Wednesday, September 29, 2010

You can tell it's election season ...

You can tell it's election season when politicians begin launching demagogic proposals to get "tough" on sex offenders, as Gov. Rick Perry was doing in Houston this week in this speech. Commenters at the Texas Tribune following the story pretty universally viewed this as a transparent campaign ploy and counterproductive to actually managing sex offenders, but who know how such tactics resonate with the average voter?

It's not as though sex offender laws don't need revamping. Some lawmakers, with support from law enforcement, would like to pare back the sex offender registration list to focus supervision on serious, violent offenders so that there's some actual benefit from the expensive, time-consuming program which problematically soaks up local police and probation resources. Jordan Smith at the Austin Chronicle recently wrote an excellent story detailing the various ways the registration system has ballooned with less serious offenders until it's taxing law enforcement's ability to effectively oversee anyone. Perry's press hit, however, portrays everyone on the registration list as "predatory, high-risk sex offenders" and simply suggests spending more money for arrest and enforcement.

It's ironic that his complaint comes just as Stephen Brodie, the deaf man who was this week exonerated for a 1990 rape he didn't commit, was released from prison for violating the conditions of his sex-offender registration (because he never committed the underlying crime and so shouldn't have been registered).

Many more on the list committed much less serious offenses - often Romeo and Juliet style romances (I've met sex offenders who are married to their "victim") - which is a problem because a) many don't deserve the extra punishment and b) they divert scarce resources from more intensively supervising the most serious, violent offenders. In that sense, the public furor surrounding the registry, mostly promoted by self-interested politicians and lazy journalists, promotes false threats and ill-conceived hype that damage the community more than it protects it.

In political campaigns, the public expects politicians to debate the issues that concern them (even if Gov. Perry has decided it's not in his interest to debate at all), so it's regrettable that election season has become the one time when such important subjects are least likely to be discussed thoughtfully or productively.

23 comments:

Texas Maverick said...

My question is where would he get the 1.7 he offered for the startup and who would pay for the ongoing expenses. New York has GPS monitoring for several offenses, not just SO and from what I read it's expensive, drains resources and just generally unmanagable. My fear is just like Jessica's law which started out targeting high risk, led to everyone being on the registration. This will escalate in the same way. Why not spend the 1.7 on expanding treatment and making treatment while incarcerated mandatory. The myth that SO's never change is wrong. Most are "one-trial" offenders and never re-offend. Research backs this up.

Perry is making a direct response to the article in the Austin Chronicle last week and shows how he will use his office in any way possible to stay in power, even when what he proposes will destroy families and divert local police resources thus actually making for less public safety. If someone who is dangerous won't register exactly how are you going to force them to wear a bracelet? The folks who comply with registry are NOT the ones we need to be worried about.

rodsmith said...

i have to agree 20 years or more of studies at every lvl from state, federal and even INTERNATIONAL agencies show 80-95% of sex offences are FIRST TIME offenders. No registry in the world will do a thing for these. Only education and prevention. even the latest studies from new york, fdoj and others show a 3% rearrest rate and that's in the first 3 years! drops even lower after that.

So from where i sit the only predators in this subject would be people like this KILLER Perry yes i said killer since he's killed at least one innocent man! we all know it even though he has tried everything to keep the truth from the public.

Anonymous said...

Such a shame when politicians use fear-momgering to gain votes. If all else fails, just pull out the ole "tough on sex offender" card.

Anonymous said...

When will anyone with authority hear that this registry is a crock! The MILLIONS spent tracking 98% of the offenders on the list is WASTED CASH which could be much better directed at treatment programs for BOTH victims and first time offenders.

Ever been in a bitter divorce and been accused by your angry soon-to-be ex-wife? The accusation alone is enough; this issue screams DA's name in the paper, so they will find a way to convict!

At a recent revocation hearing I heard a DA say, "I didn't have enough to convict you of the crime, but I knew you'd take deferred adjudication and I'd get you on a violation!" Lack of evidence might not have been an indicator of innocence instead of guilt?

Anonymous said...

I will not vote for Perry, not sure if White would be any better but you cannot get worse than Perry. He has NO clue what is going on OR he's a real true sex offender. The many "offenders" I know should have NEVER been on the registry nor given a felony! We must REPEAL the laws where consensual behavior and non-violent behavior is a felony, then get rid of the registry, period. If someone is deemed so dangerous that the public should be notified, I'd guess they should be incarcerated longer, eh?

RSODFW said...

Yes, this is ONLY a ploy to get more votes because Perry is barely ahead of White right now. Perry has NEVER considered the effects that registration has on the children and families of those who are required to register. Talk about bullying kids in school, just wait until kids understand who is on the registry and see what toll it will take on the children at school. In addition, did you see the RIGHT OUT LIE that Perry said on his newest television campaign ad??? He said, "I confronted President Obama about our border issues...." That's an absolute lie. If those reading this will remember the LIVE news coverage of Perry and Obama meeting at the steps of Air Force 1, Perry handed Obama an envelope and Obama immediately handed it to his staff and then walked away from Perry. I cannot wait for one of Perry's family members to be placed on the registry...talk about a 180 degree law change...it will happen, but ONLY then!!

Anonymous said...

Having survived both as a "victim" and now as the wife of an innocent convicted sex offendewr, I think I have earned the creds to speak.

Do you know that there doesn't even have to be a DATE for the assault provided? Do you know the DA doesn't even have to refer to a "season of the year"? Kind of hard to work on an innocent plea when you've got to cover your entire adult life!

As long as this is a WITCH HUNT the victims will continue to feel shame not from the assault but from the horrible stigma that has been created by the media. When I was younger, there were NO treatment programs. My abuser died still known as a "pillar of the community". Fortunately good friends were there for me and they helped me weed through junk therapists until I found one that would work. Why not fund these programs for victims and make them easy to find?

As part of my recovery, I learned that this is a familial multi-generational problem. So a huge number on the offender list are now being shamed a second time . . . they were assaulted once, no help was easily available, and they repeated their assault. I can't even imagine their hell.

The research shows the registry is worthless as a tool to protect children. Research shows that "one trial offenders" CAN be rehabiitated. Research shows that sex offenders are among then least likely to offend. And I and thousands of other "old ladies" who gave up our victimhood to take charge of our lives are proof the victims can recover.

Perry needs a new job!

Shelomith said...

What is so discouraging and frightening is that so many people don't care about the facts, the research, or the broader picture. They just hear "sex offender" and immediately think "pedophile and pervert." They hear "tough on sex offenders," and "for the good of the children," and believe that it really is. The term demagogue was invented for such as Perry, and this is a desperate 11th hour attempt to keep the power that drives him. We can only pray that enough of the public will see it for what it is.

TxJusticeboy said...

This past Monday Gov. Perry announced his endorsement toward the attorney general’s office stepping up efforts increasing monitoring and the punishment of sex offenders. It’s clear what the governor’s intentions are when it suits him, election season; honestly it upsets many Texans that he starts to exploit thousands of victims that violent offenders have harmed all because of requiring votes for his reelection. The author of the Governors press release mentioned Gov. Perry will work with lawmakers to pass legislation that allows the prosecution to make certain longer prison sentences for certain sex offenders while continuous monitoring of sex offenders as part of their punishment, which is part of a sex offenders registration civil commitment requirements. If this is Governor Perry’s intentions, than the governor is publicly admitting the public sex offender registry is in fact a form of punishment, which is part of the common law doctrine other than a civil commitment. Is the governor of Texas violating the due process model of the criminal justice system in the state of Texas? It sounds like this what is coming out of the governor’s office. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling stated in the Ex post facto challenge in Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (2003), the Supreme Court upheld Alaska's sex-offender registration statute. Reasoning that sex offender registration deals with civil laws, not punishment, the Court ruled 6-3 that it is not an unconstitutional ex post facto law. Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer dissented. In this case if the statute is challenged in the state of Texas I don’t believe the governor is going to have many friends in the U.S. Attorney General’s Office if the Gov. Perry is violating the ex post facto law of the U.S. Constitution. The citizens of Texas know that Gov. Perry will do whatever he can to go against the U.S. Federal Government; for those of us that remember the governor is not a big fan of the United States government; he has openly addressed his view to the media. I would not be surprised if the U.S. Attorney’s Office is investigating the governor as well as his office, including the Texas Attorney General’s Office for ethical violations against the Texas and the United States Constitution.

carole said...

I wish that experts such as law enforcement officers, treatment providers, and attorneys would start commenting on how these laws are overbroad, ineffective, and a violation of constitutional rights. I know they are out there because I have spoken to many of them myself. These laws are said to be constitutional because they allegedly are civil laws and not criminal punishment and they protect the public. Anyone who is subject to these laws or has a loved one who is knows that it is "punishment" to have to register and the fact that the laws are grossly ineffective and include thousands that are not a danger to society proves they are not a protection to the public. These laws should be repealed by the U.S. Suprement Court. States should not be allowed to violate constitutional rights in this way.

Prison Doc said...

Beating up on Perry or longing for White is easy...but Texas is a WEAK GOVERNOR state. Better to focus on your legislators and the relevant legislative committees rather than giving Perry credit or blame for everything. Texas is and will remain a "law and order" state and your average citizen prefers the "throw the key away" approach.

kay said...

It is election time. Power, corruption and greed. I voted for Perry before, but won't again. This registry is ridiculous. The politicians prey on fear. They all know the truth, but don't want to look pro sex offender, so they all talk tough. They don't care about the young romeo-juliet offenders or about fixing this registry. There is too much money being made for the courts and counties. The are riding the pendulum and I pray it will swing back to center soon. I believe they were once called witch trials.

Anonymous said...

90% of wanted sex offender fugitives are Hispanic and aliens. You will never hear that from the media.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Time for Perry to go! He he wants to impress me, reform the laws. yeah right. Let's send him packing!

Anonymous said...

Rick Perry makes me sick!!!!!!!!
He is crooked, corrupt and a crook.

Root of All Evil said...

Imposing more requirements on sex offenders is not just about politics but money as well. Perry is helping his buddies by creating or expanding the market for goods and services (ie monitoring devices, treatment, etc)

Is it possible that Gov Perry and Rep Thompson have ties to Satellite Tracking of People, LLC. This is a Houston based company providing GPS monitoring services. This company claims to manufacture the equipment in Houston and is getting boatloads of govenment contracts. The STOP, llc board members have ties to Cornell Companies, GEO, and/or Corrections Corporation of America to name a few. (Cornell & GEO merged last month)

Note to Perry: "Money, its a hit, don't give me that do goody good bull shit."

Anonymous said...

There is another side of the story concerning whether we should reduce the number of offenders having to register or be monitored.

I wont mention any names but some of you probably read about this story in the papers. Let's just call him Saint Michael. I know this young man very well. The article in the paper got it right. Saint Michael, like a lot of sex offenders, presented himself as a wholesome boy next door who no one would have any reason to mistrust. He even seemed to have an angelic side to him.

When released from incarceration he was required to register. Due to a gap in the system, he was able to get a job which gave him easy access to lots of potential victims and his employer had no idea he was a registered sex offender.

Well, you guessed it. He took advantage of this situation and before long another young victim came forward with a story that seemed eerily similar to his other offenses. I suspect his story is not unique.

frank said...

So what can be done? I see a lot of posts that state "I wont vote for him" "He needs to go" " They need to change registry requirements". You know all of this is correct. There needs to be change! I don't know where to start. I'm 1 small voice. I see a lot of other small voices out there just blogging/posting away. I believe if we can gather all of these small voices and make it one loud voice that maybe, just maybe we can get some things changed or at least moved in the right direction. I know its so easy to post things but when it comes down to it, Who will show up to speak up?

frank said...

Saint Michael story teller..... Post the link of that story please I haven't heard about that. His employer never new? If there is a conviction and the employer did a background check then the employer knew. Lets say you are a convicted offender and you did not have to register. You got a job. When that employer does a background will it show up? Or do you think the person has to register for it to show up?
A felony will follow you everywhere unless you get it sealed/expunged/pardoned. I think even some of those shows up on backgrounds,I'm not 100% on that since I don't have that on my record and I'm not into Law.

pbmax626 said...

Note to Frank. If you really want to get involved, there are some organizations making headway. In Texas, one of the key groups is Texas Voices. Visit www.txvoices.com and see what they're about. They have active groups in DFW, Houston, and Austin.

frank said...

:) I am part of them. I was just saying for some of the others who aren't part of anything but would like to see change.

Anonymous said...

I comment on these stories whenever they come out, and it seems like we all talk to a brick wall everyday. Someone mentioned in another post that Texas is a weak governor state. This is true. the real power of the law and order crowd is in the legislative. Start getting these people out, and then you will see the laws changing.

yes I know that there is big money there, and that is how people like Shapiro get re-0elected; However the only way to change the laws and put sanity back in power is to get rid of the Robb Orr's, the Florence Shaprio's in the Texas lege, THEN you will begin to see more realistic approaches.

The Saint Micheal story above smacks of unrealistic victim sympathizers stating that noone can be changed, noone is rehabilitated. This simply isn't true. The statistics cannot lie. They are hard facts that the minority believe false and regrettably the minority here need to get elected. Since the fear is easy to sell (who DOESN'T have a young person to look after), it will be easier to replace those that choose to ignore the Constitution, and the majority of the people, and instead want to keep their jobs. Rid the state of lifetime politicians, require 2 term limits bar none on all elected posts, get fresh blood in the system and let it circulate. THEN you will see some sanity.

rodsmith said...

you said a mouthfull here 8;00

"They are hard facts that the minority believe false and regrettably the minority here need to get elected. Since the fear is easy to sell (who DOESN'T have a young person to look after), it will be easier to replace those that choose to ignore the Constitution, and the majority of the people, and instead want to keep their jobs. Rid the state of lifetime politicians, require 2 term limits bar none on all elected posts, get fresh blood in the system and let it circulate. THEN you will see some sanity."

The problem is becasue of the way the people in power have arranged the individual voting districts so only the seated individual can win and the fact that only someone with a small or large fortune or a group BEHIND them with same. The ONLY way most of this bunch will EVER leave office is DEATH! either via old age or sudden death from another