It's not exactly a scarlet letter, but a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Web site is being used to shame people who have been caught making and selling crystal meth.
When 39-year-old Stacey Gore was convicted of possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell, she not only received over three years at the Shelby County Correctional Center and a hefty fine, her name was also added to a public list of meth offenders.
Much like the mandatory sex-offender registry, the TBI's Meth Offender Registry is a list of convicted meth cooks and dealers posted on the TBI's Web site, www.tbi.gov.
"Just as sex offenders are deemed to be a public threat, so are meth makers," said TBI spokesperson Jennifer Johnson. "We know the chemicals used to make meth are very volatile. So the governor's task force on methamphetamine came up with the idea to start this registry to inform citizens about potential meth cooks who may be living in their neighborhoods."
Unlike the sex-offender registry, the meth registry does not contain addresses. Citizens concerned about meth cooks in their community would have to know their neighbors' names for the list to do much good.
Johnson said addresses were excluded because many offenders on the list are currently in jail. Meth cooks and users also tend to have a more transient nature, making it hard to pin down their location.
"They may be living with a friend or in an apartment or rental property. In this case, it's more important to know who the person is rather than their address," said Johnson.
The registry is searchable by county. A search for Shelby County nets 15 names, most of whom have been charged with possession of meth with intent to sell. Searches for the more rural counties of Tennessee net more people with manufacturing charges. Each offender's name, date of birth, offense, and conviction date are listed. The registry only includes people with convictions dating back to March 30, 2005.
"Hopefully, this will be a deterrent to those who do not want to have their name on a public list," said Johnson.
Tennessee was the first state in the country to compile a list of meth offenders, but Minnesota and Illinois have since designed their own registries. Oklahoma and Georgia are also considering such a list.
While the TBI maintains that the list is a public service, others consider it insult to injury. "Non-violent drug offenders already have a hard time when they get out of prison. They can't get student loans. They have a hard time finding a job," said Bill Piper with the Drug Policy Alliance. "Registries like this make it harder for these people when they get out of prison to lead law-abiding lives."
Piper is also concerned about whether meth registries could be a slippery slope to identifying all drug offenders on public lists. But Johnson says the TBI has not considered such an exhaustive registry.
"There's never been a discussion to have a marijuana registry or a cocaine registry," said Johnson. "The reason meth was singled out is because it's not only a danger to the person who's using it, it's a danger to everyone around them."