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Seattle attorney wants changes to sex offender registry

A Seattle attorney is asking for a review of Washington’s sex offender registration and notification system following the murders of two sex offenders this week in Clallam County.

At least one of the two men killed was a husband and a father. The crime that put him into the state sex offender registry happened ten years ago. He was categorized a level II offender, one being lowest risk, three being the highest.

Seattle attorney Brad Meryhew devotes his entire practice to defending accused and convicted sex offenders. He says it’s time to consider changes to Washington’s sex offender laws and the registry, which was the first of its kind in the nation back in 1990.

“At the time we created sex offender registries, there was a feeling that sex offenders were highly likely to re-offend, difficult to treat and that we needed to watch them for the rest of their lives,” said Meryhew. “The research since then has shown us that, in fact, they are very amenable to treatment, they are not nearly as likely to re-offend as we thought, in fact they are among the lowest risk of re-offense of any felony offense.”

Meryhew wants state policymakers to consider what he calls the collateral consequences of sex offender registration.

“Those are things like inability to find work, inability to find housing,” said Mayhew. “I think we need to ask ourselves, are we achieving any public safety through this and at what cost?”

The attorney concedes there are dangerous offenders out there. He supports sex offender registration for them.

“We’ve got 20,000 people on the sex offender registration roles and thousands of them committed these offenses many, many years ago when they were kids, and yet because they can’t get off of registration, they don’t have the resources to go in and fight the prosecutors in court. They stay on the roles and they live these dysfunctional lives,” said Meryhew.

The sex registry system lumps sex offenders together, despite the different alert levels, according to Meryhew.

“Some of them deserve to be in the system and it deserves to be a problem for them but what we always say is, are we hunting for sharks and killing dolphins?”

Meryhew will participate in a panel discussion on the sex offender registration and notification system before the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee later this month.

“I think to the extent that we reexamine the whole system and ask ourselves, are we vilifying people who really in fact pose little or no risk to our communities. Those are good questions to ask,” he said.

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