Hidden Sex Offenders: Lawmakers debate proposal to add sex traffickers to public registry

Should more sex offenders be listed on Oregon's public sex offender registry?

State lawmakers discussed the topic on Thursday as they considered a bill to add convicted sex traffickers to the state's public website.

As KATU has reported, Oregon currently only publicly lists about 2 percent of the state's sex offenders, far fewer proportionally than neighboring states.

Oregon is also home to the most sex offenders per capita in the country.

A KATU reporter discovered Sirgiorgio Clardy, a pimp with a long rap sheet including convictions for promoting and compelling prostitution as well as robbery and assault, does not appear on the state's public website.

"This is an important issue -- that single moms need to know who they're dating," Christine VanOrder, an activist and mother from Gladstone, told Oregon's House Judiciary Committee, arguing the state's public sex offender registry must be expanded.

"I had to notify a mom that her boyfriend was a predator, convicted predator," VanOrder said, "and she didn't believe me because if it was that bad, he'd be on the website, right? And because he wasn't she didn't believe that he targets girls the same age as her daughters."

The committee discussed House Bill 2218, which would add people convicted of sex trafficking children and compelling prostitution to the registry.

Its chief sponsors are state Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, and state Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver.

"It's not addressing the people that they're using at all," Whisnant told KATU. "It's the people running these operations that know there's a lot of money in it and they just spend their time in jail and come back and try it again."

Whisnant said he backed the bill after talking with a former police officer in New York City concerned about pimps moving and re-committing crimes.

"He said we really need to get their names out on the sexual predator list so neighbors can see them, observe them, hopefully stop before they get an operation going," said Whisnant.

During the hearing, opponents of the bill including the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said public sex offender registries are basically pointless.

"Sex offender websites do not actually improve public safety but instead have many downsides." said Kimberly McCullough, legislative director for the ACLU of Oregon.

She and Ken Nolley, a retired Willamette University professor and member of the group, Oregon Voices, cited multiple studies criticizing public sex offender registries.

"Those studies over and over and over again showed no reduction in sex crimes," Nolley said.

He added that a few studies show websites can actually increase recidivism possibly by making living conditions too hard for offenders.

State Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, chair of the Judiciary Committee, said Nolley and other opponents of the bill should consider the victims' side.

"For you to complain about being on the list doesn't compare to that," Barker said, "compare to the suffering those people went through."

Barker is expected to soon introduce his own bill to reform the public sex offender registry, which he said he started working on after talking with KATU's Joe Douglass for a report on the issue last fall.

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