Albany-- Dozens of new state laws take effect this Friday. One of them will make it harder for sexual offenders to go unnoticed in your neighborhood.
House Bill 188 was signed by Governor Purdue back in May and requires the names of sex offenders and their pictures to be printed in local newspapers. Critics may say it just makes it harder for offenders to adjust to life outside of prison but most parents agree that when it comes to their children's safety, it's a step in the right direction.
Four-year-old Christian Gibson and seven-year-old Dajour Gibson play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on the xylophones at the park. It's an innocent nursery rhyme for innocent kids at play. "We have two and one on the way," says their parents Andrea and Marvin Gibson.
While the kids play, parents keep a watchful eye. "I'm really, really protective of them now. I'm overly protected. We don't let them go outside without us looking," says Andrea. The Gibsons feel it's a necessity these days with so many things happening to children from kidnappings to sexual molestation. "With the blink of an eye, anything can happen and so we don't want that to happen to our kids," says Marvin.
The government doesn't want anything to happen to them either so they're making sexual predators more visible to the public by putting them in print.
"I think that is wonderful. Anything that will help protect our children is a great thing," says Open Arms representative Fonda Strong.
Within two weeks of release from jail, a convicted sex offender's name, address, date and time of arrest along with a photograph will be displayed in the newspaper. This they hope will give families a way to know who's living next door and organizations like Open Arms some added comfort. "I think it's great that families know that there's predators living in their community," says Strong.
At Open Arms, she provides service to at least 200 kids a year, many of them victims of sexual abuse. She feels it's a good move for safety of the kids. Most parents agree. "I think that's a good idea. I think that's very good. That let's us know who's out there and lets us be on a lookout for stuff like that," says the Gibsons.
But whether or not it infringes on the offender's rights, "It may, but we have rights too," says Andrea. They feel they have the right to protect themselves and their children.
Not only will offenders have their pictures and information in the paper but they'll also have to pay for the cost of publication, a fee of $25.00. The bill passed unanimously in the General Assembly.