Newly created sex offense management board looking into issues with Utah’s registry
Nov 1, 2023, 10:36 PM | Updated: Nov 2, 2023, 1:52 pm
SALT LAKE CITY — What might have looked like any other public meeting at the Utah Capitol Wednesday was actually a new step forward for the state, according to Dr. Michele Leslie.
“We’re one of the few states who have some kind of management board,” she said. “And it is a really big step for this state.”
Wednesday’s meeting was the second public meeting of Utah’s newly created Sex Offense Management Board.
The Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice hired Leslie, a doctor of psychology with years of experience in sex offense management, to serve as the board’s director.
“This is just a population that has kind of been, not so much pushed aside, but not really discussed or focused on until something potentially big happens … and then it might die down,” Leslie said. “The creation of this board is so that we can make sure that it doesn’t die down that we continue to move forward.”
The board is designed to be made up of 18 criminal justice stakeholders, including a victim advocacy representative and an individual previously convicted of a sex offense who has successfully completed supervision and treatment. The goal is to make sure everyone has a seat at the table as they craft policy recommendations for the Utah Legislature.
“We want to make sure that we’re implementing evidence-based policies — that we’re really listening to what not only the public concerns, hopes, and wants are, but also those who are in this population (of sex offenders) as well,” Leslie said.
The board’s early priorities include digging into issues with the state’s online Sex Offender and Kidnap Registry and sex offense treatment in Utah.
A recent KSL Investigation revealing more than 100 convicted sex offenders missing from Utah’s registry and prompting an internal audit by the Utah Department of Corrections was also on Wednesday’s agenda.
“When that came out, I think one or two victims called me and they were concerned,” said Davis County prosecutor Tony Graf. “And as prosecutors, we definitely talked about it, and so I think it’s a natural concern people have.”
Board members noted they’ve already created a subcommittee to look into issues with the registry. That subcommittee is also exploring a request from lawmakers to consider changes to how the registry works – specifically, the idea of implementing a risk-based registry. Some legislators are interested in using risk assessments to help determine who should be on the registry and for how long.
“The goal of the board is to be like, is the current system that we have with the registry, is that the most appropriate with this population, or is something different a better way to go,” Leslie said. “We’re really trying to make Utah a safe place to live, and that really is our ultimate goal with this board.”
The board is set to meet again in early January and will meet more regularly during the 2024 legislative session in order to provide feedback on proposed legislation.
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