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Lawmakers consider changes to Colorado’s juvenile sex offender registry

Prosecutors and public defenders say the current registry doesn't work as well as it was intended.

DENVER — It's not often you see prosecutors and public defenders working together on the same team.

But Thursday night, representatives from both groups spoke before state lawmakers in a joint effort to reform the law around Colorado's juvenile sex offender registry list.

“There are demonstrable…effects for children listed on this public registry right now,” said Amanda Gall, a Sexual Assault Resource Prosecutor at the Colorado District Attorney’s Council.

“This bill strikes a balance between public access and privacy for these children.”

HB-1079 was passed out of the House Judicial Committee Thursday. It calls for several changes, including:

  • Limiting public access to the juvenile sex offender registry
  • Limiting lifetime registration for sexual offenses committed when the offender was a juvenile
  • Giving judges more discretion at the time of sentencing a juvenile to decide whether or not to exempt the offender from the registry, based on an evaluation of the offender and recommendation from the evaluation team
  • If the juvenile offender moves to Colorado from another state, and the juvenile offender is no longer required to register in that prior state, he or she would not have to register in Colorado

“Under current law, if you were put on a registry in another state and in that state a judge issued an order that you no longer had to register, and then at some point in your life you move to Colorado, under current law, you now have to register again and we make you go through the filing of a civil lawsuit, expending costs, and procedural difficulties to take yourself off the registry,” said Laurie Rose Kepros, the Director of Sexual Litigation for the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender.

“This bill would eliminate that requirement, so that if you’ve already gotten, essentially a ‘good-to-go’ ruling form another judge in another state, when you move to Colorado you don’t have to start all over again with our civil system.”

Bill co-sponsor, Representative Adrienne Benavidez (D-Adams County), said young people face lifelong stigmas, even a higher suicide risk, as a result of being on this sex offender registry.

“They are more likely to experience harassment, physical violence, difficulty in school, trouble maintaining stable housing and pro-social development,” Benavidez said.

“And these are young people who are going to be in our communities for the rest of their life. It's not like we can put this scarlet letter on them and think it doesn’t make a difference.”

“Juveniles in the justice system, they're in our community. They will be in the community, they are coming back into the community. So the question is, what does the community want from those juveniles?” explained Tariq Sheikh, a Senior Deputy District Attorney in the 17th Judicial District (Adams County).

Sheikh is in charge of the juvenile unit.

“Do we want a treatment-based perspective to help them not recidivate and not re-offend? Or do we want to punish them for the sake of punishment? And frankly, the law and legislature have all said no, we want to go the treatment route, and that helps kids not commit crimes in the future.”

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