By Jamie Grey
BOISE - This year marks the 20th year of Idaho's Sex Offender Registry, so KTVB looked at what's changed in those two decades and whether the registry is serving its intended purpose 'to protect communities'.
Since its creation and adoption in 1993, the registry has become more controversial, mostly for two reasons: The high level of public access to the information, and because every offender is listed, without classifications.
Changes in laws prompted changes in the registry
"Back then it was different. There was a different mentality, and it wasn't a big deal," Dawn Peck, Manger of ISP Bureau of Criminal Identification, said.
Peck has been involved with the registry since it began on July 1, 1993.
"At that time, it was just a little half page form that the offender filled out that said where they were living and what they were convicted of. And it was an honor system," Peck said.
Since then, a lot of changes have been made. In 1998, registration became mandatory for convictions for crimes from rape to enticing a child over the Internet. In 1998, there were around 1,800 registered offenders, and now there are nearly 4,000 registered offenders statewide. In the mid-2000s, ISP put every offender online, making it simple to find who's on the list and where they live.
"Back in the initial days of the registry and clear up until the late 2000s, [if you wanted information on an offender] you had to fill out a form and you had to give your address and your drivers license number to get the information," Peck explained.
Offender: 'I really feel that the system, other than the list, was good to me'
[name withheld] lives with his wife outside of Boise. He's been on the registry since it began. He was registered because he was still under Corrections supervision (probation) when the list was created in 1993.
"You have this mark of Cain on your forehead and you just can't get away from it," [name withheld] said. "People from my church found that I was on that up here. I went out with this outdoor group for nine years. Somebody found I was on it, and boom, I was out of the group."
[name withheld] offended three decades ago. He admits sexually abusing a young female family member off and on for years.
"Aside from the fact that I am truly, completely repentant for my past deed, I don't want to get into the system again," [name withheld] said.
[name withheld] says jail time, treatment and religion changed him years ago, and his victim has forgiven him. But he says forever, his neighbors will know, and sometimes judge, him, by his old actions.
"I richly deserved to face my issues. I absolutely believe that the jail time was a good thing for me because it brought me to my knees, and that brought me to Jesus Christ," [name withheld] said. "[But] If you have a proven track record of socially and legally acceptable behavior, I don't believe that should go on indefinitely like it does."
ACLU: Registries punish people unconstitutionally
"Rather than have an assessment on the front end of whether or not they're going to reoffend, they just go into this blanket registry," ACLU of Idaho's Executive Director Monica Hopkins said.
The American Civil Liberties Union disagrees with having sex offender registries in general, and particularly disagrees with public registries with no differentiation of severity of crime. They say the registries deny offenders due process rights.
"You have everything from you know minor sex crimes to very egregious sex crimes and they all go in the same registry," Hopkins said. "Something that started as a regulatory thing so law enforcement could know where individuals were is now a punitive thing that lasts way beyond someone paying their debt to society back."