Monday, January 25, 2016

2016 Indiana Senate Bill SB 357 Child Abuse Registry

Indiana Senate Bill 357 creating the Child Abuse Registry has been introduced by Senator Carlin Yoder. This bill is modeled after the existing sex offender registry and serves much the same purpose.

This bill would establish the Child Abuse Registry under IC§10-13-9 which would be added as a new chapter. Child abuse for purposes of the registry would be defined as criminal convictions under IC§35-46-1-4 [criminal neglect of a child dependent], a sex offense against a child, or battery against a child.

The Indiana State Police Department would be required to collect data for the registry from its own records, the Department of Corrections, and any other government agency that it determines to be a reliable source. The registry would be updated at a minimum of every 30 days.

The offender data would include name, age, last known place of residence, and a photograph if available. The ISP would also be required to establish a procedure for persons who feel that they were erroneously included to have their data removed.

The law would require that the registry display this message;
"Based on information submitted to law enforcement, a person whose name appears in this registry has been convicted of a crime of child abuse. However, information on the registry may not be complete."

In itself I have no objections to this legislation and feel that such a registry could be a useful tool. But the public at-large is unlikely to use the registry as a tool among their plethora of investigative resources. As I wrote in Sex Offender Registration: good for litigation, bad for children;
These registries DO NOT let people know where sex offenders in their community live. The only information provided by these registries is where people who were convicted of sex crimes, who have registered, live or work. Proponents will be quick to point out that these are only tools that people can use but we know from experience that most people rely solely on these registries.

The likely result of a registry such as this is that employers who hire people to interact with children will use it as a screening tool to eliminate applicants rather than as information beneficial in helping to develop an appropriate employee-employer relationship. This could include not putting a mother who accepted a plea agreement to neglect for having had her children temporarily living in her car with her because she was too proud to seek assistance not being placed in the position of having to provide housing and medical care to the children in the school where she would be working.

As a society we are lazy. I see this registry as just another means by which to accommodate that laziness. Just like I have heard people say in regards to the sex offender registry that “you can go online and find out where the sex offenders in your neighborhood live” the same is likely to occur with this registry. But neither would be true. These registries only allow the public to learn where those persons convicted of the underlying crimes -- who weren’t clever enough to avoid detection or didn’t have adequate financial resources to fight the charge -- reside.

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