Lawmakers Have an Opportunity to Correct Errors and Weaknesses in Sex Offender Statutes

To the surprise of researchers, the State of Nebraska has written into its law an outdated and wrong opinion.

The incorrect opinion is that all registered citizens are dangerous. University of Nebraska-Omaha researcher Ryan Spohn, Ph.D., in an interview with Nebraskans Unafraid, said “I was struck by what I saw as an opinion being codified into Nebraska state law. That and the fact that it flies in the face of basically every research study to come out over the last 10 years. I just found it odd when I read it and I don’t think it’s appropriate to have opinion codified like that.”

Interview with Ryan Spohn

Nebraska lawmakers now have an opportunity to correct this and other weaknesses in state laws regarding registered citizens. The just released Performance Audit Committee report on disciplinary process, programs and commitment processes makes recommendations to review and change systems of evaluating potential danger to the community as well as community notification processes.

Several of the report’s recommendations reference the state’s law regarding former sex offenders. For example:

The Legislature should take a closer look at the definitions of “mentally ill and dangerous” and “dangerous sex offender” to ensure that differences between the two statutes are intentional and desired.

Full Performance Audit Committee Report

Additional reforms are needed, especially in light of research that shows Nebraska’s current law on registered citizens increases danger to the community. A state-sanctioned hatred website such as that run by the Nebraska State Patrol creates unemployment, homelessness, destroys families and increases the likelihood of re-offense. At the very least, the website should include only those shown to be dangerous through a rigorous scientific method. And even then, questions remain about the efficacy of the public-shaming hate site.

Documenting the Harm Done by the Nebraska Public-Hatred Website

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