Lawmaker Wants to End Secret Sex-Offender Registry
You could have a sex offender living right next door to you, and you have no way of finding out.
But that may soon be about to change, thanks to a NewsChannel 5 investigation.
Investigative reporter Jennifer Kraus first brought this to the public's attention.
Last summer, she exposed how a loophole in Tennessee law was allowing sex offenders from other states to move here and keep their past convictions secret.
But the lawmaker who has worked hard to get information about sex offenders to the public now has introduced legislation to close the loophole we discovered.
If you go to Tennessee's online sex offender registry, you might think you'll find all of the sex offenders who live here in the Volunteer State.
But a NewsChannel 5 investigation last summer found hundreds of sex offenders - convicted rapists and child molesters on other states' registries who listed Tennessee addresses, but were nowhere to be found on Tennessee's registry.
State Sen. Doug Jackson told us, "What Channel 5 showed us is we still had some more work to do."
The Democrat from Dickson has long worked to protect Tennesseans from sex offenders, like Jerry Inman, who spent time in prison for rape in both Florida and North Carolina and then moved to Tennessee. That's when police say he sexually assaulted three more women.
Shortly after Inman was arrested last summer, Jefferson County Sheriff David Davenport told NewsChannel 5, "First time, he fondled. Next time, he raped. Third time, he killed."
Inman, we found, was listed on two other states' sex offender websites, but not Tennessee's.
But we found that he could keep his past record from the public the way the law was written in Tennessee.
Jackson says of sex offenders, "We want them to know they can't hide from their past."
He is now pushing to close the loophole we discovered.
"If you're on a sex offender registry in any state, regardless of your date of conviction, when you move to Tennessee, you have to register," he adds.
Jackson also wants to make Tennessee's sex offender registry entirely open to the public.
The way it works now, if you committed a sex crime before July 1997, your registry information is only available to police and other law enforcement, not the general public.
"I think it's important," he says, "that if we're going to have a registry where people look at the sex offender registry, they can be assured that it's complete."
According to the TBI, there are 9,843 total sex offenders registered in Tennessee. But only 4,496 are on the public registry.
That means there are nearly 5,000 registered sex offenders in Tennessee whose information would become public under Jackson's bill.
As far as sex offenders from other states, the TBI says it's tough to know how many are living here and not listed on our registry.
But, at least in our search, we found hundreds of them.
Jackson's bill was one of the first filed in this new legislative session.
He tells NewsChannel 5 he expects it to pass without a problem.
Click here to check Tennessee's sex offender registry.