In Shift, CO Panel Tables Plan to Drop 'Sex Offender' Term

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Tuesday, December 21, 2021 - 7:48am

Under pressure from the governor and the state's public safety director, Colorado's Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB) reversed its controversial November decision to scrap the term "sex offenders" in favor of "adults who commit sexual offenses." The board voted 16-2 last Friday to "table" the language change and refer it back to a subcommittee. It's possible the board will votes again to change terminology, but the tabling means it's not likely to happen anytime soon, reports the Denver Post. Last month, the board voted 10-6 to stop using "sex offenders" in its own principles and policies. The board controls treatment standards for people convicted of sex offenses. Changing the language would not have affected treatment or management policies. Still, it was hailed by supporters as an important step away from labels and toward "person-first" language that research shows can improve rehabilitation prospects.

The board then opened a public comment period. The language change was discussed on talk radio, on Fox News and in The Daily Caller, in addition to various Colorado outlets. More than 400 people submitted comment on the matter, an overwhelming number for a state board that tends to generate little public attention. Public defenders and people who have committed sexual offenses, plus their family members and advocates, were supportive of the change. Victim advocates and members of the general public opposed a language change. Law enforcement leaders opposed the change from the start. "The coddling from some of the offender-affiliated representatives was repugnant," tweeted Colorado sex assault survivor and motivational speaker Kimberly Corban. "This shift is offensive for those of us who have experienced victimization at the hands of sex offenders who don't like their 'label.'" Gov. Jared Polis said, "We must be wary not to normalize violent acts of sexual aggression or even give the appearance of normalizing such unacceptable behavior." 

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