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Student returns to Ohio and must register as sex offender

The functioning of the Ohio sex offender registry was highlighted recently with the return of the Stanford student who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Because of his conviction, he is classified as a Tier III sex offender and he had to register with Green County Sheriff's Department. Under Ohio law, every 90 days he must return to update this information, and if he moves, will have to report to the sheriff's department in whichever county he takes ups residence.

Sex offender registries are supposed to improve public safety by providing notice to local residents that a person who previously offended lives in the county. Depending on the severity of the conviction, an individual may have to report for 15 years, 25 years or in the case of a Tier III conviction, they have to register for life.

For the Tier III convictions, there is the additional requirement that residents who live within 1,200 feet of the offender will receive a mailed notice, informing them of the offender's presence, photo, address and identifying information.

These laws have been criticized as an onerous burden for offenders who have fully met the legislatively imposed punishment for their sex offenses. These registries are allowed because they are supposed to be purely "administrative" and serve the purpose of alerting the public of a potential danger.

There is a darker reality, as in the case of a Tier III offender, they follow the individual for life, they create public scorn and ostracism and they may impose additional restrictions. Some cities have additional residency restrictions imposed on offenders, that can make it impossible for them to reside or work anywhere within the town.

The larger question is whether they actually improve public safety. Some research now suggests that they have had virtually no positive effect on public safety and only make it more difficult for offenders to reintegrate into society.

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