-by-county system.
“We’re trying to bring in some common-sense changes that will hopefully maintain, of course, the community safety, but address other issues to make the registry effective,” said Jill Beeler, appellate services director for the Ohio Public Defenders Office and a member of the committee work group that helped draft the proposed changes.
Barb Wright, a member of the Ohio chapter of Reform Sex Offender Laws, said her group supports the changes, but said she believes the changes don’t go far enough. Wright said recently convicted individuals should also be able to change their registration status.
The changes would have to be passed by the legislature to become law. The recommendations previously were approved by Ohio’s Sentencing Commission, which comprises sheriffs, prosecutors, judges, victim advocates and lawmakers.
Beeler, of the state Public Defenders Office, said Ohio could lose some federal funding under the Justice Assistance Grants if it moves forward with the changes. The grants are used to fund local courts, crime labs, jails and other law enforcement programs.
Ohio received nearly $8 million under the program in fiscal year 2015.