April 22, 2002

ACLU of Maryland Voices "Continued Concerns" Over Sex Offender Registry Website

Statement of Susan Goering, Executive Director,
ACLU of Maryland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BALTIMORE-- The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland continues to have concerns

about requiring all convicted sex offenders who live or work in Maryland to register their whereabouts with the government for years (in some cases, for life) after they have fully completed their sentences. For this reason, we have reservations about placing portions of the Maryland Sex Offender Registry on the Internet for broad public access.

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services itself acknowledges that the address information provided by the registrants may well be inaccurate or outdated. These errors could jeopardize the safety of innocent persons who currently reside at those addresses, and at the same time lend a false sense of security to the public. Moreover, the Maryland registry provides no indication of how likely an individual is to commit another offense, and may further stigmatize ex-offenders who have rehabilitated themselves and who may pose no further risk to public safety.

It is also important to note that most cases of sex abuse occur within families and the majority of sex offenders are not random strangers. Therefore, publishing the names and photos of these sex offenders often means revealing the identity of the victim as well.

Finally, as the website candidly and correctly notes, the presence or absence of an individual's name or address on the website is not an absolute indicator of public safety; in fact, many sex offenders, particularly child sex offenders, are not apprehended, and thus may continue to offend without intervention or rehabilitation. These unknown persons may pose a far greater risk to the public and to children than those offenders who have been caught, punished, and, in many cases, rehabilitated.

The ACLU of Maryland urges the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to work diligently to ensure the accuracy of the information posted on its website, and to quickly acknowledge and correct inaccurate and wrongful information about innocent individuals and those whose convictions are subsequently overturned.

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