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Registry of meth offenders criticized

Registry of meth offenders criticized

Posted: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 9:06 pm
By: AP

KINGSPORT (AP) — The director of Tennessee’s methamphetamine task force disagrees with complaints that keeping an online registry of felony meth offenders is unfair punishment. Task force director Tommy Farmer said the addictive stimulant differs from other illegal drugs because making it endangers people other than the user, including children. Meth is made from heating chemicals that emit toxic vapors and sometimes explode. Farmer told the Kingsport Times-News that if you blow up your house or dump toxic chemicals in a waterway “that is going to have an impact on the entire community.” Monica Pratt-Raffanel, a spokesman for Families Against Mandatory Minimums that advocates “fair and proportionate” sentencing laws, said the meth registries in Tennessee and Kansas are unfair. Tennessee’s meth registry that is part of a 2005 law displays the names of meth offenders for seven years. Kansas has since created an online database of meth offenders and also requires that they have “offender” stamped on their driver’s licenses. At least three other states have adopted similar offender registries since 2005. Tennessee’s registry shows the name, offense, date of birth, date of conviction and county of conviction of the offender. Unlike the state’s sex offender registry, www.tennesseeanytime.org/methor does not include photographs. Also meth offenders do not register annually. Instead of building a unique database of meth-related offenses, Kansas added meth offenders — and almost all other drug offenders — to an existing registry of violent and sex offenders. Pictures, current addresses and quarterly updates are required of all those in the Kansas database. First-time offenders remain on the registry for 10 years, not including time served in prison. Repeat offenders remain on the registry for life. The penalties for failing to keep up with the administrative tasks of the registry are the same for all offenders, regardless of the crime that landed them there. “It’s a person-level crime (a violent felony) not to register, or failing to follow one of the rules of the registry,” said Jennifer Roth, the legislative chair of the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “It’s the same for everyone, regardless of whether your underlying offense was a violent crime or not.” Roth said when someone is “looking at your driver’s license, they don’t know what kind of offender you are.” “Just the mere presence on the registry means that a lot of people won’t give you the chance to explain yourself,” she said. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said it has received numerous inquiries from other states interested in adopting a meth offender registry. State Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, who co-sponsored the Meth-Free Tennessee Act with state Sen. Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey, said registries are a positive way to protect Volunteer State communities. McNally said the “purpose of warning the public certainly outweighs the individual privacy concerns, or that type of thing.” He said, “If they didn’t want to make the registry, they shouldn’t have sold methamphetamine.” Published in The Messenger 9.02.08