Missouri lawmakers have another chance to create a violent offender registry

Creation of a violent offender registry has been reintroduced in the Missouri General Assembly. 

According to state Rep. Lane Roberts, R-Joplin, individuals convicted of first- and second-degree murder would be placed on a list similar to today’s sex offender registry. Roberts told The Heartlander his push comes after hearing a sinister story from one of his constituents before being elected to office.

The constituent’s sister had been murdered by someone who was on parole for second-degree murder. The murderer committed the crime in the state of Tennessee but came to Missouri via the interstate compact for parole and probation. 

“Like many homicide convictions, his was the result of a plea offering where he was initially charged with first-degree murder,” Roberts said. “There was no mechanism by which she could have determined what his background is.”

The state representative says he made a promise to that constituent to never stop fighting until the bill passes or he terms out.

“I feel strongly about the need to live up to my promise to her, because I think she is not alone in how she feels about this.”

The bill passed the House last year but wasn’t taken up by the Senate. Roberts feels good about the bill’s chances this year, noting it makes it a little further along in the legislative process each time it has been introduced. 

“It’s not an accusation. It’s a conviction; they were on parole for it. When most of us could probably shoot someone, as an example in self defense or in defense of someone else, most of us would have to overcome the moral hurdle of knowing we were taking a life but we could do it. When someone commits a homicide for reasons other than self defense or defense of others, they have done something the rest of us simply can’t or won’t do. 

“It is a character issue. It’s nothing that lends itself well to rehabilitation.”

Roberts says a violent offender registry would be cost-effective and wouldn’t be labor-intensive. The Department of Probation and Parole would simply notify the Missouri State Highway Patrol to submit the criminal’s name into the registry. 

“If you said there were 300 people on the registry in a year, that means you would have to make an entry once a day. It gives people the opportunity to know who they are allowing their children to spend the night with in a family or who is living next door, who they want to associate with in business or who they want to hire.”

Roberts has introduced the bill every year since his election in 2018. Prior to becoming a state representative, Roberts served as director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety and chief of police in Joplin.

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