Democrats have proposed a new bill, HB 2177, advocating for “person-first” language when addressing violent sex offenders to destigmatize them. Among the changes, the bill proposes renaming the Sex Offender Policy Board (SOPB) to the Sex Offense Policy Board. The legislation further allows convicted sex offenders, including Level 3 offenders, to join the board, along with victims of sex crimes. The bill’s proponent, State Rep. Tarra Simmons, a Democrat with a criminal record, argues that the lived experiences of sex offenders are “invaluable” to guide the board.
Simmons, during a House Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry hearing, defended the inclusion of a sex offender on the board, emphasizing diversity in the legislature. The SOPB, originally intended for sex offender management to protect communities, has shifted its focus towards advocating for sex offenders. While Simmons and SOPB leaders argue for the importance of including different perspectives, Republican State Rep. Dan Griffey questions why the board should “advocate” for sex offenders.
The bill promotes a “person-first” approach, extending even to the board’s title, aiming to treat sex offenders equally to their victims. Critics argue that person-first language, traditionally used for the disabled, has been extended inappropriately to downplay or whitewash the crimes of sex offenders. It has even been associated with attempts to normalize terms like “Minor-Attracted Persons” instead of “child molester” or “pedophile.”
Democrats in Washington are pushing for the destigmatization of sex offenders as part of a broader campaign. They have been attempting to release dangerous pedophiles into communities, implementing Less Restrictive Alternatives (LRAs) and passing legislation to distribute conditionally-released sexually violent predators across the state. Last year, the SOPB recommended ending a rule prohibiting LRAs from being placed within 500 feet of a childcare facility, asserting that there is no significant risk associated with such proximity. Critics argue that Democrats’ efforts raise concerns about public safety and the prioritization of sex offenders over victims.