State auditor says problems persist with sex offender registry
Vermont's Sex Offender Registry is still struggling to provide accurate information through its overhauled online registry, according to an audit released Wednesday.
The Auditor's Office found errors in 11 percent of records in the registry, or 253 of 2,340 records, according to its report.
Some offenders were included in the registry when they shouldn't have been, some who should have been included were omitted. Offenders are typically placed on the registry for 10 years or for life, and many of the errors identified were related to the length of registration.
Inaccuracies have serious, harmful consequences for released offenders, State Auditor Doug Hoffer said.
"You wouldn't want to be one of the people that's mistakenly put on this registry," he said.
The audit follows up on a similar audit in 2010 that identified many deficiencies that still plague the system, Hoffer said.
The Sex Offender Registry is maintained by the Vermont Criminal Information Center within the Department of Public Safety and relies on information from courts and the Department of Corrections.
Jeff Long, director of the criminal information center, said he hopes that people understand how the error rate in the auditor's report is defined.
"A listed 11 percent error rate doesn't mean we're missing 11 percent of offenders," Long said. "It means there was a data error in 11 percent of offender records."
Department of Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito thanked Hoffer for looking into the registry and said his department is working to help improve the system.
In February 2013, Vermont transitioned its online registry to OffenderWatch, a computer program used by many states to track sex offenders, which Pallito said will "help to streamline this process with few errors."
The audit also showed the state is not following statutory requirements to track whether sex offenders who are required to be in treatment are and showed some difficulty in tracking changes in offender addresses.
Lawmakers are expected to revisit whether the state's online registry should make public the addresses of sex offenders in the coming legislative session -- a decision that's to be based partly on whether the information is reliable.
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