Colorado eyes changing controversial ‘sex offender’ term

Written by Allyssia Alleyne, CNN A Colorado state board will hold a public meeting this month to discuss ending the controversial “sex offender” term in its 12-year-old juvenile justice codes. At the meeting, scheduled…

Colorado eyes changing controversial 'sex offender' term

Written by Allyssia Alleyne, CNN

A Colorado state board will hold a public meeting this month to discuss ending the controversial “sex offender” term in its 12-year-old juvenile justice codes.

At the meeting, scheduled for January 23, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Commission will vote on whether to adopt a proposal to remove the term, to be replaced with “adolescent offender” instead.

A more precise policy on how to address Colorado’s juvenile sexual offenders will follow in February.

The commission, which was created in 2006, now includes seven members of the public as well as law enforcement, lawyers and judges. The governing board reports to the state attorney general.

Some of the commission’s members spoke to CNN affiliate KCNC last month, saying they hoped to get rid of the term by 2020.

“We don’t think it’s right to put young children on a sex offender registry,” said Arthur Schmitt, a former prosecutor who now is a commissioner. “We don’t think it’s right to give them such a harsh punishment when they’re a very young child.”

Several state lawmakers have supported the change. Colorado Republican Rep. Daneya Esgar told the affiliate that sex offenders “shouldn’t just be called ‘sex offenders.’ They’re teenagers.”

One of the group’s other key proposals is to require quarterly, rather than annual, criminal and juvenile court appearances for most juvenile offenders.

In an effort to help find foster homes for juvenile offenders, another proposal would create a behavioral evaluation program to guide prosecutors and judges regarding certain juveniles.

A spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Corrections said the state hadn’t received any official feedback from the commission yet and could not say how a change in how Colorado identifies its juvenile sex offenders would affect sex offenders in its adult prisons.

Brian Zubke, a spokesperson for the Office of the Colorado Attorney General, said in an email that the term “sexual offender” would remain in Colorado’s criminal code.

The state’s civil rights department and Department of Juvenile Justice said they had not heard any feedback on the subject from the commission.

But Laura Chapin, executive director of the ACLU of Colorado, said the commission has been meeting regularly for years.

She said the “critical issue” facing the group is whether the state would make sure its sex offenders reflect societal norms.

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