Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Alex City Outlook still plods forth with Sex Offender article, but adds quotes from ReFORM-AL

Last week, ReFORM-AL sent out an action alert regarding the announcement from the Alex City Outlook, which planned on publishing the names of all registered citizens in the county. Response has been overwhelming. I believe this rural paper was shocked there was so much opposition to this story. Friday evening, ReFORM-AL founder Derek Logue was approached for an interview by the paper to offer a balance to the article.

We may not have stopped the article from being published, but at least some of the facts were published. It is also encouraging to know that the majority of the Outlook's rural Alabama readers have never looked at the registry.

Thanks to everyone who contacted the Outlook with their questions and concerns. It is encouraging knowing that people do indeed respond to our action alerts!


SEX OFFENDERS: Do you have one living near you
Published 8:07am Monday, September 14, 2015
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There are 152 registered sex offenders in Tallapoosa County, according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. That means that one in 270 residents in our county is a sex offender.

To view the entire registry click this link ********

Even though the number on the list maintained by the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Office is smaller at 126, no one would argue that the number living here is high by any standards.

Tallapoosa County Sheriff Jimmy Abbett said that while the numbers are high, he said that anyone looking at the registry should understand all the details surrounding the crimes. Those are available on the website.

Because of the way the law is, they must appear on the same list with pedophiles, serial rapists and must register quarterly with his office.

“Our registry is one that was put together to be very user friendly,” Abbett said. “You are able to tailor a search so that you can track an offender or be alerted when there is any change or when an offender locates in your immediate area. It is updated immediately and what you see there is the latest information available.

“That’s what the law requires. Now is the law fair? I think most would agree that when you sit down and look exactly at what happened in each case, they may change their opinion on whether they think what happen is really a sex crime.

“But on the other hand, most of the people who are on the registry are people you would want to be aware of, particularly if they are living in a place where you or your family may come in contact with them. So until things change, we are doing what we can to comply with the law and present the information in a way where it is easy to use for anyone who wants to access it.”

While the names are available online in a searchable format, 72 percent of the people surveyed in an informal Outlook poll said they have never been to the site to check to see if they had any offenders living near them.

The website www.city-data.com reports that 1 in 343 people in Alexander City is a registered sex offender, while 1 in 23 people in Kellyton have the same status. Other municipalities show ratios like 1 in 54 in Jacksons Gap, 1 in 106 in Daviston, 1 in 139 in Dadeville and 1 in 200 in Camp Hill.

In Alabama, 1 in 505 people is a registered offender.

Some may get lost in the numbers. But here are some things to consider.

Keep in mind that a sex offender does not have to register until they are released from custody. So readers may look for a name of an offender who has been recently arrested and not find the name.

The discrepancy in the numbers – 152 recorded by the state, 126 by the sheriff’s department and 98 pictures – exists for multiple reasons. Some offenders may have committed an offense that predates the registry, so for tracking purposes they are in the database at the sheriff’s department, but they are not on the electronic registry. Other offenders may be under the age of 18, so the names of those offenders are not published.

Ohio resident Derek Logue is a reform advocate who heads an outreach called REFORM ALABAMA and the website www.oncefallen.com. He is working to end the registries nationwide because he says they creates an atmosphere of hate, vigilantism, unemployment and homelessness.

He said Alabama has the most demanding reporting law in the nation. In his words: “tough isn’t always smart.”

He said that being on a registry makes it almost impossible to find or keep a job or even find a place to live. Logue said a search that is this easy prompts many potential employers to shut down a registered applicant rather than asking questions about why the person appears on the list.

“These registries have proven to not be effective in any way,” Logue said.  “The registry, residency laws and community notification no impact on reducing recidivism.

“The truth is that most of the people on registry are not trenchcoat-wearing pedophiles. They are people who made a one-time mistake and they are paying for it well behind their sentences. In essence, it is a life sentence because of the registry.

Regardless of whether you ever offend or do anything else wrong, your name is always there. You may be outside the bars, but you are still in prison.”

So if all the information is available online, why is it published here in The Outlook today? It is to create awareness and because here in Tallapoosa County, many do not have daily access to the Internet.

Tallapoosa County has a connectivity rate of 62 percent. If you take away the 12.2 percent who say their only access to Internet is through public access from libraries, schools, kiosks and mobile devices, that means that less than 50 percent of our residents have Internet access at home.

“Awareness is a good thing,” Abbett said. “There are a lot of efforts to reform the law and dismiss what the registry is designed to do. But if this information can be used as it is intended, for awareness, then it has done its job.”

Do you want more information?

Go to the county website, ****.

Select “Sex Offenders” in the list on the left side of the page.

Click the “Sex Offender Watch” link in the new page.

At this point the user will be redirected to ******.

Here there are various criteria to use for a search that is organized by tabs into area, name, city and compliance status.

After having chosen one of these options and after having entered the information into the search field, select search.

The results will appear in a scroll down list, and depending on their number, could appear across multiple pages.

For example, a quick search of Alexander City generates 42 results of individuals and their profiles, with the details of their recent and past charges and current location.

The site is updated continuously so that any new registry will immediately appear in the results of a search.

However, for anyone that does not have access to this website, these records can also be viewed at the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Office.

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