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February 20, 2006
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U.S. state plans to put faces of convicted sex offenders on billboard ads

The Associated Press

JACKSON, Mississippi- The state of Mississippi plans to plaster the names and faces of convicted sex offenders on billboard advertisements along local highways.

Sex offenders, particularly those who prey on minors, may soon adorn as many as 100 state-wide advertisements in an attempt to make the public aware of their crimes, said Don Taylor, head of the state Department of Human Services

"So, if you want to get your name and face in high places, get convicted," he told The Clarion-Ledger newspaper.

The agency hopes to have as many as 100 billboards ready by summer with images and names of sex offenders who are currently in prison. The signs will include details about what the prisoners were convicted of.

Taylor is in the process of creating a memorandum of agreement that would require the Department of Health to report cases of statutory rape back to him. The Health Department would track the information as it came in on birth certificates.

Then Taylor would provide that information to prosecutors, and if they pass on the case, it would go to the attorney general's office.

In Mississippi, 16-year-olds are allowed to legally consent to sex, but the state has had young mothers between the ages of 10 and 15 years old.

The billboards are not designed to shame or further penalize offenders, but are meant to combat the state's social pathologies.

Nsombi Lambright, heads of the American Civil Liberties Union in Mississippi, said the billboards will be a waste of money.

"Why is it necessary to put them on billboards if they're already serving?" she asked.

"If they have criminal charges before them, the information is public, the victims are notified. ... The people already know in these communities who these folks are once they're arrested."

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