Wyoming’s 1200 registered sex offenders have an interesting story to tell: 56% of them were convicted in other states and chose to move to Wyoming post-conviction.
Brackett, program manager for the Wyoming sex offender registry, has had to tell registered sex offenders from other states that life will be easier for them if they move to Wyoming.
"A Florida registrant contacted this office to discuss the Wyoming Sex Offender Registration Act," Brackett said. "He subsequently moved to Wyoming. A short time later he called our office to ask a question, indicated that it was much easier to live here, and that he was going to call a buddy of his, another registrant in Florida, to get him to move here."
This seems to be because some of Wyoming’s requirements are lower than that of other states.
Brackett says the state is attractive to some sex offenders from California in particular because California requires registration for offenders convicted of indecent exposure, but Wyoming doesn’t. He also says Wyoming does not require people convicted of sexual battery to register themselves, while many other states do.
[Attorney General] Crank said as other states beef up their sex offender policies, offenders hunt for new places to live.
Readers of my blog might know that I have this fantastical "Montana theory." Well, I am officially re-naming it the Wyoming theory. The theory states that as other states around the country start to toughen and strengthen their sex offender laws and residency restrictions, all (or most) sex offenders will move to the vast open land in
Montana Wyoming. That is until Montana Wyoming passes strict sex offender laws and residency restrictions. Then we’re truly "screwed". This is exactly what is happening in Wyoming:
And so Wyoming lawmakers are pushing at least six different bills this session that aim to make Wyoming a less-welcoming place for convicted sex offenders:
– Senate File 36 would punish people who harbor unregistered sex offenders;
– Senate File 101 would create a pilot project in Natrona County requiring that those convicted of sex crimes against minors wear GPS monitoring devices;
– House Bill 19 would create stiffer penalties for incest, while Senate File 104 would rewrite the state’s statutes for sex offenses against minors;
– House Bill 157 would institute two-strikes-and-you’re-out sentencing that could result
in life imprisonment for those convicted of a second sex offense against minors;
– and House Bill 120 would require all sex offenders, regardless of their assessed risk of re-offense, to be listed on an internet database.
As the article accurately describes the Wyoming theory, it will lead to a "sort of national race in which no state wants to be seen as a destination for convicted sex offenders. States from Virginia and Vermont to New Mexico and Washington state have moved to strengthen sex offender laws recently."
Luckily, there are still some voices of reason. Rep. Jane Warren has voted against some of these measures:
"I don’t think all sex offenders are the same," Warren said. "The media is pushing, ‘You gotta do something or else you’re pro-sex-offender,’ … but we need to be cautious and not cast bills based on emotional reactivity."
Warren acknowledges that many of the sex offenders seen on television have committed heinous crimes, but says "there is a whole gamut of people who have problems and have made bad choices. I think we need to deal with each person individually, find out what went wrong."
Warren says she’s familiar with the statistics about sex offenders moving to Wyoming. But she’s not sure they are being accurately interpreted: "Do we really know that it’s because of the way our laws are, that is the reason people are moving into the state? Do we really know that? Or is it because we’ve had a lot of people moving into the state because of jobs, because we’ve got a transitory work force?"
Let’s hope this opens up more honest debate about these restrictions and laws and we come to a real solution; not a sensationalist one.