Rethinking Nebraska's sex offender registry

Published: Nov. 3, 2016 at 3:56 PM CDT
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Do all the people on Nebraska’s Sex Offender Registry really need to be there? Do you think we should know the whereabouts of every sex offender in the state? Some people don’t think so.

Groundbreaking research at UNO found that most sex offenders do not reoffend. Research showed that putting every sex offender on a public website can lead to harassment and may contribute to conditions that make reoffending more likely.

Jeromy Wilson is a convicted sex offender; his picture was placed on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry for exposing himself when he was 17.

“It wasn’t something to harm nobody, it was me being young and dumb,” Wilson told WOWT 6 News.

Five years ago Wilson says he was an adult dating website. The then 25-year-old thought he was hooking up with a 19-year-old female, but later found out she was a minor.

“The last thing you really do when you go out on dates, you know, you talk to somebody ‘hey can you send me a copy of your id.’ You know that was where my mistake was,” Wilson said.

For that mistake Wilson was charged with first degree sexual assault of a child. He plead no contest to third degree sexual assault and went to prison for a year.

“I wasn’t denying the fact that I made a mistake, but I was also trying to savor the fact that she had falsified her information to me,” Wilson explained, “And I’m still trying to maintain some of my dignity.”

Now Wilson has a lifetime spot in the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry. He says people are using the registry to harass him, to call his clients to prevent him from working.

Wilson says it not fair that he continue to pay for the mistakes he made.

Because I’m trying to make my life better and prove not only to everyone else but to myself and my family that I’m better than this,” he said. “But you keep getting kicked while you’re down.”

For 15 years, UNO’S Dr. Lisa Sample has been researching why most sex offenders do reoffend and why Nebraska puts every sex offender on a registry.

“Not all sex offenders are created equal -- not all need to be on that registry,” said Dr. Sample. “Just because you’re on the registry did not make you a predatory pedophile. There are the Romeo and Juliet out there where somebody was 19 somebody was 16 - not old enough to consent, indecent exposure cases, flashing cases.”

But when most of us think about sex offenders we think of the worst: Roy Ellis did reoffend, kidnapping, assaulting and then killing 12 year old Amber Harris. Amber’s mom says the registry is necessary.

“I’m sorry for anybody who thinks they’ve been victimized or harassed, but it’s there for a reason because there’s people who go out there and reoffend,” said Harris.

Dr. Sample agrees it is necessary, but she says not all sex offenders should be on the list. She would like to see the registry return to a risk based system

“Where we administered a risk assessment instrument to people upon conviction and we categorize them as low, medium or high risk and we alerted the public to only those people who presented a high risk of reoffending,” said Dr. Sample.

Wilson would also like to see that happen. Now 30 years old, his fiancé expecting a child and he says he’s changed his life but he wonders how long he will have to drag his past around.

“I should be able to live my life without having to deal with public ridicule,” Wilson said. “Not to mention, later on down the road when my child grows up, I’m going to have to explain ‘hey why is daddy on the registry.’”

Information on the sex offender registry should not be used to retaliate against the people of the list, their families or their employees; vandalism, verbal or written threats of harm are illegal.