Ohio may set up database for violent offenders

Bill has passed the General Assembly and is now in the hands of Gov. Kasich

Ohio lawmakers have approved the creation of a statewide database of violent offenders under legislation named for a college student who disappeared while bicycling and was abducted and slain.

The bill named for Sierah Joughin and known as “Sierah’s Law” was approved recently and will take effect if it is signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich.

The legislation first introduced in the state Senate by Republican Sen. Randy Gardner would require the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to implement and maintain a registry keeping track of people convicted of violent crimes such as murder and abduction. Violent offenders would have to register their address and other information once they’re released from prison.

The 20-year-old Joughin was abducted and killed in 2016 in northwest Ohio’s Fulton County. Her body was found three days after she was last seen bicycling near her home.

James Worley, who was convicted of kidnapping and aggravated murder in Joughin’s death, had been convicted previously of abducting another woman riding a bicycle.

Worley lived very close to where Joughin went missing, “but law enforcement had no way of knowing it at the time,” Gardner told the Sandusky Register.

The statewide database will be for use by law enforcement in investigations. The Blade in Toledo reports that the database won’t be available online for the public to search like the sex offender registry, but the public could get portions of the information from the registry at their county sheriff’s office.

The Ohio House last week voted unanimously to approve the legislation. The bill passed the Senate by a 24-3 vote.

The Buckeye Sheriffs’ Association, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Joughin’s family all supported the bill.

The (Bowling Green) Sentinel-Tribune reported that Republican state Rep. Theresa Gavarone presented the legislation on the Ohio House Floor and spoke in support of it.

“Out of this tragedy, we’ve learned that Ohio law could be changed to provide better information for law enforcement and the opportunity for citizens to better protect themselves by knowing where convicted violent felons live,” Gavarone said.

Some critics who testified on the bill contended that such databases can create obstacles for people trying to re-enter society after serving their prison sentences.

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