LANSING (AP) – The Michigan House has approved expanding the state’s online public sex offender registry to people convicted of certain crimes against children.
The crimes covered by the proposal include unlawful imprisonment of a minor and knowingly possessing child sexually abusive material.
People convicted of such crimes already must register as sex offenders with the state, but their information is currently only available to police. The proposal would make it available to everyone.
The public registry lists offenders’ names, addresses and jobs. Republican Sen. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, who is sponsoring the legislation, said it could help keep Michigan children safe. But others say it could negatively impact people’s reputations by grouping them with people who commit more serious crimes.
Those who are in the public registry now include people convicted of Tier II and Tier III offenses, such as producing child sexually abusive material or kidnapping someone under the age of 18.
The bill now goes to the Senate for approval before it goes to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk. The Senate approved the measure last month, but the House made a minor change, which is why it must go back to the Senate.
If the bill is signed into law, a few hundred people would be added to the state’s public registry, according to the House Fiscal Agency. But Michigan State Police spokeswoman Shannon Banner said authorities do not know for sure how many people would be affected.
Jones said while the bill will not impact a “huge number” of people, it is still important because it will allow the public to “protect their children and grandchildren.”
Jones gave the example of a woman convicted of allowing her boyfriend to sexually assault and photograph her 6-year-old sister, who would be included on the state’s public registry under his bill. He also said a man who pulled an 8-year-old girl off her bike, forced her into his house and began fondling her would be on the public registry.
Shelli Weisberg, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, said while her organization is neutral on the bill, she is concerned about expanding the public registry. She said adding these people to the list “makes them look like they are all egregious pedophiles, when that is not the case.”
Banner said 36,419 people are currently on the state’s public registry and 40,255 sex offenders are registered with the state as a whole.
Tier I offenders used to be on the public list. That changed when Michigan changed its sex offender laws in 2011 to comply with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which establishes minimum standards each state must follow for registering sex offenders, Weisberg said
Weisberg said when people were on the private list, they at least “had a chance of getting a job, or going to school or something.”
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