A sex offender tells us it would give him his life back; a victim’s advocate says it would put people at risk.  Those are two very different responses Wednesday to a bill on the verge of passing in the Missouri house that would change the state sex offender registry.

Right now if you’re a Missouri sex offender your name is on the registry for life.  Arepresentative from Versailles wants to make some exceptions to that steadfast policy.

David Kline is watching himself grow up, flipping through a photo album of sorts, but there’s nothing nostalgic about the photos on his television screen; they’re courtesy of the Department of Corrections and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office.  That’s because Kline essentially grew up in prison.

“I celled up with a convict; he was killer.  I know who he is, I know everything about him,” Kline tells us.  “I had my mom look him up because I didn’t know who I was celling with, didn’t know who he was.  He was a killer, in there for 30 years, and I’m just a kid.  I was like 19 at the time,” he remembers.

At 17, his senior year of high school, Kline was charged with statutory rape for an offense he swears he didn’t commit.  A probation violation sent him to prison for two years.  Now he’s out, and life’s about as bad as it was when he was in.

“I’m labeled as a sex offender, everybody is going to look at me differently.  I hate it, I really do,” says Kline. “Every time someone calls me a child molester I get irked.”

Right now that label is inescapable.  Kline’s on the sex offender registry, but a new Missouri law could take him off.

“It would be great, it would help me out a lot.  I don’t even have kids yet.  What happens when I have kids?  I can’t go to parks with them, can’t go anywhere there’s any other kids at, can’t take them toChuck E. Cheese.”

House Bill 1700 establishes a three tier system, axing the lowest risk sex offenders from the list entirely.  People, like Kline, whose offenses are considered mid-level on the tier system will have the opportunity, ten years after their sentence has ended, to petition a judge for removal.  Those with the most serious offenses– forcible rape and child molestation– could petition after 20 years.

“I think it could put individuals at risk, I do,” counters Nancy Berlin with The Victim’s Center in Springfield.

Victim’s advocates like Berlin aren’t as excited about the proposal as Kline is.

“We have so many adult survivors who were victims of a sexual crime as children, and that is something they have for the rest of their lives,” explains Berlin. “It’s not erased or taken off of anything, it’s part of who they are.”

She says it should be the same for perpetrators and that’s what the registry ensures.

“It is a life sentence, definitely,” agrees Kline.

But he doesn’t think it should be; he says he’d just like the chance to start a new album.

“It kills me.  I want to have a family,” he tells us, looking again at the pictures.

The representative who is sponsoring the bill says the tier system would address a job crisis among Missouri’s sex offenders.  He says more than half on the registry report they’re unemployed.

A handful of other states, including Maine, South Dakota, Texas, and California have considered or are currently considering similar systems.  Massachusetts already has one in place.