Saturday, October 6, 2007

Sex offender names become public At Brigham Young University, Posted By Robert Paisola

Starting Oct. 28 at the administration building, BYU students can have legal access to the names of sex offenders in their classes, housing complexes and wards.

BYU officials are complying with a new law, The Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act, requiring colleges to provide students with a list of registered sex offenders who are enrolled or working at their schools.

"I think it's a really good idea," said Tiffany Palmer, 19, a sophomore from Blanding, San Juan, majoring in communications. "If there is a sex offender living anywhere near me, I would want to know, especially if they were going to be in my ward or in my classes."

Patricia Mills, program coordinator for the Utah County Rape and Crisis Center, said sexual offenses are addictions like alcoholism. She said years later the desires can still exist, and sex offenders are likely to strike again.

"Sex offenders don't suddenly become non-sex offenders," Mills said. "They will rape up to 30-40 times before they get caught. They don't get cured of it; they have to learn to control it. Most don't, unless they are forced to by court ruling."

The requirement for public sex offender registries is nothing new. The Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act is an extension of Megan's Law, a law designed to notify people of sex offenders living in their area. Megan's Law was created after Megan Kanka of New Jersey was murdered by her neighbor, who no one knew was a convicted sex offender.

The Official State of Utah Sex Offender Registry Web site ( offers a searchable database of about 5,800 registered sex offenders living in Utah with information including the person's name, aliases, age, description, picture, address, make of vehicle, crime convicted of and potential target victims. There are 20 registered sex offenders under the zip code 84606.

"The state has had this database accessible for years. The difference is now it tells us that the individual is not only on the list, he's a student or employee at BYU," said Lt. Greg Barber, manager of administrative services.

There is a concern for protecting the sex offender's right to privacy and opportunity to change.

"While I think it's important to make the names of sex offenders available to potential victims, I think it's a shame the law isn't allowed to be more Atonement-like and forgiving of the incident," said Harley King, 23, a senior from Greeley, Colo., majoring in biochemistry.

Scott McGregor, 23, a junior from Apple Valley, Minn., majoring in linguistics said while he's very opposed to sexual criminals, he thinks everyone deserves a second chance.

"I think it's a massive invasion of privacy and denies the culminations of individual repentance," McGregor said.

Other students disagree.

"I don't think it's an invasion of their privacy at all because it was their wrong," Palmer said. "They invaded someone else's privacy in the first place."

Megan's Law requires sex offenders to register within 10 days of moving into a new state or community every year for 10 years after the end of their sentence. Part of registering includes stating intentions of employment or enrollment at an institution of higher education.

The Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act dictates that as soon as information about a sex offender enrolling at an institution is received by the state, the information must be given to the institution's law enforcement agency. The institution must then make that information available to the student body.

According to Machelle Rodriguez, program manager for Utah Sex Offender Registration Program, the state will provide institutions of higher education's police departments with a notice stating the sex offender's name, date of birth, affiliation with institution, approximate start date at the institution and how to obtain more information through the state Web site.

"I think it brings awareness to the institutions and agencies that this is a population you need to watch for," Rodriguez said. "The information is available if you want to check somebody."

There are no requirements of the institutions as to how the information should be provided, only that it be accessible to students who request it. BYU will make the list available in the campus police office in the administration building. Any member of the public can view the list upon request. Beyond that, Barber said he's unsure what measures of notification the police department will take.

"If there are people on the list such that it would be in the best interest of the university to make notification of them, then we will deal with that," Barber said. "We'll just have to wait and see what's on the list."

Possibilities for notification could include contacting the sex offenders' neighbors through mail or door-to-door visits. If necessary, the list might be made accessible online from the BYU Web site.

The definition of sex offenders covers everything from streaking to child molestation. Barber said the Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act deals with the more serious sex crimes, specifically those dealing with children. He said he doesn't predict BYU's list to be very long compared to other universities because of BYU's standards.

"Obviously any sex crime would be a violation of honor code and the student could be kicked out," Barber said.

Barber said he thinks the BYU application process, including the ecclesiastical endorsement, would naturally screen out individuals who might be on the registry.

Jenny Evanson, 22, a senior from Seattle, Wash., majoring in psychology said she has the right to know and would be interested in looking at the list.

"I think it's an unfortunate means to a just end," Evanson said. "I would like to know who the people are, not to be vindictive, not to be vengeful, but to be informed - to be safe."

Mills said the registry is not an invasion of privacy but a consequence of a choice.

"They (sex offenders) gave up their rights when they made a conscious decision to victimize another person," Mills said. "The victim did not get a choice, and yet she has to live with that for the rest of her life. The sex offender has to live with those consequences too."

Mills said maybe 10 to 15 percent of the rape survivors they deal with are BYU students.

"BYU does not have a lot of the same problems as other schools because there aren't alcohol and fraternities," she said. "But it still happens at BYU, and it's usually an acquaintance rape and unfortunately we don't always know about it."

Mills said she thinks many students don't report sex crimes because they are afraid the details of the situation could get them kicked out of BYU.

"A lot of cases we see have involved alcohol or happen in the bedroom - both being against the honor code," Mills said. "But you need to report them. The police need to know so they can help."

Mills worries about the naivety of women at BYU. She said most sex offenders represent themselves as really nice guys as part of the grooming process used to set up victims.

"Girls at BYU take these guys at face value," Mills said. "They think because he's LDS and he served a mission and he can quote a few scriptures that he's the one. You still have to use common sense and risk reduction to keep yourself safe."

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