« "In Defense of Capital Punishment: A 'botched' execution does not render the death penalty illegitimate" | Main | Intriguing new BJS data about national jail populations »

May 8, 2014

Fascinating discussion of "mom movement" to reform sex offender registration laws

NBC News has this lengthy new piece about efforts to reform sex offender registration laws under the headline "My Son, the Sex Offender: One Mother's Mission to Fight the Law."  The full piece is worthy of a full read, and here is how it gets started:

In the run up to Halloween one year, Sharie Keil saw something that really made her jump: Missouri governor Jay Nixon, then the attorney general. He was on television to announce that registered sex offenders were hereby banned from participating in her favorite holiday. On threat of a year in jail, they had to stay inside and display a sign saying they had no candy. The goal was “to protect our children,” as Nixon put it, but Keil heard only a peal of political hysteria.

She is not a sex offender nor, at 63, a new-age apologist for pedophiles or predators. She is a mother, however, and in 1998 her 17-year-old son had sex with a pre-teen girl at a party. He was convicted of aggravated sexual abuse, which got him six months in county jail and a lifetime of mandatory registration as a sex offender. Ten years later, after the Halloween law, Keil felt shocked into action.

”As my husband says, I decided to go on the war path,” she remembers. Today, she’s at the forefront of a growing fight against sex offender registries, a shame-free alliance of offenders and their families, supported by researchers and some advocates who helped pass stringent anti-abuse laws in the first place. They’re organized (albeit loosely) under Reform Sex Offender Laws, a five-year-old lobby that claims 38 state affiliates and a steady patter of legal and legislative victories.

Most of their progress, however, has been limited to a slice of the registry: juvenile offenders. That would remove Keil’s son, but this former soccer mom and chapter head of the League of Women Voters wants to abolish the public registry altogether. She funds a powerful RSOL affiliate, Missouri Citizens for Reform, which has helped push sweeping changes through the Missouri House four years in a row, only to see the effort smothered in the Senate or, last summer, stabbed by a governor’s veto.

“Changing the registry would provide relief for tens of thousands of Missourians,” Keil says. “Since there are nearly 800,000 people on the registry nationally, millions of lives would change for the better.”

As reckless as Keil’s ideas may sound, she and her intellectual allies—among them Nicole Pittman, an attorney who slammed registries in a Human Rights Watch report last year—are fervently opposed to sexual abuse and believe in jail time for law breakers. However, they also hope to realign the law with second-chance ideals and new research that shows rehabilitation is possible, even for America’s last pariahs.

If they succeed, Keil believes, public safety will actually improve. As the registries shrink or disappear, law enforcement will be freed to focus on crime prevention. If the movement fails, she warns, public safety could suffer. Truly dangerous people will be lost in the thousands that police must monitor, while relatively harmless offenders break bad in a system that gives them no hope for a normal future.

May 8, 2014 at 11:46 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Fascinating discussion of "mom movement" to reform sex offender registration laws:


Which is the "worse crime" against nature?

Requested or desired sexual contact (coital/non-coital) with a willing post-adolescent (14 and over), or imprisoning an individual for two years and branding them for life. Remember, there was no force, threats, coercion, incapacitation or deception!

I am NOT saying to condone the actions, just to bring proportionality to the penalties.

Posted by: albeed | May 8, 2014 12:25:42 PM

Finally an article from a major news source that addresses the futility and riduculousness of the registries from some real life situations with backup from empirical data. Glad to see people are finally actively organizing against these trash laws.

Posted by: Randy | May 8, 2014 12:32:25 PM

It's an excellent article, my own experiences and travails with the registry notwithstanding. I think that this is sort of the natural direction that this is going to take -- the more and more people who are not dangerous and who have "paid their debt" get lumped into a one-size-fits-all category, the more pushback there is going to be.

I understand that this is, unquestionably, a difficult and emotional subject matter for everyone. But it seems to me that we, collectively, owe it to ourselves to think rationally about these policies so that we can adopt laws that actually serve to strengthen as opposed to undermine public safety.

But we seem, for the time being, to be too in love with punishment and too anxious about our collective sexuality to consider that we may well be cutting of our nose to spite our face with the way the registry currently functions.

Posted by: Guy | May 8, 2014 12:57:35 PM

Please understand that this is NOT about "coddling criminals." Most registrants support harsh but just punishments for those who reoffend in an ACTUAL sex offense, though just as vehemently OPPOSE punishment for rgistrants who commit registration violations (or violations that aren't illegal for non-registrants, like living near a school). But this is the first article that has combined the pain family members muse endure for their own connection with the registry, with the stark reality that such registries make communities more dangerous, not safer.

In fact, registries are more beneficial to politicians, law enforcement Barny Fife / Buford T. Justice clones, and pandering vigilantes than to concerned parents and communities. They feed into the Us vs. Them paradigm missing since the Cold War and the Civil Rights erea, and provide, nay, ENCOURAGE public defamation of such individuals. Keil is emblematic of such an entity, and hopefully more action can be directed to fix this mess.

I won't hold my breath, though.

Posted by: Eric Knight | May 8, 2014 1:15:30 PM

I have often thought about one idea which I seldom, if ever hear: is our criminal justice system a failure if we fail to give people a second chance in life? A system is in place, though counselling, which evaluates sex offenders and determines their risk of reoffending. Why not have a tiered system, monitored only by law enforcement and those professional counselors, which places offenders in tiers 1, 2, or 3, based on their likelihood of reoffending as opposed to their actual crime?
One seldom mentioned but, I think supposed, benefit of our system is that many people can be "scared straight" though their encounter with the justice system. I, as a RSO, was terrified though my experience. I have learned compassion for my victim, and wish every day that I could take it back. I understand my victim has been scarred for life - to what extent is unknown. And I deeply regret my actions. Every day I do everything I can to be a model citizen, to help others, and, most importantly, to never reoffend again. I do this not because I am afraid of the system, but because it is the right thing to do. Regardless, I am on the registry for life.

Posted by: Oswaldo | May 8, 2014 1:21:44 PM

Nelson Mandela - “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
He is speaking of jails here, but I think that the registrants in the US are considered by many the "lowest ones." Our country fails approximately 800,000 people miserably!

Posted by: JillSmith | May 8, 2014 7:46:31 PM

In the absence of forcible rape, the female child should be registered as a sex offender, She is a false victim, and often the sexual aggressor, but is immunized, and falsely called a victim by the vile feminist lawyer and its vile male running dos.

Thanks to the lawyer dumbass traitor, this anti-family rabid feminist and its male running dogs, child sex abuse has increased, slowly but steadily. Outside of generating government make work jobs, these registries have no validation, and serve no benefit to anyone save slow shuffling, lazy government workers, often constituents of the Democratic Party.

One law was named after Jessica. The police already knew a child rapist lived across from her. They visited him, and these agents of the prosecutor, these total incompetents left, with her in the closet of this child rapist. What are the odds, to the agents of the prosecution. A repeat child rapist is loosed on the public, by the lawyer traitor. He lives across from the trailer of a little girl, and the little girl goes missing. In terms of handing the solution to a case on a silver platter, what more would be needed for these incompetents to start doing their jobs? He used her up and was too cowardly to kill her by hand. He buried her alive with her blue plush dolphin in a garbage bag.

He got the death penalty from a jury of his peers. Meanwhile, he got anal cancer. Instead of moving up the date of execution and ending his suffering, the lawyer traitor protected him. The taxpayer likely had to spend a $million on his futile end of life care, so the lawyer traitor could feign piety. Thank the dumbass, sanctimonious, lawyer traitor for this catastrophe.

Then the other one, Megan. Her mistake was solely to open the door to her neighbor, and she was gone. What scintilla of a difference would it have made if he were registered as a sex offender? It is a crime to to bully a sex offender listed. One may not even force them to move away from where children are located. So the intent is not safety, but rent seeking.

Here is what would have saved these little girls.

End the all out assault on the patriarchal family, so these bastards can learn the rules from a father.

Stop teaching kids about graphic sexual techniques with anal sex being taught in 7th grade.

Then, 123D. None of these child rapists should have reached their 18th birthday without being executed. Instead the lawyer traitor protected them, and little girls were used up and executed in cruel and unusual ways. End the Registry. Start killing these vicious child rapists before they kill our kids. The deceased, not the registered have a low recidivism rate. The dumbass lawyer traitor has made it feminist choice, protect the predator. Allow their clients to kill our kids.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 8, 2014 10:44:21 PM

nice but here's the problem!

"In the run up to Halloween one year, Sharie Keil saw something that really made her jump: Missouri governor Jay Nixon, then the attorney general. He was on television to announce that registered sex offenders were hereby banned from participating in her favorite holiday."

When this hate filled traitor to his oath of office got up and announced this. She and everyone else would have been better served if she'd went on a REAL WARPATH and hung his ass for the treason he committed.

we had the same problem in the 1940's when the fuckup's in calif passed the very first sex offender registry. If the people at the time had burned sacramento to the ground with the politicians in it. That would have been the end of it.

Posted by: rodsmith | May 9, 2014 12:54:11 AM

yes I say a traitorous asshole since I see nothing in the article giving any reference to a LEGAL LAW he might have gotten passed as the AG. Based on the article you have to assume asshole simply got up and had a press conference and stated with the ROYAL WE that this activity is now illegal. Sorry you gov't fuckup you don't have that authority in any way shape or form and every legal American at that point had the right to kill your traitorous ass.

Posted by: rodsmith | May 9, 2014 12:56:18 AM

Of course, the real danger with the "R.S.O.L." approach is that it leaves unchallenged most of the assumptions of the hysteria of the past thirty to forty years. Implicit (or explicit) in its message is that there exists a continuum of abuse which is quite apart from genuine issues of force or actual violence. Since they do not differentiate between acts of "abuse", such as penetration, fellatio, cunnilingus, fondling, kissing on cheek, foot-rubbing, etc. and - of course - freely given consent, they instead base their 'scale of depravity' entirely upon 'age-differentials' and ostensible "inappropriateness" (which can only be divined through avid consumption of pop psychology and daytime talk shows) there will remain, even if their campaign is successful, vast swathes of injustice left untouched by reason or sanity.

Still an improvement? Perhaps but it will continue to fail to identify both the absurdities to which society has devolved as well as the travesties which is their result. And, of course, its attendant victims will remain victims: permanently marginalized, permanently degraded.

Posted by: David Kennerly | May 9, 2014 9:35:21 PM

I don't get why we don't have in nearly all states backed by the feds "Murder,Arsonists, and drug dealer registries".

So urinating in the bushes or even sexting,or non-sex crimes like false imprisonment or kidnapping even when its a guy in his 20s who briefly grabbed a teenagers arm to chastise her for playing in the street and didn't force her into a car, is a US Marshalls, SORNA, hefty "SEX" crime.

Yet, if someone sells your child drugs, bashes them on head (did the folks who dragged nitzmary brown and bash her head violently be subject to a "SEX" registry,nope if they are released", but aren't they a threat to society.

You mean if you set fires across the country and are a violent criminal, you don't have to register?

I don't see how any rational person can support such a system, except that SEX conjures up a negative connotation.

Posted by: alex | May 14, 2014 1:08:02 AM

alex | May 14, 2014 1:08:02 AM:

Don't worry, more Registries are coming. There is simply no way that the big government people who support the Sex Offender Registries can justify the SORs without creating the rest of the Registries. The only reason that they have not yet is that it is not going to be so easy to pass off the Registry fraud on other groups of people that are only mildly hated. But the propaganda of the SORs will help them and they should be able to get it done. Republicans will lead the charge, government can never be too big for them.

I foresee a time in the future when the criminal U.S. governments will provide a map of all the U.S. (and eventually the world) and you will be able to navigate down to any property that you like and display a list of all people who live or work there. We'll be able to click on a person's picture and pull up a nice dossier on the person. I hope they include the ability to pull up a person's credit report and a current financial statement.

There are already a number of other Registries around the country. The big government people just have to get busy to expand them nationwide and make some other laws (e.g. "residency restrictions") that ride on those Registries. I could look up a bunch of the Registries but I'm kind of busy right now. But off the top of my head - I am certain that there are some Arson Registries (CA, I think). I think Illinois Registers people who harm children non-sexually. The NY Senate just passed a bill to create a Violent Offender Registry. It is named after a victim, of course (http://online.wsj.com/article/AP3f980436a5eb4f8b8db013f819b43820.html#articleTabs%3Darticle).

The hilarious thing about all these Registries is that none of these criminal governments can afford them, especially the criminal federal government. These governments don't seem to realize that they are broke. I read an article perhaps a year ago where Michigan's state police were celebrating their awesome police work where they arrested a Registrant for simply trying to go on vacation with his wife out of the U.S. to celebrate a long-term anniversary. Apparently, the criminal state of Michigan has a "law" that requires Registered people to tell the criminal regime 21 days in advance of leaving the U.S. Their criminal employees were so happy with preventing that "crime". It would be hilarious if it weren't so offensive. In the meantime, it was being reported that the average response time to a 911 call in Detroit was around 51 minutes (pretty sure that was the correct number, it was near 1 hour). So, these big government Registry people are truly idiots.

And in the meantime, the SORs are easily negated and worked around. Idiots.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | May 15, 2014 10:03:24 AM

Does anyone know how I may contact Sharie Keil and Jon Rand? I appreciate any help. Thank you.

Posted by: Sue | Aug 26, 2014 1:58:59 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