By Maxine Bernstein
State and federal sex offender laws are clearly a hot-button topic -- already drawing strong opinions from commenters in advance of The Oregonian analysis scheduled to run Tuesday.
The Oregonian told readers that the package of stories was coming this week and that was enough to prompt an outpouring.
– Gresham resident Tom Madison, who leads a group called Oregon Action Committee, is a registered sex offender active in a national movement to fight mandatory registration laws.
Madison, 61, argues that the laws are ineffective and unfair and keeps those convicted of sex crimes from being able to "move on with their lives."
He was convicted of prostitution, attempt to compel prostitution and third-degree sexual abuse in Washington County in June 2000 and completed probation five years later. He was ordered not to have contact with female minors and must register annually and with each change of address.
"Let them reintegrate back into society. If someone has paid their debt to society, why would anybody still be accountable to the state?" he asks. "It just smacks of a kind of fascism, a kind of authoritarianism."
He's active in a national group called Reform Sex Offender Laws, seeking to remove at least 90 percent of the people on the registry.
"We've got to get smart about this. Get rid of 90 percent of the registrants right off the bat, so law enforcement doesn't have to waste its time," he said.
Madison lobbied against the new law that Oregon lawmakers adopted last session that allows offenders to petition the state parole board to stop registering after a certain number of years following the end of their parole or probation supervision. He thinks the relief should be automatic, if an offender doesn't get re-arrested after a certain number of years.
– A woman who gave her name only as Christine said she lived in Sellwood and had told both Lake Oswego and Portland police about a convicted sex offender out of Nevada who hadn't registered in Oregon and was often visiting her neighbor's apartment.
She said police had few resources to address the matter, and she moved out of Oregon.
"We also need a more efficient system of tracking them because just throwing police officers at it isn't the total solution either,'' she wrote in an email.
– Mark McKechnie, executive director of Youth, Rights & Justice in Portland, says sex offender registries would be more useful if they were limited to the highest risk offenders. He contends law enforcement agencies could more effectively monitor and track those at the highest risk to re-offend if the registry weren't so crowded with juvenile and other low-risk offenders.