Sentence does not end with prison release for Athens’ sex offenders

Following a prison stint, sex offenders must register their addresses and check in with the county sheriff’s office regularly for at least 10 years — there are more than 70 Athens County residents who fall into this category.

Each convicted offender must report on a different schedule based on his or her offense. In each respective county, the sheriff’s office is responsible for keeping track of the sex offenders that live there, said Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly.

“Each level (of sex offender) has to report at different times on where they live and if they’ve moved. All of that is handled by my warrants division,” Kelly said.

Teresa Kirkendall, the head of the Civil and Warrants division of the sheriff’s office, handles the tracking and reporting procedures for Athens County’s 74 sexual offenders.

Nelsonville has the most sex offenders in Athens County with 19, followed by Athens with 17 and Glouster with 12, according to Ohio’s online sex offender registry.

Athens falls in the middle in terms of the number of sex offenders compared to other college towns of a similar size. Bowling Green has 25 registered sex offenders while Oxford has eight.

Of the 17 sex offenders living within the city of Athens, the most common charge was gross sexual imposition with five offenders. Sexual imposition and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor were the second most common charges with three offenders each.

Under Megan’s Law, those convicted of a sexual offense must report their address to the sheriff’s office on a schedule that differs depending on the offense.

“Most offenders were sentenced under Megan’s Law and have to follow those guidelines,” Kirkendall said.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which went into effect in 2009, lengthened the time offenders under the first two classifications, used for lesser offenses, had to report to authorities.

The law, passed in 2006, mandated that every state create a public record of sex offenders. For Ohio, the sexual offender registry is available as a database on Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s website.

In addition to reporting to law enforcement, about 70 percent of sex offenders are not allowed to have any contact with children because they committed their offense against a child, said Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn.

Blackburn said his office does not play a role in tracking sex offenders, but it does bring up cases against sex offenders who fail to register.

“If sex offenders don’t register they could go back to prison,” Blackburn said. “For repeat offenders it is worse. We could also revoke judicial release or change their parole.”

Tracking sex offenders and making their information public is a necessary public service, said Kelly.

“We want to know where they are and compile the necessary information,” he said.

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