community notification laws fail to protect the public, because they don't distinguish dangerous predators from otherwise harmless men and women who foolishly had sex with underage lovers, served their sentences and don't need a lifetime of public scrutiny. ...The article mentions that most states' sex offender registration laws begin after some heinous crime, even though they're often written to capture a wider array of offenses:
Texas Voices is finding agreement in unusual places.
Ray Allen, the former Texas House Corrections chair who helped shepherd into law tough sex registration bills, said he and his colleagues went too far.
"We cast the net widely to make sure we got all the sex offenders. Now, 15 years on, it turns out that really only a small percentage of people convicted of sex offenses pose a true danger to the public," he said.
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, the Senate Criminal Justice chair, said, "If we're not careful, we're going to have a sex offender registry that is so large and so encompassing, it's not much good."
Texas Voices members know their chances for success hinge on politicians risking their careers on a population with just about zero political clout.
Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, who has been a driving force behind the community notification laws, isn't ready to assume that risk. She insists that if the registry is too large, it's because there are too many people out there committing sex crimes.
Dozens of offenders, along with moms, dads and significant others, show up for the monthly Texas Voices' meetings, sharing stories and plotting strategy.
The most committed spend days and nights scrolling through the registry seeking to recruit new members. Nearly 1,000 offenders have been contacted, and about 300 have heeded the call to action, organizers say.
"If you look at almost all the laws out there on the books, they usually have been enacted following a horrible crime, a sexual assault and murder, which represent a tiny fraction of sex offenses," said Dr. Fred Berlin, founder of the John Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic.I wish Sandberg had mentioned that the heinous crime which spawned Texas' sex offender registry actually resulted in a false conviction that was later overturned by DNA evidence. She writes, "Texas' first community notification law was passed in 1995 and named for Ashley Estell, a 7-year-old girl snatched from a North Texas playground and murdered by a sex offender parolee." But she failed to add that the man convicted of that crime - Michael Blair - was exonerated this year and did not commit the offense. As I've written previously, "to the extent [Texas' registration] laws arose from lessons learned in the Ashley Estell case, they were literally based in error from their inception."
I'm in broad agreement with the group's stated agenda and agree the issue deserves this kind of focused advocacy effort. I'll look forward to seeing what Texas Voices will be working on during the 81st Texas Legislature.