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OK: Many sex offenders don't register correct address.

November 29, 2000

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- The addresses of half of the 3,731 sex offenders on a state Department of Corrections registry cannot be verified, according to a spokesman for the department.

Convicted sex offenders in Oklahoma have been required to provide annual address verification since 1997. But the department has verified the address of just 1,876 of the 3,731 offenders on the registry, said corrections spokesman Jerry Massie.

"The public expects it to be higher than that," Massie said.

Legislation creating the sex offender registry was passed in 1989 and has been modified several times, Massie said. Prior to 1997, offenders were required to register but verification was not required, he said.

"That accounts for a lot of the people who have failed to register or who are no longer at the address listed," Massie said.

He said other states have experienced similar problems. The problems in Oklahoma were first pointed out in a series of reports by Oklahoma City television station KWTV.

The department sends out letters to convicted sex offenders that cannot be forwarded, Massie said. For offenders classified as committing offenses that were habitual or aggravated, the address verification is done every 90 days, he said.

If the letter is returned or not answered, the department determines that the address has not been verified and notifies local law enforcement, he said.

Sex offenders also are required to register with local law enforcement agencies, but the state system and local system are not linked, Massie said.

Failing to register is a felony, he said. Some offenders have been prosecuted for failing to register, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

The number of addresses that could not be verified prompted corrections officials to meet last week with members of the Sheriffs Association and Association of Chiefs of Police to determine what steps can be taken to improve compliance, Massie said.

The department plans to survey local jurisdictions to see what type of resources they need and what obstacles are in the way of increasing accuracy.

About 10.7 percent of the 22,600 inmates who are in department custody are sex offenders, Massie said.

Source: Shawnee News-Star Online.