Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bills promote digital scarlet letters for drunks, sex offenders

Ostracism inhibits the reintegration of offenders into law abiding society, which to my mind argues against a pair of ill-conceived bills proposed by Democrats which are on the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee agenda today.

A bill by Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer, HB 23, would require sex offenders on social networking sites to "ensure" the following information is viewable by everyone who comes to their page: An "indication" that the person is sex offender, the type of offense that required their registration and the city of their conviction, "the person's full name, date of birth, sex, race, height, weight, eye color, and hair color," and their home address. The definition of a social networking site is broad (see Art. 62.0061(f) of the Code of Criminal Procedure). It wouldn't just apply to sites like Facebook or LinkedIn, but also to blogs and any other site through which one can post information and receive communication from the public. The law already requires registrants to report online pseudonyms; this bill would effectively prohibit them.

Another bill by Rep. Richard Raymond, HB 133, would require the Department of Public Safety to create a searchable website for people convicted of intoxication-related offenses that, for ten years after their conviction, would publish "the person's full name and last known address," and "a recent photograph of the person, if a photograph is available to the department." It would also require that this data be made available to police in a timely enough fashion that it could be accessed at a routine traffic stop, though inexplicably the Legislative Budget Board claims such functionality would have no significant cost.

These bills have little to do with public safety but instead are mostly about shaming. For Raymond's bill, police can already access criminal history information and nobody but voyeurs and mugshot rags will find any use for the website. As for Martinez-Fischer's legislation, there's already a public online sex-offender registry for those who care. But the registry is already too broad, including many who have never engaged in predatory behavior. Forcing registrants to wear a digital scarlet letter in all their social networking activities - including, for example, their LinkedIn profile where they're looking to find work - creates more harm than it prevents.

In any event, this is a counterproductive ploy borne of haughty, short-sighted puritanism bereft of Christian forgiveness. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's, The Scarlet Letter, the protagonist, Hester Prynne, found that her public labeling as an adulteress became "her passport into regions where other women dared not tread." Similarly, applying this sort of digital signage of shame may actually promote further misconduct by excluding those listed from polite company, preventing interactions with those who might lead them toward righteousness and confining their online interactions to a silo of sinners.

Last week, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee passed a bill out of committee that would remove the employer from public sex-offender registration information. The committee heard testimony about how DPS' decision to include such information - despite the Legislature having specifically declined to require it by rejecting the federal Adam Walsh Act - was deterring employers who'd otherwise be willing to hire ex-offenders. In the end, the goal is safety. Offenders who get jobs and reintegrate into society are less likely to commit new crimes. But these bills undermine that goal, leaving offenders walled off from normal human and economic activity. The House committee should reject such an ignoble purpose.

MORE: See coverage of the hearing from the SA Express-News.

15 comments:

Force Majeure said...

You really have to stand in amazement at the capacity for the lege to think up draconian if banal enhancements.

Relatedly, does the LBB think anything costs money, EVER?

MaxM said...

If the goal is to increase business for DWI lawyers, HB133 might make sense. Like the Texas Driver Responsibility program, the cost of going to trial and fighting a conviction is cheaper than accepting a plea for probation and having to register.

Anonymous said...

To me this is but a part of a larger social experiment. We all know that once a precedent is set for one class of people it can be ever widened to another class once the public accepts or becomes complacent. Now we see the the sex offender controls beginning to be applied to DWI offenders. As we march through the future this "framework" will be applied to more crimes and eventually to religion and political beliefs. Could this aim be the silent and powerful impetus behind the original kick-starting of all this mass hysteria? We sit and watch our beloved Constitution melt away. We know, or should know, the historical route this all leads to. Maybe the FEMA Camp paranoiacs are not so paranoid after all? We seem to be drifting from the land of the free and the home of the brave to a land were Leges sit around looking for bills to support.

rodsmith said...

I think both of these nazi wannabee's should be hung by the neck on the closest lamppost to the captial building with the following tag!

"Executed for violation of their oath of office to uphold the Constitution"

Anonymous said...

Stupid Bills. They won't get the traction needed to become statute. They have nothing to do with Public Safety at all.

There is no way of making sure a sex offender follows what is described in the proposed bill. Make it a Condition of Probation? Yeah, right. Sex Offenders will just create multiple Facebook Accounts, that's all.

The DWI proposal is ludicrous. They should proffer a bill that requires bartenders, convenience store owners, bait shop owners, etc. to plaster their face on a DPS website. Give me a break.

Stop serving alcohol to drunk people. Stop selling alcohol at the same place where gasoline is purchased. Hell, stop serving alcohol period. Go back to prohibition. That would be more fun anyway.

DWI will never be eradicated. Having a beer and getting drunk are two different things. How many at the Lege are actually not DWI while they are in session? Not many. Didn't one get arrested recently. Haven't Judges been arrested for DWI. Alcoholism does not play favorites.

Yes, this will take the place of the DRP, when it comes to plea bargaining. Good job, Legislators, more inaccurate Uniform Crime Reporting on the horizon. And, all for what, votes?? to keep MADD happy? Another term in office at false pretenses??

What about Public Safety?

DWI is the most common offense. How is knowing who got a DWI going to have any effect on public safety whatsoever.

Who will make sure these things happen, Facebook disclosure and DWI publication on DPS website.

Just plain stupid!!!

Grits, you hit the nail on the head, it an exercise in shaming. Nothing more, nothing less.

rodsmith said...

this is very true 12:01

"To me this is but a part of a larger social experiment. We all know that once a precedent is set for one class of people it can be ever widened to another class once the public accepts or becomes complacent. Now we see the the sex offender controls beginning to be applied to DWI offenders. As we march through the future this "framework" will be applied to more crimes and eventually to religion and political beliefs"

Sad thing is quite a few of us saw this coming over a decade ago when the United States Supreme Court fucktards issued thier 2002 smith v dole decison that made the public registry legal. All i can say is that it surves the public right. They have been giving 1,000,000 men and women NOT counting family the shift for a decade. Going to laugh my head off when all the drunks and druggies and check kiters get hit with it as well. It is coming

Anonymous said...



When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

SEMPERFINE said...

"Silo of Sinners"? Not bad, Scott.

Anonymous said...

Tomorrow (Thursday) the committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety will hear another crazy bill by Rep Martinez Fischer:
HB21
Relating to a central database containing information about offenders who have committed certain offenses against children or offenses involving family or dating violence.
Another Registry??? What is wrong with this man?

LJW said...

When will one of these "laws" that claim to be for "victims" actually do something for victims?

It shows a callous lack of interest in reality every time one of these "legislators" proposes something solely for additional punishment.

It ignores the facts that punishment has never curbed any action. It ignores the facts that education and prevention are much more effective.

It ignores the facts that there are a lot more types of child abuse, sex offenses are but one. 10-23% of all children are abused. Where is their protection? No where. There's no money for it. It's all being wasted on laws that drive costs of prisoner management through the roof and do nothing for victims.

Lastly, why is it possible. Everyone reading this article is to blame. We allow it because we allow these clowns to stay in office. We allow the media to vomit myths and yellow journalism as facts.

If you really care about victims, then start helping victims!

Anonymous said...

Scott,

Thank you very much for telling the truth.
God Bless you!

Anonymous said...

Well, well, well, let me see here. So this list would contain the name of the State Representative who was arrested last week for DWI and it seems to be some SBI serious bodily injury involved also. I sure that the SBI part will go away with time though. What about the Judges daughter in Harris County who was given probation for intoxicated manslaughter. Or is this list just for us poor folks to put one more barrier in front of us by the elite rich folks in the Texas Legislation. It is funny how the laws only apply to us common folks. I say send the state Representative to the women’s concentration camp in Gatesville, aka. Crain Unit. Then she can see firsthand what the laws she helped pass have created. Maybe then she can see what it is like to be sexually abused by a rogue guard and thrown into solitary confinement for telling people about and then mentally tortured by the guards friends or family who work there in a system where the people running this horror house does not have to answer to no one and there is no oversight either. I am sure after this privilege woman and maybe even a judges daughter was taken through the first intake state sponsored rape, I mean strip search with a flashlight shined up her private parts and given their first meal of wild TDCJ hog, they would wished they had stood up to stop this abuse.


wisdon of solomon said...

Has anyone ever read the "Nuremberg Laws" passed by the Nazi Party--Germany 1935? At your convenience, please do so, then, compare those laws to today's sex offender laws. You will find very defined similarities.

Eric Knight said...

Look a few states to the east in Alabama for this story:

"Convicted sex offender caught using fake name and free coffee shop wi-fi, Jefferson County authorities say"

This is where Texas would head... having investigators spend months investigating an RSO's World of Warcraft abilities...

M.T. (a real S.O.) said...

M.T. (a real registered S.O.)

And yes, I will have to report this comment to my registration officer. I am not on parole or probation. Did 10 years flat in the TDCJ.

Anyway, I read the news story from Alabama from the link that was inserted.

Here is what I find frustrating. OK, the S.O. broke the law by not reporting his online identifier. That's only an administrative law (but a law non-the-less). However, what the story fails to mention is just what it was that that S.O. was accessing on the internet. It gives no clue.

Here is the point. If he was engaged in naughty chat with minors, then he's guilty of a real social crime. Even as an S.O. myself, I agree that such activities should be forbidden. However, the guy could also have been trying to find employment and posting his resume, or some other harmless activity. So, is the guy guilty of actually doing anything harmful to the public or his family, or just guilty of neglecting his paperwork?

In my registration jurisdiction, we don't have to use our real names on line, as long a we report any alias screen names to our registration officer. Like for example, I am going to fax this URL and the screen name I used above to my reg office ASAP.