« "Fewer prisons — and yet, less crime" | Main | "'Furiosus Solo Furore Punitur': Should Mentally Ill Capital Offenders Be Categorically Exempt from the Death Penalty?" »

February 10, 2014

Registered sex offender makes case against sex offender registry

Guy Hamilton-Smith, a registered sex offender and law school graduate who has so-far been denied the opportunity to become a member of the bar, has this new op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader under the headline "Sex-offender registry misguided thinking." Here are excerpts:

I am a sex offender. I know well the tremendous power of those words. In 2007, I pled guilty to possession of child pornography.

Nothing here is meant to defend what I did or to minimize the gravity of my actions. I had a major problem with pornography, and I was far too deep in denial and too scared to reach out to anyone.  Help eventually came when my girlfriend discovered child porn on my computer and went to the police.  I was then and remain grateful to her for taking that step.

As I went through the legal process after my arrest, I developed a keen interest in the law, and a sincere desire to advocate on the behalf of those who are hated, who are lost, and who are forgotten.  With luck, I managed to win acceptance to law school despite my conviction.  I worked harder than I'd ever worked in my life, because I knew I'd have a lot to do to overcome my past.  I did well in school, graduated, secured a job at a law firm after disclosing my past, and applied to take the bar exam.  Recently, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that I will not be allowed to take the bar exam until I am no longer on the sex-offender registry, which will be another 18 years from now.

But the point I want to make is not about me. It isn't about my case. I am not here to say whether the court's decision was right or wrong. The principles at play are much larger than me.  

Strange as it may sound coming from a felon and a sex offender, I believe in the necessity of punishment.  How else, after all, are people supposed to make amends for the harm that they cause? ... I believe in many ways that my life was saved by virtue of my arrest.  I am sensitive to the fact that my crime, and the crimes of others on the sex offender registry, are serious. I do not mean to denigrate the plight of victims, as I was also a victim at one point in my own childhood.

My point, rather, is simply this: punishment that becomes unmoored from considerations of proportionality, redemption and reintegration becomes poison, and we — society, victims and perpetrators — become diminished by it.

Nowhere is this more evident than the sex-offender registry.  Those who find themselves constituents of the registry are routinely and uniformly denied the same second chance afforded to so many other criminal defendants after they have served their sentences.  

The impetus behind the registry is the popular belief that sex offenders always commit new sex crimes.  That view, however, is at odds with data from the Department of Justice and others....

I know that I am not a sympathetic figure by virtue of my crime.  I know that I can never change the past or undo the things that I have done.  My hope here is that we can have a discussion in this country that is long overdue — namely, what it is that we hope to achieve from our system of criminal justice.

February 10, 2014 at 10:35 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e201a3fcb9494a970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Registered sex offender makes case against sex offender registry:

Comments

For whatever else may be the case, Guy writes better than the decided majority of lawyers I have run across. Well organized, fluid, avoids overstatement. Good for him.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 10, 2014 11:31:26 AM

While the sex offender registry laws (and Public access to the list) are sort of a new experiment, it's not a stretch to see that it's both punitive and bloated. We can do better than SORNA and tier system. Given that the most dangerous child offenders can be committed (thus locked up), I have to wonder about the cost/benefit analysis beyond the hysteria. This guy writes very well, and he deserves a chance to pick up the pieces.

I was looking at a sentencing packet and there are newer studies that show for even the highest recidivist prone offenders, the percentage drops way down after 5 or 10 years., not thier lifetime.

Posted by: Brad | Feb 10, 2014 2:24:35 PM

A particularly issue here is breadth. For instance:

"Recently, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that I will not be allowed to take the bar exam until I am no longer on the sex-offender registry, which will be another 18 years from now."

Also, some might feel a bit differently if the person here was guilty of molesting a child or (to cite one case referenced in a recent post) filmed child pornography himself.

Anyway, if Bill Otis is impressed, he's doing something right.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 10, 2014 4:01:10 PM

"My point, rather, is simply this: punishment that becomes unmoored from considerations of proportionality, redemption and reintegration becomes poison, and we — society, victims and perpetrators — become diminished by it.

Nowhere is this more evident than the sex-offender registry. Those who find themselves constituents of the registry are routinely and uniformly denied the same second chance afforded to so many other criminal defendants after they have served their sentences."

Guy is 100% correct in the this statement. Sex offender laws are irrational AND unconstitutional, no matter what the majority of 9 legal monkeys say. They are apologizing for the government, for Bill Clinton, Mark Foley, James Sensenbrenner at the remaining native criminal class. They need someone to point to to hate for purely political purposes.

Smith vs. Doe said that the registry is non-punitive as it was narrowly defined (and I am sure selectively chosen for its narrowness) at that time. Then, when the government added in residency restrictions, limited the use of a computer, denied the right to travel freely (look at how the DOJ is informing other countries so that SOs can and are denied entry, even with their families without any laws or legal protections), limit who they can live with, fine them after the fact for the rest of their life, all by the fiat of an incompetent and fearful legislature with no due process or hearing by a judiciary - Yes we are a worse that third world country and deserve to be disrespected.

The SO laws as they are currently constructed are nothing but POS's, and I don't care if I am not as eloquent as Guy. These laws must be overturned as they are selected government scapegoating.

Posted by: albeed | Feb 10, 2014 4:32:12 PM

@Joe,

I agreed with the California Supreme Court's decision (at least that it was defensible). If the Kentucky court made that ruling, it's entirely different and, imo, indefensible.

The inflexibility and permanence of sex offender registries are my biggest complaints. Not every offense should be treated equally and, after some time, people should have the opportunity to establish they are no longer a danger.

Posted by: Erik M | Feb 10, 2014 5:02:25 PM

Mr. Hamilton-Smith writes: "....punishment that becomes unmoored from considerations of proportionality, redemption and reintegration becomes poison, and we — society, victims and perpetrators — become diminished by it."

A cogent and powerful statement against mandatory minimum sentences in general, particularly when applied to first-time offenders.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Feb 10, 2014 5:06:04 PM

Mr Hamilton-Smith writes: "Those who find themselves constituents of the registry are routinely and uniformly denied the same second chance afforded to so many other criminal defendants after they have served their sentence."

Not only is this statement true, but it shows how the law is broken. What other class of people are not afforded the opportunity to have a second chance, a second shot at a new life "after" they have completed their sentence and paid their debt to society.

Posted by: Book38 | Feb 10, 2014 7:29:48 PM

you were doing so good Erik till you got here!

"people should have the opportunity to establish they are no longer a danger"

Sorry but in this country under our constitution the burden of proof is on the state. IF they think an individual is a danger to either themselves or others. It's THIER JOB to prove it.

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 11, 2014 12:45:05 PM

Yesterday, my probation officer asked me what would make the biggest improvement in my life, were it to occur today. I said "for this to all go away - to get off the registry." He replied that isn't going to happen.

So tell me, is the registry regulatory or punitive? I feel Mr. Hamilton-Smith's pain - closely, deeply, and personally.

Do I feel empathy and compassion for my victim? Absolutely! Will I ever offend again? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Will I ever be given a second chance at a normal life? Sorry, dude, we just can't take that chance.

In the end, "my debt to society" will never be repaid.

Posted by: Oswaldo | Feb 11, 2014 1:06:27 PM

People who support the Sex Offender Registries will continue to have no credibility until they stop failing at getting the rest of their Registries created. They are still immoral and un-American.

albeed (Feb 10, 2014 4:32:12 PM): I would worry more about being forceful than eloquent. People who are more concerned about how beautifully a person says something or how that person presents himself, rather than the content of the person's message, are shallow and not so bright. I do realize that appearance is what is valued in the U.S. but the vast majority of people in the U.S. are not so bright.

I am proud that, with respect to me and my family, the Registries have been worse than worthless for society. The War on Registry Terrorists continues.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Feb 11, 2014 1:37:36 PM

The law and the rules need more focus on the chronological , mental and social age of the victim.

Posted by: Just Plain Jim (Just Another Guy) | Feb 12, 2014 4:02:14 PM

To bolster the guy's case ask the SIMPLE question, "If I committed arson,murder,a terrorist act, or some other violent crime like hitting someone with a baseball bat", should I still be able to get a law license after rehab and changing my ways?

I don't see why a guy who views a pic of a teenager rightfully or wrongfully or who briefly grabs a teenager's arm to chastise for playing in the street (no joke, lifetime SORNA high-risk adam walsh act registry"), should register compared to an arsonists or a terrorist.

I guess the word "sex" invokes fear and taboo, in fact the reason registries were created have nothing to do really about sex but those who murdered and happened to commit those crimes.

Anyways, SORNA should be struck down, the mere travel without association with a crime should not give Congress blanket authority.

As for law licenses ,felons do have a hard time getting it also, its not unique to those on an SO registry.

Of course there is no constitutional right to practice law even if you committed non sexual crimes or other serious violent crimes, so while we may support his desire in concerns with fair and justice, its not really a civil rights case.

Posted by: Kris | Feb 12, 2014 11:31:46 PM

As to rodsmith's comment, the barrier here is a continuation of his punishment, at least that is how I'd look at it (there is some "civil" vs. "criminal" labeling in this area that confuses matters sometimes), so the "proof" was made -- when he was convicted. We aren't starting from scratch here.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 13, 2014 11:33:49 AM

your nicer than I am Oswald. My response would have been. "When every govt fucktard in the world drops over dead in an instant."

my response to this

" He replied that isn't going to happen."

Dream on you hate filled neo-Nazi govt fucktard. sooner or later you will manage to piss off enough of the people in this country we WILL KILL you all.

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 13, 2014 10:59:58 PM

try again joe!

"As to rodsmith's comment, the barrier here is a continuation of his punishment, at least that is how I'd look at it (there is some "civil" vs. "criminal" labeling in this area that confuses matters sometimes), so the "proof" was made -- when he was convicted. We aren't starting from scratch here. "


totally wrong. Sorry but once that court ordered sentence is done. If they then YEARS later want to do anything concerning that individual they are back to square one. Yes they can use that info IN A NEW HEARING. But that is it! You don't legally get to let a group of govt fucktards pass a law that says because "x" did "y" 20 years ago we can now do "G" any fucking time we feel like it.

ESPECIALLY when using the so-called excuse of "danger" sorry if he/she/it is a danger bring your ass in front of a judge and PROVE IT!

Absent that showing as far as myself and a lot of others are concerned YOUR a bigger threat then the one your persecuting.

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 14, 2014 6:34:34 PM

Rodsmith is the only commenter here who comes anywhere close to realizing the insanity of the whole national situation. Scapegoating is the only explanation. Florida just sent two new laws to their house to make sentences for sex offenders longer. It is not getting better. Jesus said, "let those who have ears hear, let those who are not blind see." There just are not enough people in America who are not deaf and blind left anymore. The insanity has gone rampant and John Walsh leads the pack. I do believe he is making a handsome living off of his little dead son.

Posted by: Lianne | Mar 18, 2014 11:19:09 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB