Sex offender registration fees are a bad idea.

Setting aside the constitutionality of charging individuals for the “privilege” of registering as a sex offender – something that’s not only involuntary but that all would certainly prefer not to do – and claiming it’s not a “penalty”, it’s a logistical nightmare.

Because of the public website and the stigma that comes with it, most registered sex offenders are either grossly underemployed or unemployed. Many of the collateral consequences of being a registrant are extremely expensive. Registrants are required, in most cases to cover the costs of items such as “treatment”, GPS monitoring and polygraphs. Because their housing options are so limited, they usually pay a premium just to put a roof over their head. In summary; they are broke!

So the state of Tennessee imposed a “fee” they intended to charge the registrants. Now, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, is discovering why that was a bad idea. According to a report presented by Comptroller Justin P. Wilson to legislators on the state Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee, it cost the bureau an estimated $419,400 in collections, accounting and administering the fee!

How many registrants do you think can afford to pay the $150 fee? For a state that has just over 20,000 registrants, you have to wonder whether this fee scheme turned out to be as good an idea as planned.

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