Earlier this year, the Reformer began a new practice of informing the public when a sex offender is released into the community.
The Vermont Crime Information Center, a branch of the Department of Public Safety, maintains a sex offender registry, and any member of the public can sign up and receive e-mail notifications when an offender has been released.
The registry is a result of legislation designed to facilitate access to publicly available information about persons convicted of sexual offenses.
"The sex offender registry is an important resource that families can use to protect their children and those they care for from individuals with problem sexual behaviors," states the VCIC.
However, warns the VCIC, "Any person who uses information in this registry to injure, harass, or commit a criminal offense against any person included in the registry or any other person is subject to criminal prosecution. It is natural to be angry or fearful when we hear about a sex offender living nearby. Citizens should not perform the role of law enforcement by attempting to investigate suspected criminal acts or by engaging in vigilantism."
In other words, just because you might know there is a convicted sexual offender in your neighborhood, it doesn’t mean you have the right to take the law into your own hands.
When signing up for sex offender notifications, be aware that not all sex offenders are posted on the Internet registry site. A detailed list is available at vcic.vermont.gov, where you can also register to receive notifications. Exact addresses are also not listed, but local law enforcement "may release address information if the requester can articulate a safety concern."
Many people wonder how the justice system can release predators and pedophiles back into society. Many of us wish they could be locked up forever or sent to an island somewhere ... or even more drastic measures be taken.
We don’t condone any extralegal actions, though we don’t believe the judicial system is designed to adequately address the problems of sex offenders in society. By the same token, our judicial system is tasked with meting out punishment to people for their crimes and when their term of imprisonment is up, the state or federal government has no right to hold them or inflict any further punishment on them.
Despite how heinous the nature of their crimes might be, they have to be given the chance to prove they can hew to the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, many people with these deviant predilections never reform, so it’s important for resources such as the sex offender registry to be available and it’s important for community members to know who lives next door. While you are legally restricted from harassing them, we don’t think a friendly reminder that we are watching is out of the question.