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Lawmaker Hopes To Revamp State's Sex Offender Registry

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.

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(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.

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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."

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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.

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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."

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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."

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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.

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