HB149: Utah may get new child abuser registry

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The American flag flies above the Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Utah Legislature is one of the more conservative state legislatures in the country. (Porter Chelson)

Proposed bill HB149 would create a new child abuse offender registry similar to the current sex offender registry. If it passes, felons convicted of child abuse, child endangerment and human trafficking would have to register with the Department of Corrections.

The registry will function like the state’s sex offender registry, an online database that allows the public to search a list of sex offenders in their area with the offenders’ crimes and addresses.

Rep. Derrin Owens, R-Fountain Green, sponsored the bill. Owens works as a school counselor at Juab High School and said he sees the effects of unchecked child abuse in teenagers.

Owens calls HB149 “Miley’s Bill” after Miley White. The 3-year-old was abused and almost killed by her father and now suffers from shaken baby syndrome.

“I’ve always wondered why you have a registry for sexual offenses and not for other child abuse,” Owens said. “They don’t have a voice without adults looking out for them.”

Jennifer Weindorf, deputy compact administrator for the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision, said both adults and juveniles can be added to the sex offender registry, depending on the offense. She said offenders can get on the list if they’re “incarcerated, under supervision or have completed supervision depending on the crime.”

Owens added that the child abuser registry would be similar to the sex offender registry in that the only people who would go on the child abuser registry would be those who have committed felonies and are currently incarcerated or on probation or parole.

Once an offender’s parole or probation is up they are eligible — but not guaranteed — to come off the list depending on their specific case. First degree felons will be on the list for life, like Miley’s father.

Although the new registry would operate on its own website, it would use the same database and format as the sex offender registry, saving taxpayers from the cost of a new database.

BYU student Mackenzie Sinclair, 22, said she has reservations about the bill.

“I feel like CPS probably checks in on families that have had a history of problems and having all the neighbors know would probably have a negative effect on the children, not a positive one,” Sinclair said.

According to Provo City crime reports there have been at least two incidents of sexual abuse of a child reported within just a few miles of BYU in the last month.

Owens said he hopes the registry will save children from abuse.

“We won’t know how many, but if it saves even one, it’s worth it,” Owens said.

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