Sex offender when you hear those words what comes to mind. Do you think of a monster or average citizen caught in the casting net? There are currently 21,378 of Georgia citizens listed on the state’s Sexual Offender Registration. Six years ago that number could have been higher. Georgia once had what was known as the toughest sex offender laws in the country. Under the old law any person who was convicted of sexual offenses against a minor, even if the crimes was not sexual was required to be registered as a sexual offender for life. Those who were convicted of a sex crime that is now consider a misdemeanor could not be remove for the list.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation map of sex offenders living in the state
Georgia changed it Sex Offender Registration laws in 2010 after several civil rights groups, including the Southern Center for Human Rights, pushed for change.
House Bill 571 change the laws of the registration. Under the new law some changes include that homeless sex offenders no longer risk going to prison for not having address. Offenders also can now participate church activities like choir and Bible study. With the passing of HB 571 low level offenders may be remove after they complete their sentence. They can then petition the court to have their name remove. Before HB 571 they had to wait 10 years after they completed their sentenced. Those who were convicted of a crime that became punishable as a misdemeanor after July 1, 2006 can now be removed. Also if an offender was convicted of kidnapping or false imprisonment involving a minor, but it did not involve a sexual offense against the minor, and those who are confined to a nursing home or hospice facility, or are permanently disabled can be removed from the list.
HB 571 guarantee that certain categories of offenders will be automatically removed from the sex offender registry and that others will be eligible for removal if they meet the requirements. Also offenders who were convicted of statutory rape where the victim was older than 13 and the difference in ages was not big will no longer be placed on the sex offender registry.
They will then have to be approved by a state committee and a superior court judge. Once that is complete they can be removed from the sex offender registry and the restrictions place on them will be lifted.
Before HB 571 was passed those on the registry had to follow the strict living restrictions previously, all registered sex offenders were banned from living within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and other places where children gather. During this time many offenders on the list had to find a new home, most in isolated areas.
Kelly Piercy, a Georgia citizen who was convicted of child pornography in 1999, said in an interview with Fox News he was force to move because he lived too close to a church.
"We didn't want to ever worry about being forced to move again," Piercy told Fox news
Civil rights groups fought for the change because they said it cast to wide of a net.
Before HB 571 Omar Howard considered a sex offender. When Howard was 18, He broke into a house. He was charged with false imprisonment of a minor when he told a young boy in the house to lie on the floor. He was required to register as a sex offender.
“People, when they hear sex offense, they automatically think pedophile,” he remarked. “They don’t necessarily think of guys who had a situation like mine.” Howard told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“People, when they hear sex offense, they automatically think pedophile,” he remarked. “They don’t necessarily think of guys who had a situation like mine.”
Before HB 571 was passed, like Howard, many of those convicted of similar were considered sex offenders.
Although offenders can petition their removal from the list not all will be remove. If they do not have any other priors of the same nature, used a weapon, transport the victim to another location, or cause any physical harm to the victim.
There are also different sex offender level that determine if an offender will be remove. Level one offenders have the highest chance of having their name remove. According to Georgia’s Sexual Offender Registration Review Board, level one offenders are classified as those who posed a low recidivism risk. Level two offenders have a low chance of being remove. to Georgia’s Sexual Offender Registration Review Board, classified level 2 as those who pose an intermediate sex offense risk, and intermediate recidivism risk. The highest level is the Sexually Dangerous Predator. They have no chance of being remove from the list. They are classified as those who pose a high risk of recidivism.
There are currently over 100 sexually dangerous predators living in Georgia including the ones incarcerated in Georgia prisons.
When HB 571 was first passed over 100 offenders were removed from the list with in the first year. Since October 2013, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, 1,354 offenders have been removed from the list. Out of those 1,354 536 were removed because they completed the First Offender Act (FOA) sentence. 464 were removed because of a court order. 92 were not required to register. 58 were not required to register because of HB 571
Georgia Bureau of Investigation
When HB 572 first passed many were worried about the recidivism rate.
Now six years later there are still mix reactions among parents.
“It worries me because I assume because I live next to the school there were none here I never know they could live anywhere now” said Esther Gonzalez a mother of 2 daughters.
Lidia Loeza an Atlanta mother of a 2-year-old and another on the way had a similar reaction
“That’s crazy you never know what they can do” said Loeza
Lidia Loeza and her daughter
Many parents shared the same views until they learned about stories like Howard’s
“I never really thought about that I just think of sex offenders of child molesters or rapists” said Loeza
“It’s like second thinking to want to protect your child so when you hear someone is a sex offender you think are they gonna hurt my child you don’t say oh let me see what they did first” said Gonzalez
Many other state are now starting to change their state's sex offender laws. In many other states many are still worried about recidivism.