Colorado board to hold public meeting, plans to drop ‘sex offender’ term

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Colorado officials will vote Friday on whether or not to change the term for “sex offender” to “those who have been sexually abusive.” 

The state’s Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB) has explored a number of possible new terms, such as those “who commit sexual offenses,” “who engage in sexually abusive behavior” or “who are in treatment for engaging in sexually abusive behaviors.” 

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The board argued that research suggests the term “sex offender” creates “negative effects” during rehabilitation, the Denver Post reported. The main conclusion was that “person-first language” would help “facilitate change.” 

FILE—The State Capitol is shown in this file photograph taken Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

FILE—The State Capitol is shown in this file photograph taken Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

“The evidence is pretty conclusive that to use labels for people in a variety of areas, whether that’s in a sexual offense, or a learning disability, or other types of scenarios, that to label somebody actually makes outcomes worse rather than better,” said Chris Lobanov-Rostovsky, SOMB program manager. 

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District Attorney Michael Allen of Colorado Springs is against the proposal and insists the term should remain. Allen argued that the change would minimize the crime, KKTV reported.  

“Words have meaning and actions have consequences,” Allen said during a press conference. “Using the term sex offender recognizes the gravity of deviant sexual behavior committed against another person. This proposed change diminishes the harm done to victims of sex offenders.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks during a news conference about Colorado offering coronavirus vaccinations to children in Denver. Polis signed an executive order on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, to expand the use of booster shots to quell the recent surge in COVID-19 infections. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks during a news conference about Colorado offering coronavirus vaccinations to children in Denver. Polis signed an executive order on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, to expand the use of booster shots to quell the recent surge in COVID-19 infections. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

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Kimberly Kline, a licensed counselor and chair of the board, described it as a measure of “risk reduction.” She explained that the board listened to criticism from prosecutors and others on the matter. 

Kline has argued that the board is attempting to walk a “fine line” to make sure criminals remain accountable while trying to offer them a way towards rehabilitation. 

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Lawmakers tried earlier this year to pass a broad reform bill that would have updated state statute language on sexual offense, but the measure failed. 

The board will hold a public discussion on Friday before the vote, and Allen has warned that he will testify against the change. 

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