State Auditor: Sex Offender Registry has "Critical Errors"

By Steph Machado

Published 07/16 2014 06:31PM

Updated 07/16 2014 07:12PM

MONTPELIER - The results of a 7 month audit of Vermont's Sex Offender Registry call into question its reliability.

The audit released Wednesday morning says of the 2,340 total sex offenders in the state, 253 of the offenders had "critical errors" in their records. That's an 11% error rate.

"It has to be right," said State Auditor Doug Hoffer. "No system is going to be 100%, but there's a great deal of room for improvement here." There are no federal standards for sex offender error rates.

Hoffer's office did the same audit in 2010, and made recommendations to make the registry better.

"They did a little bit of that, then they let it go. And didn't implement all of the recommendations," he said.

The Vermont Crime Information Center runs the registry, and did implement a new data management system called OffenderWatch in 2013. Some of the errors--such as leaving an offender on the list too long--came from glitches within that new program.

"Any time you have a new technology platform roll-out, there is a certain amount of learning curve involved," said Jeffrey Wallin, the Director of the Vermont Crime Information Center. The center is under the umbrella of the Department of Public Safety.

The Commissioner for the Department of Corrections Andrew Pallito also responded to the audit with a statement: "I'm pleased with the progress the DOC has made to date, and the department will work to implement that [State Auditor's] recommendation.

Part of the purpose of the audit was to help the legislature determine if the registry is ready to publicly display addresses of sex offenders. The audit doesn't give an opinion on that matter.

Meantime, Hoffer suggests fixing communication issues and human error between the courts, Department of Corrections, and Department of Public Safety to help lower the error rate in the future.

"The leadership from the three departments have to make this a priority," Hoffer said. "And I think they will."

You can read the entire audit here.

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