No state is as open as it could be in informing the public about the presence of convicted sex offenders in the neighborhood, new University of Florida research finds.
Indiana was rated the best state in providing information about sex offenders on the Internet while Hawaii, Nebraska and South Dakota were rated the least forthcoming by the Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project in UF?s College of Journalism and Communications. Florida was rated 35th.
?Parents can look at the project?s Web site and say ?this is a state that provides more information than anyone else? or ?these states don?t provide information,? said Bill Chamberlin, director of the Citizen Access Project and Joseph Brechner Eminent Scholar of Freedom of Information. ?We tracked distribution of sex offender information because it was the subject of a recent Supreme Court opinion and we knew it was a topic a lot of citizens are interested in.?
The UF project is the first to systematically rate state laws on the accessibility to information about sex offenders, Chamberlin said.
States were ranked on a scale of one to seven, with one being ?completely closed? and seven being ?completely open.? Indiana rated a five, ?somewhat open.? While no state received a rating of one, the three lowest ? Hawaii, Nebraska and South Dakota ? scored a two and were described as ?mostly closed.? Florida, where there has been several highly publicized cases involving sex offenders in recent years, rated a ?four,? which is ?neither more open nor more closed.?
Indiana, the state rated most open, requires sex offender information to be posted on-line with stringent language, such as ?must? or ?shall? instead of ?may,? said Courtney Barclay, a UF doctoral student in media law who helped prepare the Web site.