ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A national convention about sex offenders is coming to Albuquerque to push for lighter punishment for sex crimes. But opponents, including Governor Susana Martinez, said we need the opposite.
Lloyd Swartz, 43, is president of the Reform Sex Offender Laws New Mexico. The husband and father is also a convicted sex offender.
In 1987, the then-17-year-old Swartz was convicted of sexual assault for an incident in Texas. He spent ten years on probation. But in 2000, New Mexico laws changed to force all sex offenders to register with the Department of Public Safety, even those like Swartz who served out his probation long before. Swartz will need to stay registered for another 13 years, nearly forty years after his "youthful mistake."
"It is immoral to create laws that punish people in perpetuity even though they've served out their sentence," said Swartz.
Next month, like-minded advocates from all over the country will come to Albuquerque to try to do just that.
They want to change sex offender laws to have the online registry only available to law enforcement. They're also pushing to remove names of offenders once they complete their probation and to prohibit the state from forcing convicted offenders from registering retroactively.
"It's a violation of human rights to continue to humiliate, tear down and destroy families forever," said Swartz.
Governor Martinez, a former prosecutor, calls the proposals outrageous.
"The Governor is outraged to think that anyone would want to limit the rights of parents to know when sex offenders may be around their children," said spokesman Scott Darnell. "As a career prosecutor of heinous child abuse and sex abuse cases, the Governor believes that our sex offender registration laws need to become more strict - not less - and move fully into compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Act."
Parents also said they deserve to know who is living next door.
"I should be able to make a conscious decision of where I am allowing my kids to play and who I am letting them play around, even if it was 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 50 years ago," said parent Ariana Brown.
The legislature has tried to pass laws that reform the state's sex offender laws, but they either never made it out of committee or were vetoed by the governor.
Swartz said the current registry laws don't make the community safer and only victimize innocent family members.
"I have a wife and I have two small children, and of course, one of my big concerns is how this is affecting them," said Swartz. "In a couple years, my kids will be in school. How's this going to affect them in school? Are they going to be bullied and badgered and tortured for something that I did long ago and can't make go away?"
The annual RSOL conference will be held Sept. 6-9 at the Ramada Inn near I-40 and Eubank. Organizers expect more than 100 people from around the country.
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