For years now, it's been easy to see if a sex offender lives near you -- an online database of registered offenders addresses has been publicly available since 1997.
Now, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has also made it easy to see if a sex offender is going to school with you -- or volunteering or employed there -- by adding a new "university search" function on its website.
This year, legislators have convened special meetings and proposed increased monitoring of sex offenders -- especially after the Sun Sentinel ran a series of stories about reoffenders who served time, were released, and then committed additional rapes and murders.
But a few lone voices, like the ACLU and the Florida Action Committee, have cautioned against knee-jerk reactions and overreaching legislation, arguing that there are varying degrees of severity among sex crimes (i.e., for 20-somethings caught in statutory rape cases), but the lifetime stigma attached to all offenders can make it difficult for them to ever reintegrate with society and live productive lives. Others have argued that the public's right to know about criminals in its midst supersedes concerns about the offenders' civil rights.
In any case, the FDLE's new search function allows people to search for offenders at dozens of public and private institutions. A cursory search shows that there's one offender each at Florida Atlantic University and Palm Beach State College and none at Broward College and Nova Southeastern University. Search the database here.
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