Friday, October 02, 2009

Reducing collateral harm from sex offender registries

A major problem with sex offender registries has been the frequent inclusion of petty violators who aren't rapists or child molesters but get put on the list thanks to foolish pranks or juvenile behavior. So I was interested to learn that the city of Boulder (CO) is considering creation of a municipal ordinance to use in lieu of the state's indecent exposure law, which requires those convicted to register as sex offenders. According to the Boulder Daily Camera:

Boulder is drafting a public nudity ordinance that police could use against people who streak or participate in the popular "Naked Pumpkin Run" or "World Naked Bike Ride."

A municipal nudity ordinance is needed because the state's indecent exposure law -- which requires convicted violators to register as sex offenders -- is not appropriate for nudity-related pranks, said Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner....

Beckner said his department agrees with critics who say indecent exposure -- and the sex-offender penalty that comes with it -- is not an appropriate charge for people who are pulling nude pranks or participating in naked events.

"If we can address it in a municipal ordinance, we can meet our needs, and it doesn't put people in the sex-offender category," he said.

This says to me public awareness is growing that sex offender registries tend to be too broadly defined and create negative unintended consequences. That's a good thing. But a better fix would be for the legislature to remove indecent exposure and other petty crimes from the registry list. IMO we don't need more laws on this issue so much as better ones.


marysueintx said...

Indeed there are way too many "offenses" currently requiring resgitration. People seem to forget that the registry was intended for those who are truly violent, dangerous offenders. The Texas "Sex Offender" registry lists over 56,000 individuals and an average of 100 are added each week. We are not any safer. As a matter of fact, it's no longer about public safety, no longer about "protecting the children". The "sex offender" issue has become a profitable industry. What a shame.

Anonymous said...

Everyone agrees that the registry is overblown and is full of folks that should not be there. So far noone in Austin has the balls to change it. My quesion is how much of our tax dollars are used to keep up with this registry? HOw much time, resources, money is used to monitor those that should not be on there? HOw many of those on the registry are truly dangerous and how will those officers monitoring be able to adequately monitor those that are dangerous?

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Mr. Grits, the laws need complete reform. Misdemeanor crimes are now felonies - i.e. chatting online with a teenager, kissing a ninth grader when you're a twelfth grader, touching the outside of the blouse of your girlfriend then learning she's a minor, non-violent, consensual behaviors should have never been put on a public registry or even a registry at all. If you ask any psychologist about this - it's all normal growing up behaviors! Until young men are about age 25, (proven fact) they are dumb/stupid/immature (not all but a lot of them). Online chat, by far, has gotten wayyy out of hand. Cops are now pretending to be teenagers and we are footing the bill for their training and then comprehending these awful "predators" who are more than likely NOT predators. I've seen the Houston news where they're proud of the fact they're meeting fellas in public places, urging them to bring a camera so that they can charge them with worse charges - now you tell me, how can meeting in a public place cause any harm to a teen? PUBLIC is KEY in this whole thing yet they throw the book at these young fellas thinking they're "saving one child" from harm. My foot. It's all about the money, who cares about the citizens of our state any longer. If you're a man, look out because they're coming to get you next. It's too easy to become a sex offender. The words now make me laugh and I shake the hands when I meet one and pat them on the back because all of the ones I met are going through heck and did nothing more than a misdemeanor type offense.

If we'd rid the thing of non-violent behaviors - we MIGHT (I say might because the registry has NEVER been proven to do anything but harm children and adults) help the community. Then again, if someone is so dangerous the public needs to be warned (child rape, violent rape for instance) - maybe that person should have never been released from prison eh?

Back to the Wetterling Act, legislators need to read it and follow that one - it was the smartest law out there for REALLY protecting kids in some way/shape/form. The real problem, though, is that people cannot receive the help they need BEFORE they commit a crime - ya know? No counselors or therapy because they'll be turned in as a danger! My gosh what has this state come to. Where are the legislators with some OOMPH for public safety instead of the ones that want to "appear" "tough on crime". They have no idea what harm they have caused. None.

Anonymous said...

Today’s sex offender laws are the response to horrific crimes against children: kidnappings, sexual assaults, and murders. The laws address these offenders who are at most 1% of those living with the sex offender label. Perhaps another 10% at worst pose a danger to the community. For the vast majority, the laws use a sledge hammer to swat a gnat.
How did these laws get so out-of-hand? So called public servants build careers on introducing and supporting such laws. The average constituent thinks that all sex offenders are child molesters and rapists; therefore, supporting these laws is popular and an easy route to reelection. Legislators are often as uneducated as the general public regarding the consequences of such laws. Few politicians (Texas Rep. Todd Smith comes to mind) have the honesty, integrity, and courage to even make an effort to correct the chaos created by both state and national legislators.
In addition, other people benefit professionally and monetarily from a large pool of sex offenders, some of whom are polygraphists, counseling providers, and those who own prisons. Although sex offenders pay many fees, tax payers still pick up a significant and unnecessary tab.
So who are these sex offenders who, although they never touched a child or forced a woman, are trying to live their lives under all but impossible circumstances? Many are teens or young adults who consensually touched or had a consensual sexual relationship with a slightly too young girlfriend. Often touching isn’t even involved. Sometimes it is online chat. These young people have normal sexual desires, no pathology, no dangerous predilections. Yet they live with the same label and same restrictions as the pedophile that violated a small child.
The offender isn’t allowed to attend the usual events or go to the usual places. No parks, no movies, no malls, no ballgames, no schools, no places of amusement, often not even church. He can’t live or work near parks, schools, daycares, churches, or anywhere minors go. He can’t live with his own family if a minor is in the house. A sex offender can’t make the smallest physical contact with anyone under 18, not even a high five. In spite of the fact that he has never and would never harm a child, the sex offender must practice constant vigilance to avoid contact with minors, even relatives. In addition, it’s very difficult to find employment.
Circumstances are considered even with someone who takes human life, with degrees of punishment from involuntary man slaughter to first degree murder. But not the sex offender. All offenses are punished the same.
If you are interested, here is some information: is an organization founded by professionals from various fields.

Anonymous said...

I write this after reading a letter from my son who is in prison for an online chat offense with no attempt to meet anyone. He is serving a two year sentence and will have to register for an additional ten years. Although I do believe he should not have done this, there is no way that prison is an appropriate consequence of his action.It is so good to read that a city is actually using some common sense in this mess. If we would save felony charges for the big things, like pedophilia and rape, then we would have more room in the prisons for the people who are really dangerous and there wouldn't be a need to get them out because of overcrowding. Bravo to Colorado. I hope this gets full support from the citizens.

Anonymous said...

BJ said...

Amen! The registry is protecting no one in it's current form.

Anonymous said...

There are many fronts to this problem. The lists are just a symptom of a larger social problem. Something simply has to be done about it if we are going to maintain a free rational society, but Americans haven't shown much interest in fixing their messes lately. I'm not holding my breath.

I knew trouble was coming a couple of decades ago when I first heard the word "predator" and realized they were talking about people. Then, over a few years, the term was expanded to include more and more classes of people. The madness just continues to expand. Try to simply talk reason in public on any of this. You will be shouted down by groups that seem to organize out of thin air. They will insist on changing the meaning of well-defined terms. They insist on absolute compliance with their point of view. They are a pack of mad wolves and they just keep getting bigger and more unreasonable. Who are these people? What made them this way?

If Americans really want to stop this, it will take a major effort on several fronts. First of all, we have to simply stop going along. We have to look them in the eye and just keep saying, "you're wrong". Second, we have to find out how politicians reason about this, and what it is going to take to shield them from fear of not going along. Third, we have to stop respecting the walls they are building between us. We have to form groups that reach out to the listed people in our neighborhoods and make efforts to bring them back into society. We have to stop letting them tell us who we can associate with.

What is driving this is some type of underlying reptilian rage mechanism that the power brokers have learned to control. It has been tapped in order to keep anger deflected away from the government and the politicians (where it should be) and to focus it on powerless people in the society.

I think we still have the power to stop this, but, to borrow a term from the other side, it's getting sort of "creepy". If we don't put a stop to it soon, this whole idea of a free society is going to start circling the drain.

RAS said...

Why did it take 40 years?

Anonymous said...

Foolish pranks, no doubt, like those committed by Mr. Polanski.

Celtictexan said...

Its good to see a post on here thats not full of liberal bias. Indeed the sex offender listings should only contain those convicted of forcible rape and/or child molestation. I'm only interested in those that pose a danger to my family. Then again as one person said, they should be in prison or executed, not moving in next door.

sunray's wench said...

Anon @ 1.43 said: "First of all, we have to simply stop going along. We have to look them in the eye and just keep saying, "you're wrong". Second, we have to find out how politicians reason about this, and what it is going to take to shield them from fear of not going along. Third, we have to stop respecting the walls they are building between us. We have to form groups that reach out to the listed people in our neighborhoods and make efforts to bring them back into society. We have to stop letting them tell us who we can associate with."

There is a fourth. People need to be brave enough to stand up in a crowd and do the other 3 things boldly. Staying anon just means you comply.

I agree with all you have said. Use an alias until you are comfortable with your position and ready to unveil yourself as Scott has done, but please, there are too many Anons.

PirateFriedman said...

"Foolish pranks, no doubt, like those committed by Mr. Polanski."

His prosecution is a dumb publicity stunt. He's a pervert and probably a terrible person, but I'm glad he was free to make the Pianist. Don't think he hasn't been punished, he's lived much of his life outside of the hollywood community.

Geiemer has already got an undisclosed settlement, this is a waste.

Anonymous said...

PUNISHED? He like other wealthy people, celebrities, politicians will never see punishment for a crime. Hell, Mr Polanski and others probably could not find the word in the dictionary.

PirateFriedman said...

09:29:00, you sound like someone who already has his mind made up that the criminal justice system is biased against the poor, I hold the opposite view. The criminal justice system is probably biased in favor of the poor.

Its the poor who go to prison and jail the longest, true enough.

But then, they give up less because they have a lower quality of life on the outside. Furthermore, prisoners are dispropritionately poor, so if you're middle class/rich you're going to have a tougher time their. That's why whites are the ones often sexually assaulted in prison. If your a professional, you will lose your license when you get out(CPA, doctor etc).

For Polanski, his punishment was spending lots and lots of money on his defense, his settlement with the victim and losing his ability to live in America. I think that's serious enough, and besides, these cold cases have a very low deterrence value.

Anonymous said...

I was always taught that justice should be equal for everyone. What you are describing to me IS NOT JUSTICE. Your words lead me to believe that you are not poor or middle class.
What about the rich man who commits a crime and gets off and the poor man who commits the same crime gets the books thrown at him. Do you think that freedom is more precious to a wealthy man than it is to a poor or middle clas individual?
You sound like a prosecutor. The punishment should fit the crime.

RAS said...

Polanski confessed to raping a 13 year old and has served a 34 year sentence of exile.(ON THE RIVIERA)

Anonymous said...

In the Polanski case, the young lady has said publicly that the handling of the case by the "Justice System and Media" created far more harm than the crime ever did.

In the case of the sex offender registry, I'm convinced that it creates far more harm than the crime ever did. And that harm is to both the offender and everyone in our society.

As it stands now, there is no public safety value to the sex offender registry. It is just a big waste of money.

Anonymous said...

Pirate, you win the award for the most asinine thing I've heard in quite a while. I have to believe that even you do not believe what you said. That must have been sarcasm.

PirateFriedman said...

07:59:00, asinine...big word for an anonymous coward.

But as long as we're on the subject, I'd like to share an interesting article from John Lott suggesting the justice system might be biased in favor of African Americans,.

RAS said...

So more criminals in prison does equal less crime.

Anonymous said...

As you notice, Grits only sees what he wants to believe and he has no use for what doesn't fit his viewpoint.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

What I notice, 2:11, is that you don't have the cojones to sign your name when you insult someone.

Was there anything particular about this post you think is somehow biased or ignoring reality? Unlike you, I'm held accountable for what I say by my readers. So what's your beef?

8lbs4oz said...

A New Sex Offender Site

Oklahoma has a new law which requires all abortions to be listed on a public website:The law (which you can look at here — it's HR 1595) mandates that a 34-item questionnaire be filled out by abortion providers for each procedure.

HOOOOray and hooooorah!

Finally, finally, finally something that hits the sex offender registry cheerleaders in the breadbasket!

Oh my goodness! It's now the MEN who are so evil and bad wanting to REGISTER women's private personal ISSUES!

I hope this is the BIG ONE!


Anonymous said...

Any laws devised by legislation that is entirely based on kidnappings and murders, which in turn, names, punishes, monitors, tracks and hunts down citizens, solely based on criminal behaviors such as nudity, non violent acts, consensual, victimless and minor youthful infraction of law, is bound to have it's critics. And, It's about time! My question is, what the heck is taking so LONG? You can bet people in high places are benefiting, not the tax payers! Definitely not the poor smucks being listed on the "HATE LIST" for a grandiose illusion, created by our legislators to seem tough on crime. Of course the registry was meant for real predators, but, it just wouldn't bring in enough revenue or Federal grants to support it, now would it? Why would our government leaders want to fix, what's become extremely profitable? Our government's motto is, "Sit back, pay up and show me your papers please"! Only "the people" coming together, can stop them! That's MY Honest Opinion and a plea to my fellow Americans. Let's all join together and fix the injustices and greed in this country, for "OUR" children, of course, and their future generation to come. GOD, Please, Bless America!