Meth Offender Registry Stirs Debate in Tennessee

A database listing the names of people convicted of methamphetamine crimes in Tennessee is angering critics who say the money would be better spent on treatment.

Just like a sex-offender database, the Meth Offender Registry Database allows viewers to click on any county in Tennessee and a list with the full names and dates of birth of meth offenders instantly comes up on screen.

Any person convicted of "initiation of methamphetamine manufacture" or "manufacture of methamphetamine" must be registered on the database, according to the Meth-Free Tennessee Act of 2005.  The act was backed by Gov. Phil Bredesen (D-TN). 

A spokesperson for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said she could not comment on how effective the registry has been, but says it cost the state between $30,000 and $40,000 to build the website.

"It's a bad use of resources," says Marc Mauer, Executive Director of the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy nonprofit group that promotes alternatives to incarceration. "You can hire a counselor in a drug clinic for that for a year."

Critics are outraged and deem the database both stigmatizing and ineffective. Many question why the registry singles out meth as opposed to another drug or felony convictions.

But members of Tennessee's Meth Task Force created the registry in hopes that it would help curb the state's growing meth problem. Tennessee has one of the largest meth problems in the country.

The database allows neighbors, landlords and anyone else to see who in their community has been convicted of producing or trafficking meth. Meth labs often create a toxic environment in the home or area where the meth is being made. Many of the ingredients used to make meth often explode. Law enforcement hopes the registry will deter those from making the drug as well as trafficking it.

Click here to access the Meth Offender Registry Database.

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