Local advocate Katie Strayhorn was recently re-elected to serve as chair of the state's Sex Offender Review Board for the second year.
In her first year chairing the panel, Strayhorn focused on several initiatives. She also worked closely with newly-elected state Rep. Kevin Tanner to propose legislation that would allow the board to review parole notes in assessing sex offenders.
"One of the first things I recognized in my work with SORRB was that we were missing a big piece of the puzzle by not being able to view the notes of these offenders' parole officers," Strayhorn said. "Parole officers are a wealth of information in regard to the behavior of sex offenders once they are released from incarceration."
Currently, state law prevents parole records from being subject to open records requests. New legislation would allow GBI analysts, who are attached to SORRB, access to parole records for purposes of assessing offender's risk for sexual recidivism, while still protecting the integrity of those records.
Strayhorn has been instrumental in the process, according to Tanner.
"We are fortunate to have someone like her serving in this extremely important role helping to keep our children safe," he said. "I have been working closely with her to draft legislation...that will enhance the Sex Offender Review Board's ability to perform their mandated responsibilities under the law."
Strayhorn also worked closely with the Prosecuting Attorney's Council to develop a method by which information can be shared about sex offenders electronically between local law enforcement, prosecutors and the board.
"The GBI has a wonderful new program that allows local law enforcement to view information about all registered sex offenders in the state. The Prosecuting Attorney's Council has a case tracking system that is used by many prosecutors' offices," Strayhorn said. "Bringing the two agencies together to be able to share information more easily between their respective systems will effectively change the way SORRB is able to gather comprehensive information on offenders that we are assessing."
Made up of victim advocates, law enforcement officers and clinicians, the 15-member board weighs the likelihood that a sexual offender will commit another crime.
A victim advocate for Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh, Strayhorn has served as director of victim services in the Dawson County office for 14 years.
The board also determines if offenders are considered a level one or two threat or a sexually dangerous predator.
Assessments are used by criminal justice professionals including law enforcement and members of the parole board or department of corrections. Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Strayhorn to the board in September 2011.
Strayhorn has a bachelor's degree in social work from Jacksonville State University and is a graduate of the National Victim Assistance Academy at the Medical University of South Carolina.
She also chairs the Dawson County Child Fatality Review Committee and the Dawson County Child Abuse Protocol Committee.