The Jackson County Commissioners plan to discuss creating an annual fee for work associated with maintaining the county’s sex offender registry.
The three board members will meet at 9 a.m. today in the courthouse annex to discuss establishing an ordinance.
Lt. Adam Nicholson, who took over the registry maintenance at the sheriff’s department in February after Lt. Andy Wayman retired, brought the idea to the attention of commissioners during a recent meeting.
Nicholson told commissioners the state allows counties to charge $50 annually and $5 for each address change to help offset some costs the sheriff’s department accrues while maintaining the list.
He said he discovered the fee while preparing for the transition to take over the registry from Wayman. Officer Rob Henley, who still works for the department, also helped Wayman.
While preparing for the transition, Nicholson read through the Indiana Criminal Code and found a county can charge sex offenders a fee.
He called several counties in the area including Bartholomew, Greene and Johnson and found each charged the maximum.
“I’d like to see us come up to speed with the other counties,” Nicholson said. “I think we’re in a position now where we can make it happen.”
He said that’s what motivated him to bring the idea up before commissioners.
Commissioners were receptive to the idea. Commissioner Drew Markel said he would like to see offenders pay their fees like those who serve sentences on probation.
“To me, it’s like it’s free to live in Jackson County as a sex offender right now, and I don’t want that to happen,” he said.
Nicholson said he spends about 20 hours a week confirming addresses, updating information, processing paperwork and traveling to homes to maintain the registry.
“I knew a little bit about the work that goes into the registry, but I didn’t know just how much was done,” he said. “That’s probably a minimum, and it has to be done, and it’s something very important for the sheriff’s department.”
Nicholson said he generally starts his day by uploading the sex offender registry to see who needs to be checked next as well as the checks that are approaching.
He then has to drive to the offender’s house, make sure their information is up to date and even take a new photo of them. That process takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
Offenders also have to let him know if they plan to shave a beard or get a tattoo.
“If they do any changes at all, from changing addresses and having a new person move into their home to getting a new car or shaving a beard, they have to let me know,” he said last week while driving to a home to conduct a visit. “There’s all kinds of things they have to do if they change something.”
The frequency for which Nicholson has to check in with them is determined by the seriousness of their crime and their sentence.
Nicholson said there are 74 sex offenders in the county, but that fluctuates as they move in and out of the county. About 70% of those are sexually violent predators, he said.
Sexually violent predators, which are determined by a psychiatrist during court proceedings, have to be checked every 90 days.
Some of the lesser crimes require an annual check.
“Those are people who the court has determined are not likely to repeat the crime again,” Nicholson said. “All the crimes are bad and serious, though.”
Nicholson said offenders are to let him know when they move. Other counties also let the department know when an offender plans to move into the county.
“If they’re in say, Greene County, then they’d have to go to their sex offender officer and tell them, and then Greene County would change their address, which would send me a notification,” he said.
Nicholson said the situations are not too hostile, and most understand the process.
“Most of them comply with what we ask of them,” he said, adding he already has arrested four this year for noncompliance or violations. “The ones who don’t, then we put back in jail for violation of their registration.”
Nicholson said he would like to see the state allow counties to increase the fee even more.
“The fee amount has not been reviewed since 2009,” he said. “Maybe the state can up it because $50 seems cheap.”
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View the local sex offender registry by logging onto sheriffalerts.com/cap_office_disclaimer.php?office=54996.