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Corporal monitors area sex offenders
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The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office maintains a registry and information about sex offenses on its Web site:
For questions about the sex offender registry, Cpl. Shonda Fletcher can be reached from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday at 876-5444.
Cpl. Shonda Fletcher is a “party of one,” keeping track of nearly 100 registered sex offenders in Liberty County, but available resources, regular communication with each person and the flexibility to make in-person visits allow her to keep a close eye on sex offenders under her supervision.
“I have everything I need, and what I don’t have, the sheriff makes sure I can get it,” Fletcher said. “He gives me the flexibility to do what I can to enforce the law.”
Under Georgia law, persons living in the county who must register as sex offenders are required to meet with Fletcher in person within 72 hours of being released from prison or just after moving into the area from another county or state. Additionally, offenders must re-register every year 72 hours before their birthday, Fletcher said.
The process of registering people mostly involves paperwork, but it is essential information that allows Fletcher to make sure offenders are abiding by the terms of their parole as well as the law. “It takes about an hour to an hour-and-a-half to get all the pertinent information” such as residence address, phone number and place of employment, she said.
Knowing who will come up for release gives Fletcher time to check the information that’s already in the system, she said, but newcomers take more time to verify. “I have some that are released and some that just walk in off the street. It’s [a matter of] running criminal histories,” she said. “It’s a longer process if they come in without paperwork.”
The number of sex offenders in Liberty County has increased since Fletcher began working with them in 2002, something she said is partly due to the law and partly to the climbing release rate.
Georgia’s sex offender law was modified in 2006 and became one of the strictest laws in the nation to address sex-related crimes. Offenders must register for life and if one relocates to a state that has weaker laws, generally that state will defer to Georgia’s requirements, Fletcher said.
Fletcher stays updated on related laws and procedures by attending an annual statewide conference sponsored by the Georgia Sheriff’s Conference.
Georgia law prohibits offenders from living or working within 1,000 feet of a day-care, nursing home, school, playground or place where minors congregate. Fletcher said this rule often puts offenders in more rural parts of the county, but because she herself is a Liberty County resident, she can still check on their physical whereabouts with relative ease. “I go out three times a year, minimum, verifying their information,” she said. “The good thing is I reside here. They never know where I may pop up.”
Additionally, offenders who are still on probation are prohibited from living with one another. Add this to the requirement that they must update changes in addresses, places of employment, roommate situations and phone numbers and Fletcher is in near-constant contact with her charges.
Fletcher has few troublemakers under her supervision. In fact, the majority make sure they stay on her radar. “I dispel any ideas [of causing trouble] at the initial interview,” she said. “Some let me know what their day-to-day movements are,” Fletcher said. “Most offenders stick to what they have provided in terms of information. I have a good bond with all my people. They call me with their concerns.”
For the few who do leave, or abscond, Fletcher and the sheriff’s department work closely with U.S. Marshals and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to track down missing offenders and apprehend them.
She said she currently doesn’t have any warrants out for people on her registry, though on the most recent registry five people are listed as absconded; one is deceased but until her office obtains the death certificate they can’t remove the offender’s name from the list, Fletcher explained.
The last offender, Fletcher recalled, who absconded and had a warrant issued was apprehended in New York a few years ago. He was found rather quickly “once U.S. Marshals got involved,” she said. 
Fletcher understands and sometimes hears the concerns of residents who know or want to know whether they are living near registered sex offenders. “There’s no easy way to gauge the public,” she said. “If a case makes headlines in another state, I may get a few phone calls, but there’s really nothing the public can do.”
The registered sex offenders living in Liberty County have a variety of convictions; there’s no single concentration of any one offense. In cases where out-of-state offenders move to Georgia, the originating state may label that offense differently.
Fletcher said she strives to help citizens understand that the sex offender law casts a wide net, and though most people think of child molesters when they hear “sex offender,” “that’s one drop in a big bucket. It’s a broad spectrum.”
“If the public has concerns, I can answer general questions about the registry or a person on the registry” without giving out an offenders personal details, she said. “By no means do I want to downplay concerns—if you have a statutory rapist, they are monitored, but I really monitor the sex offenders who are child molesters.”
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