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April 9, 2011

Noting state resistance to federal law on sex offender registries

This new Wall Street Journal article, headlined "States Resist Federal Sex-Offender Registry," discusses states' continued disaffinity for adopting the federal sex offender registry rules enacted through the Adam Walsh Act. Here are excerpts:

The federal government's attempt to track sex offenders more effectively is hitting resistance from states concerned over the plan's costs and reliability.  A federal law, named the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act after the murdered son of "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh, seeks to create a uniform national system out of a hodgepodge of sex-offender-registration laws in different states.  Proponents of the law, which passed in 2006, say it will close loopholes they believe allow criminals to move from state to state undetected.

States have until July 27 to comply, or they will lose federal funds.  Ohio, Delaware, South Dakota and Florida already have adopted the law.  The Justice Department says many states have introduced legislation that would put them in compliance.

Objections have arisen in such states as Texas, where officials say existing local laws are tougher on sex offenders than the new standards.  The federal act "contradicts what our research over 30 years indicates," said Allison Taylor, executive director of Texas's Council on Sex Offender Treatment, an advisory body with a governor-appointed board. "Public safety would not be enhanced."

Texas also complains that the price of implementing the federal law — about $38.8 million, according to one state estimate — far exceeds the $1.4 million in federal money the state would lose if it didn't comply....   Federal officials say states' worries about costs are overblown. Scott Matson, a senior policy adviser in the U.S. Justice Department office that is helping states implement the act, said one estimate pegged the cost at $18 million in Ohio, but the program turned out running closer to $400,000....

Police say the vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by family members or acquaintances of victims, not unknown perpetrators who might appear in a database.  In Houston, Lt. Ruben Diaz, who heads the sex crimes unit at the Harris County sheriff's department, said it was very rare to find the perpetrator of a new sex crime among those already in the registry....

Other states are also balking at the federal standards.  In a letter to Congress last month, the office of California's attorney general cited "serious concerns" with implementing the Adam Walsh act, including not only cost, but also its inclusion of some juvenile offenders. Some states are raising another concern: that the federal standards use the crimes for which offenders were convicted to assess the threat they pose.  Several states, including Arizona and Texas, prefer a ranking system that uses factors such as the offenders' ages and their relationships to their victims to determine how likely they are to offend again.

Those states fear that implementing the federal act would increase the number of offenders that law enforcement has to monitor, rather than focusing on the most dangerous risks. "We're concerned Adam Walsh would decrease the standards of monitoring," said state Sen. Krysten Sinema, a Democrat who represents part of Phoenix.

Linda Baldwin, who directs the U.S. Justice Department office that is helping states implement the act, said that while some states would have to track more offenders under federal rules, the act is often misunderstood and its burdens overstated.

April 9, 2011 at 05:40 PM | Permalink

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Quote: "it was very rare to find the perpetrator of a new sex crime among those already in the registry...."

And there you have the clearest perfect picture of the Adam Walsh Act. It's costly and does nothing. Best part....YOU pay for it!!!! LOL!!!!!!

Posted by: Book38 | Apr 9, 2011 9:30:06 PM

The current sex offender laws (especially at the federal level) are the most ignorant, unconstitutional POS laws, without any basis in fact, that pandered to the lowest common denominator of the publicly educated voters, who cannot tell s--t from sh-nola. They are the classic example of hate crimes. The DOJ "SMART" Office is really the D--B-A-s Office.

John Byrne would be turning over in his grave if he saw what was done in his name (right, stand up Chuck Joe Biden).

The Federal Judiciary have everyday demonstrated their cowardice and the money grubbers (don't rock the boat wanna be pensioners) they truly are.

Alright you (D--b-A-S Lawyers), if 750,000 sex-offenders are currently committing crimes, where is the body count. Lies were told by John Walsh and Ernie Allen and opportunistic politicians to create both a great drain in financial resources and hate laws.

Why are we so dumb?

Posted by: albeed | Apr 9, 2011 10:52:07 PM

Al: Just as the KKK lynchings had a business plan, to seize the assets of prosperous blacks and jews, so the VFL witch hunt of the productive male has a business plan. There is full moral, intellectual, and policy justification for what Stokely Carmichael did when driven off the road by KKK members who were going to disappear him. He got out, pointed a shot gun, cocked the weapon and would have shot them if they had not run back to their cars, and left in a hurry.

That event happens to be Ground Zero for all subsequent civil rights legislation, not the marches of Martin Luther King. That and the riots. The lawyer understands only one language, violence.

I strongly urge all innocent defendants to demand total discovery of the computers of all the FBI agents, prosecutors, and judges of a prosecution. Report all child porn to the FBI. They can determine whether the porn on the biggest downloaders and suborner of child sexual abuse in the world is work related, that of the Federal Government.

I am someone who is concerned about child sexual abuse, and would end it by 123D. The explosiveness in its profitability caused by the laws of the federal government is now the biggest cause of child sexual abuse in the world.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 10, 2011 12:10:19 AM

lol i've said that for years SC if only 10% of the so called boogie man ex sex criminals stood up and said kiss off i will no longer obey these illegal and criminal laws. take me to jail and bring on the speedy trial...no deals...

the us. justice system would explode!

if another 10% simply picked out a politican and slit their throat...this whole system would end. those chickens will never back up thier mouths with their asses!

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 10, 2011 2:12:46 AM

Texas has it right.....30 years of research says the Adam Walsh Act is ill conceived and is completely out of touch with reality........2 U.S. Justice Dept. Reports given to Congress as well as 2 FBI reports all stated the following..
1. Sex offenders recidivism rate is around 5%..the only offenders with a lower rate are murders.
2. 95% of all sex offences against children are committed by either a friend of the victim or a relative.
So what is the sense of these costly laws? If the person on the registry only has a 5% recidivism rate and if perpetrators of sexual assaults against children are friends or family why do we have these laws? TO MAKE PEOPLE FEEL SAFE...TO MAKE IT APPEAR THE POLITICAINS ARE PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN? WHEN IF FACT THE DO THE OPPOSITE...THEY CLUTTER THE REGISTRY WITH NAME OF PEOPLE WHO ARE NO THREAT AT ALL...WAISTING VALUABLE RESORCES THAT COULD BE USED TO MONITOR THE REAL PREDITORS.
I have no idea where the figure in this article stating 400,000 to enact the Adam Walsh Act. in Ohio came from...I have seen figures that the AG for the state had put the cost at 17 million....and this 400,000 figure surly did not include the millions the state is spending defending these laws in their court system....which by the way has been hit very hard with decisions going in favor of the offenders who are challenging the laws....
Then theirs another interesting fact we all need to have explained to us, why has the U.S. Supreme Court side stepped the issues pertaining to this Adam Walsh Act? It is almost as if they are afraid to grow a pair and once and for all hear the legalities surrounding this law. What are they afraid of?
I have to agree with Book38, albeed fully...and for what Supremacy Claus said...well that will most likely will be the out come if some thing isn't done to correct this wrong being done

Posted by: greg55 | Apr 10, 2011 2:55:41 AM

I follow your law blogs regularly....I am not a attorney or anything like that but I do find it very informative.
This is a little off the topic of this article but this is a little insight into the effect these laws are having.
I have been following a lot of these issues nation wide pertaining to sex offenders and the silly half baked laws that this hysteria feeds....
I am a sex offender that was convicted in 1993 for playing strip poker with a under age female...and I want to make sure every one understands the fact that that was all that happened for any with any doubts.
This is something I am not proud of... and since then I have worked very hard to prove to society that I am not the monster that the government and news agencies portal all sex offenders to be.
A year and a half ago I gave up, this Adam Walsh Act and what it has done to me and my life was more then I cared to endure. So I moved out of the country to be with my wife and son...who the INS refused to grant a family base visa petition to because of the Adam Walsh Act. Yes that right for those of you that did not know it....they now deny family based visa petitions if you were ever convicted of a sex crime...unless you can prove to them you are no threat....now how do you prove you are no threat....they don't need to prove you are a threat..they have taken the whole presumed innocent basics of the constitution and twisted and applied them in this manner.
And on top of this all the State I was from has done nothing but harass and threaten me since I left that if I don't keep my registry with them currant they will seek extradition on those grounds. They have gone as far as tell me I must inform them if I move any where in the country I am now living, ..they have told me I must notify them if I travel and am going to be away from home for more then 72 hours....I now do commercial fishing and am out to sea for as long as a week....some times 100 miles off shore....they expect me to contact them every day and tell them my where abouts...how do you do that?...no cell phone signal, no Internet signal....and even if I could what do I tell them....oh I am 3 waves south of the big wave between Guam and Japan?

I have told them I know longer live in your state, I no longer live in your country and thus I do not fall under your jurisdiction....that's when they really got mad.....I told them the only reason I don't denounce my citizenship is because I have worked 40 years and paid in for ssi and I intend on collecting what I have coming.....if they want to give me all I have paid in over the years with the interest I will be more then happy to denounce my citizenship upon receipt of my money.
You tell me...these laws they say are not punitive and thus they don't fall under the ex facto Claus of the constitution....but yet they can't make it any clearer that this is all about continued punishment for a crime you paid your dues for...
Here is a letter I have had published several times by different org. that were attempting to help but got no where with.....
3 year old sentenced to a life of despair, and exile.
Can you imagine a country that will refuse one of its youngest citizens a 3 year old from living and enjoy the same things every other 3 year old of that country enjoys. Can you imagine a country that will deny a child the same rights to a bright future a proper education , good quality health care all because of a mistake his father made 2 decades ago?
You ask what country could possibly be so cruel as to punish a young child like that because of a mistake made 20 years ago by his father? The United States of America, that’s right the good old U.S. Believe it or not but it’s true.
There is a little boy 3 years old toddler that will not enjoy the same things in life as every other 3 year old American will enjoy as he grow up because his father is a sex offender. A convicted sex offender that 20 years ago committed a crime and now the sins of the father are upon the child.
2o years ago I committed a sexual offence, I played strip poker with a under aged girl, there was nothing more then that. I was sentence to 11 years in prison. A act I am not proud of, a act that I was punished for….and am still being punished for. And that’s fine with me if people truly believe persecuting some one for a crime they did 20 years ago and paid for with 11 years of there life. But my little 3 years son and his mother have never committed a crime but yet they are being punished along with me.
You ask how they are paying the price for what I did? Well my wife and son live in the Philippines. And as a sex offender I cannot apply for a family base visa. That means my wife can never come to the U.S. to be a family…now imagine how it would be for you if you had a wife or husband that were be denied entry in to your country because of a crime your spouse committed so long ago. My son is a U.S. Citizen….has a U.S. passport, U.S. birth certificate issued by the State Dept. But yet he will never enjoy what every other American child enjoys.
The Adam Walsh Act is a law that is suppose to protect children….is it protecting this child? Or has it sentenced him to live a life of exile? He can enter the United States any time he wants to…that means I can bring him here any time and no one can deny him entry…but his mother cannot. She needs a visa and a visa for a wife of a sex offender, well it just don’t happen. So what self respecting man, husband or father would bring his son to live here and take him from his mother. That little boy has the right to live with both his loving parents. Hasn't the government stressed the need for both parents to be involved in raising the children. Has the government looked down on and condemned fathers who wanted nothing to do with their children. But yet this law forces just that. This law was intended to protect children..think about this. Using the same rational that the government uses to defend the Adam Walsh Act. If I am a threat to my son and to my wife…how does this law protect him? I can bring him here any time I want…but without his mother. Now if I was a threat how is this protecting him. By not allowing his mother to have a visa to be here with our son that would be putting him in danger if I was to bring him here himself. WOULDN’T IT.. If I was a threat you would think the government would look and see how this could be putting him in more danger…if I was a threat.
Does the government look at what they are doing and see the damage they are doing to this child…all the freedoms and liberties they are depriving him of, do they care? And I am not the only one that this is happening to…there are many just like us…how many innocent children is this law hurting. The government is very quick to point out that a sexual offence doesn't just hurt the victim, it hurts every member of the victims family as well. The Adam Walsh Act does the same thing to innocent family members and the children of sex offenders. But some how the government don’t care about those victim, they have no empathy for those children…why?
It’s been said this law is a feel good law. A illusion, a law that had good intent but has had no real effect on sex crimes….if it had why are the sex offender numbers sky rocketing like they are… BECAUSE THE LAW WORKS I highly doubt it. If the law works why are the politicians continuing to draft more and more laws pertaining to sex offenders. The government needs to sit down listen to the experts on sex offenders and draft meaning full laws, laws that will do good. Laws that don’t do what this law is doing…getting innocent children caught up in it and destroying their live.
This law has effect me in so many ways as well…I left the United States to live with my wife and son. I was forced to choose between my country and my family. But I am fortunate I found a country that looked at what I had done 20 years ago and looked at the time I spent in prison for what I did…they were a little skeptical at first but after I supplied them with all the court records they saw that what I told them was the truth…and they found it hard to believe that The United states was classifying my a sex offender. And after I explained how teens are branded sex offenders for having sex with other teens, or sending nude pictures to each other, urinating in public and even breastfeeding in public will end you up on the sex offender registry…the examiner that was handling my immigration just shook his head and said you have got to be kidding.
But things with not change easily, as long as politicians continue to ride the wave of sex offender hysteria in order to win re-election…and as long as the press can sell there papers capitalizing on the sex offender this will continue.
How many of you seen the new story in the Boston Herald..the headlines was Sex Offenders caught stealing scrap metal from building being demolished. Pretty catchy way to grab your attention, sex offender. Had they simply stated 2 caught stealing scrap metal from building being demolished. It wouldn't have caught your attention, it wouldn't have sold papers but add the words sex offender and everyone stops to read.
When are people going to see what’s being done, see how wrong it is, when are people going to stand up and say enough is enough.


Posted by: greg55 | Apr 10, 2011 4:34:11 AM

Daubert must come to law making. Otherwise, the contempt of the public will undermine the entirety of the rule of law. The burden of proof should be carried by the law maker. The latter should be hauled before the appellate court and explain the scientific justification for the law being challenged. I am not saying the judiciary should bully the legislature, but rather make it obey the Constitution of our secular nation.

A law with a name in its title is facially suspect, as vengeance for the victimization of the name. However, the vengeance is wreaked on future defendants not the people who hurt the named person. A named law should be presumed to be a bill of attainder until proven to be an effective remedy and to have protected the public. Without research, it is self-evident Megan's Law would not have helped Megan after she opened the door to her neighbor. Only 123D would have her still alive. It should become a standard of professional practice. After three victimizations, the fourth is foreseeable to those who control the body of the offender, i.e. the prison. The prison was in the best and really only position to save Megan. Those who loosed the predator should be made to pay for Megan's life.

The money spent on the paper work shuffling of registries is better spent on longer incapacitations of genuinely dangerous predators.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 10, 2011 9:41:07 AM

Clutter?

Apply Daubert to legislation.

Registries are writs of attainder.

Beautiful, poor Megan would still be lost if Megan's Law were in effect.

The lawyer protected her predator, and should be made to pay in torts because his crimes had the foreseeability of planetary orbits, a 100% guarantee. And the government does have a duty to individuals, otherwise why should individuals fund government, than to protect them.

*****

Any remedy that challenges lawyer rent seeking is called bad names, not rebutted, just mindlessly bashed and labelled with bad names.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 10, 2011 10:24:23 AM

Greg, I thought it was hard for a sex offender to leave the country and find a country to accept them. My children were adopted from Russia and we have seriously looked into learning Russian so that we can take them back to live together as a family. It seems to be as free there as it is here.

Posted by: Jake | Apr 10, 2011 12:48:25 PM

SUPREMACY CLAUS........IT'S NOT THAT HARD TO FIND A COUNTRY TO EXEPT YOU AS LONG AS YOUR CRIME WAS NOT ONE OF EXSTEME VIOLENCE...AS FAR AS LEAVING THE COUNTRY YOU ARE FREE TO COME AND GO STILL...BUT THERE IS PENDING LEGISLATION THAT IF PASSED WILL MAKE IT VERY HARD.....Americans HAVE BEEN BRAINWASHED INTO THINKING THEY ARE SO FREE.......BUT I CAN TELL YOU I HAVE MORE FREEDOMS HERE WHERE I LIVE NOW THEN I EVER HAD IT THE U.S.
AND I AM NOT TAXED TO DEATH EITHER....

Posted by: greg55 | Apr 10, 2011 6:24:18 PM

Contempt is a rational response despite all the American's Most Wanted Walsh helped to catch. Avoiding the truth to promote a police state is blasphemy.

Walsh manged to keep the truth under wraps. When he sued Sears for Adam's death and it came out that he and his wife did drugs in front of Adam and that Jim Campbell and his wife had an ongoing affair, Walsh dropped the suit. Walsh was paid $300,000 for the movie rights and there was no mention of Campbell in the movie. Walsh spent his entire victims' rights career keeping this quiet though the odds are 9 to 1 that someone in the house was responsible. Instead, he panics the entire country by claiming a serial killer killed Adam, though there was a better chance Adam would be struck by lightening twice. Further, Campbell is statistically a very likely suspect. Instead, Walsh falsely claims 50,000 children are abducted by strangers each year (when it is far, far less, maybe 100 or so, and most of those are not sexual). Now Walsh hires a retired detective who worked on the case and who wrote a new book about how dumb the entire police force was, except for him, of course. The book blames it on the dead guy (and isn't there a little separation of powers issue there?)

Contempt indeed.


Posted by: George | Apr 10, 2011 7:17:37 PM

Dear greg55:

I believe everything you said is true!

Bill and Doug won't acknowledge the pain that you are enduring because they made or (are making) a living off of you (and your family's suffering). Who really cares about the constitution, when you can make money off of the USSC's decisions (we have a living document here, which our framers could never have considered under contemporary circmstances)?

I Care!

For both parties, it is all about the marketing focus group, the nightmare where ignorance and gut feelings continue to be magnified. There is NO CONSTITUTION.

SC: I will now fight to the death, the VFL and her male running dogs as they are the real enemies of what the US used to be. The power of the government to abuse individuals (either innocent or guilty), has no limits, and they really don't give a damn because there is no one there to stop them.

Posted by: albeed | Apr 10, 2011 10:52:32 PM

In spite of all that has happen to me and my family as a result of the AWA. i still love the U.S ok.....it just the corrupt power grabbing politicians that pass these laws. And what really burns me is the hundreds of thousands of American men and women died defending that paper....our forefather values and beliefs.......how i see it is every politician is pi--ing on there graves every time they pass unconstitutional laws or take away another one of our freedoms

Posted by: greg55 | Apr 11, 2011 6:02:52 AM

Thank you for sharing,it is very helpful and I really like it!

Posted by: Big pony | Apr 11, 2011 6:08:06 AM

50,000 children?

Posted by: George | Apr 11, 2011 8:51:52 PM

Child sexual abuse and these laws have impacted my family so I set out years ago to learn all I could about sex offenders and victims recovery. One thing I would like to add about Adam Walsh's death. In his book "Tears of Rage", John Walsh recounts the trip to Sears that day. Reve, Adam's mother, left Adam alone at a video game display while she went just around the corner, out of sight, to shop for lamps. That tragedy has been attributed to Ottis Toole who would not have been on any sex offender list or subject to any restrictions because he had never been convicted of any sex crime. California and New York report that more than 90% of people arrested for sex crimes are first time offenders. Interesting how so few criticize Adam's mother for abandoning her child, just for ". . . five. Maybe ten [minutes] altogether." (John Walsh, "Tears of Rage", pg 44)

Posted by: pachrismith | Apr 12, 2011 3:37:53 AM

Sex offender registries are a COMPLETE WASTE OF TAXPAYER MONEY! As stated in the article, they save no one, but they will cost more and more as time goes on. As more offenders are added to the registries, it will balloon into a monster list. Do we really want to spend our precious tax dollars investigating, searching and tracking down someone who committed a minor crime years ago?

Another negative for the registries - When someone's name and photo goes onto the registry, his whole family suffers. Many innocent people are dragged into the "Scarlet Letter" net.

Without a doubt, The Adam Walsh Act and Megan's Law are the dumbest legislation to come from our lawmakers.

Posted by: Taxpayer | Apr 12, 2011 12:55:20 PM

Taxpayer:

You have seemed to hit the nail on the head. The laws exist because no matter how unrealistic (and unconstitutional) they are, they are full employment laws for prosecutors, detectives, LE, judges (aka, former prosecutors), state certified therapists and your typical village idiot, (BO).

Posted by: albeed | Apr 12, 2011 11:24:32 PM

HERE IS A GREAT ARTICLE THAT MAY HELP SOME OF YOU SOME DAY
Former Virginia Attorney General and current Gov. Bob McDonnell gestures after demonstrating upgrades to the Virginia sex offender registry. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
You could say it started with three small-town Minnesota boys riding their bikes to a convenience store on an October night in 1989. As they were returning home on a dark stretch of road, a man stepped out of the darkness holding a gun. He told them to lie face down on the ground and then directed two of them -- Trevor Wetterling, age 10, and Aaron Larson, 11, to run into the woods and not look back or he'd shoot them. That was the last that they, or anyone, would see of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling.
The subsequent fruitless search led President Bill Clinton to sign a law in September 1994 designed to help police quickly locate potential perpetrators of sex offenses. The Jacob Wetterling Act required states to create sex-offender registries accessible to police, though not to the public. But that same year, 7-year-old Megan Kanka of Hamilton Township, New Jersey, was lured across the street, then raped and murdered by a neighbor who -- unbeknownst to her parents -- had served six years in prison for aggravated assault and attempted sexual assault on another child. The Kankas maintained that, had they known a convicted sex offender lived nearby, they could have protected their daughter. So in 1996, Clinton signed Megan's Law, which required states to open up their sex-offender registries to the public.
Megan's Law launched America's practice of notifying neighborhoods of where sex offenders live. Though the law is well intentioned, it's not clear whether it has reduced the number of sex offenses; rather, public notification appears to destabilize offenders' lives, increasing the risk they'll commit another crime. There is also ample evidence that since the law passed, vigilantes have used sex-offender registries to threaten, harass, and inflict violence on hundreds of offenders and their families.
In the decade and a half since Megan's Law was passed, public-policy researchers, corrections officials, and treatment professionals have begun to recognize the faulty premises and poor outcomes the law has created. A few states, recognizing the problems with public registries, have tried to develop legal solutions that both protect offenders from abuse and reduce sexual violence. But a new federal law -- the Adam Walsh Act, signed by President George W. Bush in 2006 and set to take effect this summer -- threatens to shut down those innovations; states not found in compliance by July 26 will lose critical federal crime-fighting funds. At a time when criminal-justice policies are increasingly adopting a "smart on crime" approach grounded in research on what works, the legal treatment of sexual offenders is moving in the opposite direction.
***
"Jeff" isn't his real name. When he talks about the June day in 2005 that the beer bottle shattered his front window, his voice quavers. "I'm sorry -- all of this just makes me so angry," he says. He was convicted in 1995, as a 23-year-old, for having what he says was consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl he met in a bar. That onetime liaison came to light, Jeff says, when the girl became pregnant (he says DNA later showed he wasn't the father) and her parents reported the episode to the police, with the girl as a cooperating witness. He spent five years in prison, but even after his 2000 release, state law required that he be placed -- for life -- on the state registry, which shows his photo, address, and the details of his conviction.
Jeff says the bottle thrower on that June day was a neighbor -- someone with whom he'd been friendly -- who had found Jeff on the registry and appeared on his lawn with two biker buddies, shouting threats. When Jeff went out to talk to the group, the men formed a semicircle, pushing and spitting on him. He retaliated with punches, and the resulting fight ended with both sides bloodied and a hole in a wall when they pursued him as he retreated into the house.
A month later, Jeff recalls, his tool shed was broken into and the equipment for his logging business stolen. Not long after, a second neighbor plugged a culvert they shared so that Jeff's basement flooded in the next storm; Jeff says the man told him he'd done it "to get the sex offender out of my neighborhood." Jeff has changed his phone number a dozen times after repeated threatening calls.
In 2003, Jeff married a lifelong acquaintance who knew his history. She worked as a nurse at a hospital, and shortly after their marriage, a manager told her that she had to choose between her job and her husband. Jeff attributes their 2005 divorce to his status on the sex-offender registry: "We were looking at each other, and it was like, 'I'm destroying your life.'" Even the two girls he parents, ages 13 and 14 (one from a previous partner and the other for whom he serves as guardian), started being teased in school and were excluded from social, school, and church events. "What have my kids ever done to anybody?" Jeff says. "In reality, sometimes I wonder if maybe killing myself may not be the best thing I can do for them."
About 700,000 sex offenders appear on registries in the 50 states and other U.S. jurisdictions. But their crimes vary widely, from chronic violent sexual predation down to voyeurism and even public urination. Researchers estimate that the vast majority of these offenders are at low-risk for repeating their crimes. Nonetheless, the public is overwhelmingly concerned: In a 2005 Gallup poll, 66 percent of respondents said they were "very concerned" about sex offenders, while 36 percent said the same about terrorism.
Giving a nervous public instant access to the addresses and photos of sex offenders produces none-too-surprising results. Though no reliable national statistics exist on vigilante violence against sex offenders, a few studies indicate widespread abuses. In a 2005 study by University of Louisville criminologist Richard Tewksbury in the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 47 percent of 121 sex offenders reported they'd been harassed as a result of being on a state registry, and 16 percent said that they'd been assaulted; among nearly 600 immediate family members of offenders that Tewksbury and Lynn University researcher Jill Levenson surveyed, 44 percent said they'd been threatened or harassed by neighbors as a result of their relative's sex-offender status, 27 percent that their property had been damaged, and 7 percent that they'd been physically assaulted or injured. A 2005 study in the same journal by Levenson and Leo Cotter, who directs a Florida sex-offender outpatient program, reported that 21 percent of 183 offenders had their property damaged by a person who found out about their status.
Recent incidents illustrate those findings. In April 2010, a man used a printout from California's sex-offender registry to try to rob the homes of two registered sex offenders in Grover Beach. In November, a registered sex offender from Orlando was assaulted in front of his home by three teens who told him they knew he was a sex offender; they punched and kicked him repeatedly and stomped his dog to death before running off. That same month in the Virginia town of Hopewell, police charged 19-year-old Daniel Narron with attempted murder for using his SUV to try to run down 52-year-old Rudolph Ellis, who is on Virginia's sex-offender list. Since 2005, at least six sex offenders nationwide have been murdered by people who used a state registry to track their victims.
The problems with the sex-registry laws are myriad, starting from their very premises. One of the basic assumptions behind Megan's Law is that parents who know that a sex offender lives nearby will take precautions; after a decade and a half, however, there's little research to show that's happened. A second premise is that sex offenders are somehow different from other criminals and can't change, but a 2003 study found that sex offenders had a three-year recidivism rate of 5 percent for another sex crime; that compares with a 47 percent rate for other criminals committing another crime. Finally, the law assumes sex offenders will be less likely to commit another crime if they know they're being watched. Again, the research is weak: In 2009, analysts at the Washington State Institute for Public Policy looked at seven studies on recidivism by registered sex offenders that had been conducted since the first registry law was passed. Two showed that being on a registry decreased recidivism, one showed an increase, three indicated no effect, and one didn't measure the effect. "Though the research differs somewhat from state to state and study to study, overall it does not appear that registries have resulted in a significant decline in sex crimes in general or in recidivistic sex crimes more specifically," says Levenson, perhaps the leading researcher on the effects of sex-offender registries.
Still, probably the biggest issue with registries is who gets on them and what happens to those who do. As originally conceived in the Wetterling Act, registries were to be accessible only to law enforcement. It was raw public pressure, rather than criminological research results, that turned those lists over to the public. And, like many policies driven by public furor, the enabling laws overreached. Today, most registries include offenders busted for a range of acts, from offensive or vulgar behavior to heinous crimes. A 2007 Human Rights Watch study reported that at least five states required those convicted of offenses related to adult prostitution to be registered, 11 states did the same for those guilty of public urination, and 25 did so for public exhibitionism. "Most people assume that a registered sex offender is someone who has sexually abused a child or engaged in a violent sexual assault of an adult," noted the study's authors. Registries, that is, create the impression that neighborhoods are thick with recidivist sexual predators, making it impossible for parents to discern who actually is dangerous.
Sex-offender registries also now include people who have committed no sexual crime: Forty-one states put those convicted of falsely imprisoning or kidnapping a minor on their sex-offender registries -- whether or not the crime was related to sex. Last March, for example, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld a ruling that a 17-year-old boy who forced another 17-year-old to go with him to collect a drug debt could be made to register as a sex offender, though the crime involved nothing sexual. The court majority argued for the wider net because "Wisconsin's sex offender registration statute 'reflect[s] an intent to protect the public and assist law enforcement.'" As the dissenting justices noted, under that reasoning, convictions for violating most provisions of Wisconsin law could trigger mandatory sex-offender registration.
Sweeping everyone onto a single list produces some absurd outcomes. Fred Berlin, who founded the Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital, worked with a patient in his 80s who had Alzheimer's and was living in a nursing home. The man also was on the sex-offender registry for fondling a child in his family. Berlin says the man's offense probably was related to the onset of his dementia. But that didn't stop the nursing home's neighbors, who found his name on the registry, from successfully demanding he be moved to another facility.
A raft of research shows that such disruptions increase offenders' risk of committing another sexual crime. For example, three studies conducted between 2000 and 2007 indicate that being listed on a sex-offender registry leads to a loss of positive community supports and to barriers in getting housing and employment, both problems linked to increased recidivism. Betsy Mata and her husband Jose know that well. They're co-pastors at Holy Ground Christian Fellowship in Anaheim, California, where they run a 12-step residential treatment program for sex offenders under a contract with the state parole agency. After a registered sex offender was convicted of murdering two teens 90 miles south of their facility, someone looked on the state registry and found out that the program was housing 11 sex offenders in two rented houses. Two hundred fired-up citizens attended a community meeting. Betsy Mata started getting threatening calls -- one caller said he'd castrate the men. When the story broke in The Orange County Register, one of the landlords canceled the program's lease, and the parole agency stepped in to shut down the second house to avoid the publicity. As a result, eight of the 11 men ended up on the street.
That outcome isn't surprising: A state task force report issued last November documented a 750 percent increase in California's population of homeless sex offenders since a restriction on offenders living within 2,000 feet of schools or parks went into effect four years ago. Last November, the Oklahoma town of Sand Springs took advantage of that state's 2,000-foot law by announcing plans to build a new town park close to a trailer park where 23 sex offenders live, which will force the offenders to move. Nationally, a 2008 U.S. Department of Justice report concluded that cases of offenders being forced into homelessness have been "widely reported."
Sex-offender policies, meanwhile, are growing ever more punitive, including tightened residency restrictions, lifetime placement on sex-offender registries for even minor offenses, and even the expanded use of the death penalty for certain non-homicide sex offenses. Treatment professionals say no other group of ex-convicts who have done their time are the target of such systematic vitriol. "Drunk drivers can be dangerous -- they get in cars and kill innocent people, but we still see them as human beings deserving of help," Berlin says.
***
In recent years, however, a few states have taken the lead in using their registries more judiciously in response to research showing the link between public notification and vigilantism and discrimination against offenders, including those who are lower-risk. One state leading that effort is Washington, which created the country's first public sex-offender registry, in 1990, after three highly publicized murders, two involving children. Washington has invested heavily since then in evaluating and improving its practices. Before an offender is released from jail, a multidisciplinary committee uses an actuarial risk-assessment tool to determine his likelihood of committing another crime, looking at factors like whether the offender has a history of sex offenses or has completed a treatment program. On that basis, offenders are placed into one of three tiers. Those in tier 1 -- judged the least likely to re-offend -- are listed on a registry accessible to law-enforcement eyes only. Those in tiers 2 and 3 must submit to the state's public registry, and police must distribute notification flyers in the offenders' neighborhoods before their release.
The police, though, do more than notify. Given resources by the state's association of sheriffs and police chiefs, local cops also educate. Before a tier-2 or -3 offender moves into a neighborhood, police hold a public meeting. A parole officer and a sex-offender treatment provider talk about the characteristics of the offender, how the neighborhood can stay vigilant, and how the parole officer monitors offenders. An advocate for sexual-assault victims offers context, including that most assaults are committed by people whom victims know, and discusses strategies parents can use to communicate with kids about what to watch out for. Police also make clear that harassing sex offenders often puts them more at risk of committing another crime. "We will not accept any vigilantism any more than we would accept a sex offender re-offending," a Seattle police detective said at one meeting. Having a team of presenters "allows the community to see that many players are part of sex-offender management," says Lindsay Palmer of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center.
There are still problems -- tiering and community notification practices can differ from county to county -- but overall the state's results have been positive. After a 1997 state law mandated the current protocol for community meetings, the five-year recidivism rate for released felony sex offenders dropped by half (though researchers note that state and national crime rates generally fell during that period). A 2006 Washington State Institute for Public Policy study of recidivism among Washington's convicted sex offenders showed a re-offense rate of less than 3 percent, compared with the national rate of 5.3 percent reported in a 2003 U.S. Department of Justice study.
Other states that are instituting reforms also have shown promising results. Like Washington, since 1997 Minnesota has held community education meetings and included only higher-risk offenders on its state registry. A 2008 study of those practices showed lower recidivism rates for sex offenders subject to them than for matched comparison groups of sex offenders. In Vermont, the Department of Corrections launched a "circles of support" initiative in 2005 that links ex-offenders with trained community volunteers. Though the state hasn't yet formally evaluated the project's impact, the department's David Peebles says that offenders who participate have so far shown more success than others in reintegrating and avoiding new crimes. In Colorado, the head of the state sex-offender management board says the state's community-education efforts have helped reduce re-offense rates while avoiding vigilantism: A 2008 evaluation of 101 high-risk paroled offenders there showed a recidivism rate of less than 1 percent.
But innovative approaches like those could be undermined by the Adam Walsh Act. After passage of Megan's Law, missing-children's advocates became concerned about offenders using differences in state registries to slip across state lines to jurisdictions with looser requirements. They lobbied for a uniform national registry, and in 2006, President Bush signed the act, named for a 6-year-old boy kidnapped and murdered in 1981 by a serial killer. The law mandates a uniform structure for state registries and links them to create a single national registry. It also requires that states adopt identical risk-assessment systems that automatically classify offenders based on their crime of conviction.
The implications of that apparently technical change are enormous. According to an internal memo of Washington state's Sex Offender Policy Board (SOPB), which develops guidelines for state practice, about 70 percent of the state's sex offenders are now classified as lower-risk, in tier 1, while the other 30 percent are grouped into the higher-risk tiers 2 and 3. The new law would roughly invert those statistics. Worse, the law would prohibit the state's practice of not making public the names and addresses of tier-1 offenders. According to SOPB member Brad Meryhew, within two months of implementing the law, neighborhoods would be flooded with notification flyers about high-risk sex offenders living in their neighborhoods -- offenders who previously were classified as low-risk under Washington's system. "The hysteria and the impact on people's lives would be astounding," Meryhew says.
That's a concern for one key advocate for missing children -- Patty Wetterling, Jacob Wetterling's mother. In 1990, she started the Jacob Wetterling Foundation to help communities protect children and teens. Wetterling believes the highest-risk offenders should never be released. But for others convicted of sexual crimes, she opposes get-tough laws like restricting where they can live. "We need to keep in mind the goal -- to have no more victims," she says. "If you go down that path, then you have to find the things that every human being needs in life. You need housing. You need a job. You need family support, community support. ... Everyone on the registry is somebody's brother, somebody's son, somebody's father."

Posted by: GREG55 | Apr 13, 2011 6:26:29 AM

very nice greg55 but none of it matters. no part of this illegal! criminal and treasonious sex offender regisry sytem will stop UNTILL those banished to it. start to show up at the meetings with baseball bats and ask the little nazi's if they think their asses can back up their mouths and then lay into them. Till politicians who continue to pass what are illegal on thier face laws wake up in the night with a knife at thier throats! When idiots like the idiot with the bottel and the one stuffing teh culvert are hunted down and KILLED by those on the registry.. it will never stop!

why should it! there is no punishment for them not stopping.

as for why i said illegal on their face.

check out the original ONLY u.s. supreme court decision on the registry. sorry i dont' consider NOT taking a case...making a decision.

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 14, 2011 1:30:57 AM

@robsmith all good things always come to a end everything comes to a stop nothing last forever think about it cost tax payers a lot of money to keep these laws up America already in a economic term oil all these men need is a push a spark before they start taking action into there own hands soon all this well be over your thinking primitive for every action there's a equal reaction everything comes with a price there are always consciousnesses to every thing everybody does soon they'll face there judgement there was once a great nation far greater than any of these nations you see today they thought i will never come to a stop but it did it no longer exist that nation was the great roman empire as America is beginning to follow in its footsteps face it these laws will soon come to a stop

Posted by: anonymous | Feb 17, 2013 3:54:15 PM

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