Hoosiers should have easy access to the names and identifying information of people living in the state who have committed the most serious crimes.

A measure that just passed the Indiana Senate and now goes before the House deserves the support of our lawmakers to make it easier for all Hoosiers to identify felons living in the state.

Last week, the Senate voted 40-9 to create an online, statewide felony database.

The database would contain the names, photos, ages, last known addresses and other identifying information for people convicted of a felony since at least 2012.

Opponents of the proposal argue it would unduly punish felons who already have served their prison terms.

That argument is flawed.

Under Indiana open records laws, criminal records already are public information.

However, an electronic database of those records is not yet available statewide.

A registry for felons would simply make it easier for Hoosiers to identify people who have been convicted of the most severe crimes, including murder and rape.

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The state already offers an online sex offender registry. A searchable database identifying all felons enhances Hoosier access to important criminal background information.

Many companies already perform exhaustive criminal background checks of job candidates, largely through paid services.

But why should Indiana residents or businesses have to pay for wide-reaching searches of public records their tax dollars already fund?

Our only issue with the felony registry bill is that it currently has a clause that would make it expire in 2023. The argument for that clause is that most state criminal records should be part of a separate digital database by then.

But that database, known as the state's Odyssey system, lacks birth dates and photos that help determine a positive match during records searches. The proposed felon database would enhance accuracy in determining if individuals have been convicted of the highest levels of crime.

The House should pass the registry bill, and the governor should sign it into law.

But before that happens, both chambers should agree to remove the expiration clause.

Hoosiers have a right to know, and there should never be a sunset on public information.



Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.