By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado lawmakers are reconsidering the fairness of how the state punishes sex offenders.

They held a hearing at the Capitol, just weeks after a judge ruled in favor of three men who claimed having to register as sex offenders violates their constitutional rights.

(credit: CBS)

The ruling is under appeal.

“Who ends up on the registry or not is based on conviction. It is not based on risk,” says Laurie Rose Kepros, who is with the State Public Defender’s Office.

Laurie Rose Kepros (credit: CBS)

The Public Defender’s Office is spearheading the effort to overhaul the sex offender registry. It says research shows less than five percent of sex offenders re-offend.

Senator Daniel Kagan has proposed a bill to revamp it.

“We have to make sex offenders who have been released and who have genuinely reformed and served their punishment and done their time, we have to give them the opportunity to re-enter into society and the registry in some cases is preventing that.”

Daniel Kagan (credit: CBS)

But Caryn Datz, who heads up the sex crimes unit at the Boulder District Attorney’s Office, says the numbers are misleading because sex assaults are the most un-reported and under-reported crime.

“We see as prosecutors just a fraction of the very brave people who choose to come forward and report their crimes to law enforcement and then continue to participate all the way through the system including sometimes a very grueling trial experience.”

Datz says many of those on the registry have been paroled without treatment.

(credit: CBS)

But Kagan argues many are being held longer than they should because treatment providers won’t travel to the prison. He’s pushing for community-based treatment.

“If the offender is requesting treatment and has reached their parole eligibility date, give them a chance to get that treatment, after their parole eligibility date has already arrived, in the community because it is in all our best interest for these sex offenders to get treatment.”

(credit: CBS)

Datz disagrees, saying community based treatment minimizes the seriousness of the offense and the need for meaningful punishment.

“They (Department of Corrections) certainly do need more resources but the answer isn’t to release a potentially dangerous offender back into the community and hope they get the treatment in the community and allow them to re-offend.”

Caryn Datz (credit: CBS)

Nearly 700 sex offenders in Colorado were paroled last year. The number of rapes increased seven percent.

The committee voted to draft five bills that would impact everything from how long a sex offender’s sentence is to how soon they can get off the registry. It’s too early to say which bills will make the cut and be considered by lawmakers in the 2018 legislative session.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

Comments (4)
  1. Helen Waring says:

    Both of the previous posters have made excellent points. I would like to add one more reason why someone might not want to report a sex crime. If one is aware of the severe punishments that society metes out on sex offenders, one might not want to report an offense by someone in one’s own family. This is especially true if the innocent family members are economically dependent on the perpetrator. The punishment by society, which affects innocent family members as well as the offender, might just be the greater of two evils. We need better treatment, community-based treatment, not vigilantism and banishment for sex offenders.

    1. Marie Eaton says:

      You are correct, and may I add that it doesn’t have to be just family members that the person doesn’t want to receive the severe punishment. Also, they may go unreported if the person doesn’t agree that what happened is assault, like if a teen has sexual contact with someone and doesn’t feel assaulted the law would say it is assault but they may keep it a secret because they don’t agree.

  2. Can we stop with the Underreporting myth?

    The current largest and best measure of under-reporting comes from the National Crime Victimization Surveys (NCVS). The NCVS is a “self-report
    study” that includes “attempted” as well as “completed” acts, including “verbal threats.” The study relies on the survey taker, not a trained law
    enforcement official, to determine whether an act is an “unreported crime.”
    FACT: The unreported numbers have been steadily declining over the years:
    2003 NCVS: 67.3% of rapes and attempted rapes (attempts included verbal threats of sexual violence) and 53.2% of sexual assaults go
    Between 2003-2005, sex assaults/ rapes were consolidated
    2005 NCVS: 61.7% of rapes/ sexual assaults go unreported
    2010 NCVS: 50% of rapes/ sexual assaults go unreported
    The NCVS understands it has limitations: “The estimates of rape/sexual assault are based on a small number of cases reported to the survey.
    Therefore, small absolute changes and fluctuations in the rates of victimization can result in large year-to-year percentage change estimates. For
    2010, the estimate of rape or sexual assault is based on 57 unweighted cases compared to 36 unweighted cases in 2009.” That is 57 “unreported
    cases” out of sample size of nearly 71000 people: In 2010, 40974 households and 73283 individuals age 12 and older were interviewed for the
    NCVS. Each household was interviewed twice during the year. The response rate was 92.3% of households and 87.5% of eligible individuals.”
    Still, the survey strongly suggests the amount of under-reporting may be over-reported. (2010 NCVS summary)
    Talking Point: So WHY do people fail to report sex crimes?
    Citing a Besserer and Trainor (2000) study, which used “a very broad definition of sexual assault,” including all unwanted forms of sexual
    touching and threats, and possibly “behaviors not conforming to the popular image of a sexual offense,” Hanson and Harris point out 59% of
    the respondents of this study stated the reason for not reporting was they felt the “incident was not important enough” to report.
    “Consequently, readers may wonder what counts as a sexual assault.” (Harris & Hanson 2004, p. 1-2)
    From the NCVS 2005:
    Non-reporting when a stranger is involved: Reported to another official (49.6%), Police don’t want to be bothered (19.9%), Offender
    unsuccessful (12.7%), Fear of reprisal (11%), and Police inefficient, ineffective, or biased (6.9%).
    Top reasons for non-reporting when a non-stranger is involved: Other Reasons (47%), Private or personal matter (31.1%), Police don’t
    want to be bothered (10.8%), Report to another official (5.1%), Police ineffective, inefficient, biased (2.8%), and Too incontinent, time
    consuming (2.4%)

  3. Katrina Kane says:

    “Nearly 700 sex offenders in Colorado were paroled last year. The number of rapes increased seven percent.”

    Since it has been shown that 95% of new sex crimes are committed by those NOT on the registry and it is likely that many are paroled every year, what makes you think that the first figure in your statement has anything to do with the second figure? Where is the actual reoffense rate shown of those 700?

    The 5% and even lower recidivism rates has been found in numerous studies by several states and the Justice Department and was the same before the registry and after. Trying to use unreported rapes to magically inflate the numbers is ridiculous and hardly scientific evidence.

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