Every year, as a public service, we provide our readers with addresses and photos of the people on the local sex offender registry. We put it together just before Halloween so no unsuspecting parents will send their little trick-or-treaters into a real house of horrors and experience something that may haunt them forever.

Not everyone has Internet service, especially in the county, and navigating the state’s online sex-offender registry can be time-consuming. Gathering them all and putting them on the page for you is time-consuming for us, too, but we believe it’s worth it.

The purpose of putting the sex offenders out there for the public to see isn’t to embarrass them or for people to ostracize them. No, it’s simply to make you aware that they’re there. It’s like a “Beware of Dog” sign in a yard. That’s not a license to go pick on the dog. It’s a warning that the dog may bite, so proceed with caution.

Being on the registry is the price the sex offenders pay in exchange for their freedom. They have to carry that scarlet letter forever because the recidivism rate for many of their kinds of crimes is so high, the public needs to be aware of them. 

Their young victims often carry scars forever and sometimes become offenders themselves. That’s why prevention is more important than any of the offenders’ potential shaming.

But we do wish that our state’s registry — and the registries in all states — were reserved for the people who are truly predators. All sex crimes don’t fit that bill. For instance, there are some people on the registry who committed statutory rape when they were 19 and their “victim” was 15, yet the two are now married. Those people and others in similar situations don’t deserve to be lumped in with the predators and carry the same stigma.

Most reasonable people agree that there needs to be some tweaking to the registry and just what type of crime should land someone on there. Perhaps a federal standard could bring some uniformity to it.

Sadly, it will never be fixed on the state level because of politics. No legislator is going to risk being labeled as “trying to help sex offenders.” The only way a lawmaker will ever take up that cause is if it happens to a close relative or to someone who’s politically connected.

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