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July 23, 2006

Senate passes major sex offender bill

As detailed in AP and Reuters stories, the Senate late last week passed a broad bill targeting sex offenders with new criminal and civil laws.  Here are highlights of the bill from the AP story:

Child advocates have called the bill the most sweeping sex offender legislation to target pedophiles in years.  It would:

  • Establish a comprehensive federal DNA database of material collected from convicted molesters, and procedures for the routine DNA collection and comparison to the database when someone has been convicted of such an offense.
  • Provide federal funding for states to track pedophiles using global positioning devices.
  • Allow victims of child abuse to sue their molesters.
  • Impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years for raping a child.
  • Impose a mandatory 10-year penalty for sex trafficking offenses involving children and for coercing child prostitution.
  • Increase minimum sentences for molesters who travel between states.

The news reports indicate that the House is likely to follow suit this week so that this bill becomes a law before the end of the month.

July 23, 2006 at 12:54 AM | Permalink

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Comments

The bill does not target pedophiles. That's a diagnosis that applies to a very small percentage of offenders. If sex offender laws targeted pedophiles, hundred of thousands of offenders wouldn't be subjected to registration, notification, residency restrictions, job restrictions, travel and proximity restrictions, or banned from hurricane shelters.

Nor does the bill confine itself to child-victim crimes. It includes offenders convicted of crimes against adults.

Nor does the bill allow for risk assessment. Its tiers are based on conviction alone, and may be applied retroactively, even though recidivism drops sharply after ten years of offense-free life post-incarceration.

It will, in many cases, override the systems of individual states that have demonstrated very low recidivism rates under their current laws.

The same bill includes framework for a child abuse registry, which would include "substantiated cases" --not convictions.

Posted by: Ilah | Jul 23, 2006 9:26:32 PM

While the law is vague, it goes a long way towards coordinating efforts on the federal, state and local levels, which is the first step towards combating more targeted issues like pedophilia. NCMEC's Cybertipline already coordinates those agencies to combat child exploitation, but this certainly sets up a framework to make it more official, which I applaud.

Posted by: Kaitlyn | Jul 27, 2006 4:51:10 PM

I wonder how such bill makes everybody safer: the registries etc. presume that every sex offender criminal is a dangerous recidivist.

By contrast, tracking the pedophile that is by definition recidivist and dangerous is a good idea but this bill seems too broad and to solve nothing. It seems intended to create more sex offender Nazis dragging many non-dangerous offenders into the spotlight, as if there were not enough already.

We need to specifically target and go after the unregistered ones who've proven they do not follow the law. Leave the law-abiding citizen, who has served her sentence and complies with the law, alone, and make it easier not harder for her to get a life. They have families and children too. The witchhunt has created as many victims, if not more, as it has saved.

Many, many, have been wrongfully convicted or are simply not dangerous.

Posted by: Morilun | Jul 30, 2006 8:02:51 AM

I agree with setting up laws and tracking the offenders who are a dear threat to the community. However I don't agree with casting every person who has been convicted into the flames. People do make mistakes and are wrongfully accused. I agree with the fact that there are people who are not a danger to society and will not reoffend- why make their lives harder, so legislatures and law makers have a law in their name??? I really hope some of these people passing out these laws don't ever have a family member get into any type of trouble because there is not such thing as reintergration into society. You may not be able to be charged with the same crime twice (under double jeopardy) but the people who are not a threat are charged every day of their life...over and over and over again. When does it end? Can you enact some laws to help people move on with their life instead of trying to completely take them out of society?

Posted by: Lissa | Sep 4, 2006 11:59:39 AM

What has happened is "success" (and funding) is tied to how many offenders a state has on its registry and how tightly it controls those registered, not how well the state has reduced victimization. That's what drives retroactively-applied laws and restrictions.

As a result, an immense amount of resources are spent registering, tracking, and restricting those who are LEAST likely to reoffend--the offenders who haven't been accused, charged, or convicted of a sex crime in decades. But most of the public will not know that information because, in order to avoid violating due process, states have argued whether an offender poses a threat to the public is irrelevant. As long as the state says that all offenders--but no individual offender--is dangerous, their registry meets court approval.

Posted by: Ilah | Sep 10, 2006 11:03:20 AM

I AM LIVING PROOF OF THAT OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM IS IS FAULTY. I AM A FORMER POLICE OFFICER WHO WAS CHARGED WITH MOLESTING MY NOW EX-WIFES KIDS TEN DAYS AFTER I WALKED OUT ON HER. I WAS WRONGFULLY CONVICTED AND ONLY STAND GUILTY OF WANTING OUT OF A BAD MARRIAGE. NEEDLESS TO SAY I HAVE LOST EVERYTHING AND AFTER SERVING EIGHTEEN MONTHS OF A 42 MONTH SENTENCE, I WAS RELEASED IN APRIL OF THIS YEAR. SIMPLY PUT, MY LIFE IS A LIVING HELL AND IT ONLY SEEMS THAT LAWS LIKE THE ONE FEATURED WILL ONLY MAKE LIFE MORE DIFFICULT THAN IT ALREADY IS. LAWMAKERS ARE PASSING SO MANY LAWS WITHOUT PROPER RESEARCH BEING DONE AND WHAT THEY FAIL TO SEE IS THE COUNTERPRODUCTIVENESS IN THEM. THEY ARE CAUGHT UP IN BEING ABLE TO POINT OUT ALL THESE LAWS THAT THEY MISTAKENLY THINK WILL MAKE SOCIETY SAFER. WHEN WILL IT END? I WOULDNT WISH ANYONE TO HAVE TO WALK IN MY SHOES. I KNOW THAT I AM NOT THE ONLY PERSON IN AMERICA THAT HAS BEEN WRONGFULLY CONVICTED SO I KNOW I AM NOT ALONE BUT EVEN FOR THOSE WHO ARE TRULY GUILTY, SHOULDNT THEY TOO HAVE A CHANCE TO LIVE A NORMAL LIFE. MY SENTENCE WAS THREE AND A HALF YEARS AND WHEN EVERYTHING IS SAID AND DONE, I WILL HAVE SERVED A TOTAL OF FIVE AND A HALF YEARS SINCE THE STATE I WAS CONVICTED IN HAS IMPOSED A MANDATORY FOUR YEAR SUPERVISED RELEASE PERIOD ON ME WHICH I HAVE TO SERVE UNDER HOUSE ARREST. AND EVEN AFTER THAT IS DONE I FACE A LIFETIME OF REGISTRATION AND I HAVE TO CARRY THE STIGMA OF BEING A REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER. WHEN WILL THIS MADNESS END?? A WITCH HUNT IS PUTTING IT MILDLY!!!

Posted by: MAB16264CHGO | Sep 20, 2006 4:07:08 AM

MAB, you mentioned laws being passed without proper research. Actually, a great deal of research has been done. The research has been ignored. Expert testimony has been ignored. Experience has been ignored.

What's most disturbing is that, even when prosecutors, treatment professionals, victim advocacy groups, law enforcement and researchers state the laws will actually ENDANGER the public, politicians STILL pass them at the urging of activists.

Posted by: Ilah | Sep 20, 2006 11:34:12 AM

Where can one get help for the injustices being perpetrated by lawmakers regarding sex offenses? My friend, a college student, viewed minor porn. He did not email, chat, transmit, or have any contact. The images were all free. He had his password computer broken into by a jealous girlfriend and she called the police. All was admissable. He admitted having looked. There were no hardcopies, no disks etc. He served 10 years and is now labeled a sex offender for life. Mr. Foley who helped draft these horrific laws needs some of his own medicine.

Posted by: DK | Oct 5, 2006 10:35:13 AM

I've read this messages here and find them all as disturbing as what I'm currently going through. I have a brother that has threatened, harrassed, and intimidated family members, and friends when they don't help him. He has committed countless crimes, none of which he has ever been arrested for. 18 months ago, his son was placed in my care by DCFS, due to my brothers actions. One afternoon he walked through an oder of protection to take his son. I called 911 as I was told to do if he came around. My brother threatened to beat me, threatened to vandalize my truck, and before running away, threatened to tell the police that I had child porn and had been touching his son. None of which is true. Come to find out, I wasn't the only person that this has happened to. Nothing was done at that time. But recently He and his son accused my dying father of molesting his son. My father was arrested based on one statement from his son. His son has bad problems with compulsive lying. Lying that gets worse because of his father's punishment. During my brothers interview with the police he told them I had child porn on my computer and that I showed it to his child. I had to move in with my father to care for him, since his health is so poor, and finding out he had cancer. The police came in and served a search warrant, taking my computer, all photos, and hardware related to the computer. A couple days ago, my computer was returned to me alond with my camera, and video camera. At that time I was also questioned. Questioned about a cd that according to the police contained child porn images. They stated that I had been made on the 21st of June 2005, but I didn't get my computer till 19th May 2006. They asked me sevreal times if I made the disc, which I didn't. Then the police said that I had photos on my computer that they would use to take to the State's Attorney, showing I had a perference for young asian women. The photos were of family and friends, during a month long vacation in 2004. I am being investigated for a crime that I didn't do, and face being arrested for it. I have spent all of my money on my father's attorney and can't afford one myself now. I think the law needs to change. People can't go around making threats or claims like my brother has. There is nothing to stop a person like him from making claims like this whenever he wants. And there isn't much that can stop an over zealous police department. I've talked to a few friends about the possiblity that my computer had images on it. they all said that there are types of spyware that can send you pop ups for child porn. Well, if we don't have control over pop ups, then we shouldn't be charged with possession. I haven't been arrested YET, but I keep feeling that it's coming soon. By the way, I was told that I had no images of child porn on my computer. We do need reform. Reform in the way of protecting innocent people from bad police work and anyone making false claims.

Posted by: | Mar 2, 2007 9:52:04 AM

I am a former foster parent who was recently cleared of a second degree sexual assault charge of a minor child and although cleared have been told that I still have to register as a sex offender and undergo treatment. The law in my state says that anytime charges are bought up and even though found not guilty or cleared the charges were still made against you and thats enough to give them the right to do so. I received a gross misdemeanor charge for child endangerment because my computer was accessible to minor children such as my own that new my password and got into bad web sites.They took into their posession my home computer that contained adult pics. at no time did they find any evidence that linked me to doing any harm to a child whether it be online chatting or pics of child porn. My family has lost everytthing and I am struggling to be reunited with my own children and can only do so after undergoing a pysco-sexual evaluation. So here I am falsely accused of commiting a crime against a child and still having to be judged time and time again until I meet their demands. The laws have to be changed or nobody will be there for the children who really need our help.

Posted by: unknown | Nov 5, 2007 2:59:33 PM

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