By Eric Dexheimer…..
Mark Lay had been a registered sex offender for more than five years before he heard there might be a way to erase his name from the public Texas list.
Convicted in 2008 of a single count of possessing child pornography, he was released early from a two-year sentence, classified by the state as a low-risk re-offender. But he’d been told the rest of his sentence — lifetime inclusion on the Texas sex offender registry — was permanent.
A data analyst in Houston, Lay said being on the public list has prevented him from getting hired and finding places to live. “It has been the only reason I can’t assimilate back into society,” he said. So two years ago, when he happened upon a mention of what Texas law calls “deregistration,” he started making calls.
Texas started its sex offender registry 20 years ago as a way for the public and police to monitor a group of criminals believed to be virtually incapable of rehabilitation and thus likely to commit additional sex crimes. Since then, however, many studies have concluded that it is uncommon for sex offenders — particularly those who, like Lay, are designated as low-risk — to commit new offenses.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, more than 90 percent of the state’s registered sex offenders are not considered to be at high risk of re-offending.
Yet the registry is like a cemetery: Because many offenders are placed on it for a lifetime, or at least decades, it only expands in size. Over the past five years, Texas has added new names to the list at a rate of nearly a dozen every day.
In 2011, Texas began a so-called deregistration process. The intent was to remove those who were unlikely to re-offend from the list and, in so doing, save taxpayers money. By focusing police attention on truly dangerous offenders, it would also improve public safety.
By that measure, however, the program has been a bust. In the 5 1/2 years it has been in existence, only 58 sex offenders have been permitted to deregister from the Texas list — less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the current registry.
“At the current rate,” said Aaron Pierce, a Waco psychologist and sex offender expert who consulted on the law, “it will take forever to clean up the registry.”
Read the rest of the article, including what Brenda has to say, at the Austin American Statesman.