It may be the offseason for lawmaking, but there’s still some occasional activity under the Golden Dome. Yes, even aside from the well-chronicled bats in our communal belfry.
Yesterday brought a hearing of the Joint Corrections Oversight Committee. On its agenda: State Auditor Doug Hoffer’s audit of the Sex Offender Registry, which found an 11% rate of “critical errors.” Which triggered a requirement in state law that the Registry must receive a “favorable” audit before the state can start posting home addresses of offenders. Which triggered yesterday’s committee meeting.
Okay, what do you think? Is an 11% “critical error” rate is a “favorable” result?
I thought not.
According to VTDigger’s Laura Krantz, most of the committee also thought not.
Rep. Sandy Haas, P/D-Rochester, said the committee should put in writing that the audit is not favorable. Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, agreed.
Seems simple enough. Ah, but then Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Sears runbled into action. Or should I say, inaction.
Sears… said to admit the audit is not positive could create fodder for a lawsuit from a defense attorney. He also worried a judgment would be binding and perhaps require another audit before the addresses can go online.
Dick Sears, who gets a lot of credit in State House circles for being a wise old hand, does this a lot. If any idea comes up that might possibly create some legal bills for the state, he puts his foot down. And so, the Joint Committee “declined to pass judgment” on whether the audit was favorable. Thus ignoring plan old common sense and, if you ask me, the requisites of justice.
Because although the vast majority of the problems uncovered in the audit have been fixed, the system remains flawed and is virtually certain to start pumping out fresh errors.
And what if we start publishing home addresses and a non-offender winds up on the list complete with home address? Or if an offender’s listed home address is wrong? Those are critical errors that could lead to disrupted lives, communities in turmoil, or even vigilante justice.
I don’t know where the Legislature goes from here. There’s clearly an appetite for posting home addresses, but there’s an obvious need to make the Registry as mistake-proof as humanly possible before that step is taken. And there probably isn’t much of an appetite for a better system that’d probably cost more money. So I guess they’ve bravely kicked this can down the road. Thanks to the “leadership” of good old Dick Sears.