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May 17, 2015

"Does Michigan's sex offender registry keep us safer?"

B9317136721Z.1_20150516190456_000_G8HANTDOK.1-0The question in the title of this post is the headline of this lengthy new Detroit Free Press article. The piece carries this subheadline: "Experts say such registries can be counterproductive; courts question constitutional fairness." Here are excerpts of a must-read piece for any and everyone concerned about the efficacy of sex offender regulations:

It has been 10 years since Shaun Webb, a married father and caretaker at an Oakland County Catholic church, was convicted of groping a teenage girl over her sweater, a claim Webb vehemently denies.  Webb, then-37 with a clean criminal record, was convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault and sent to jail for seven months.

Though a misdemeanor, state law demanded Webb be listed on the same public sex offender registry as hard-core rapists, pedophiles and other felons.  It has meant a decade of poverty, unemployment, harassment and depression for him. Under current state law, he'll be on the list until 2031.  "It's destroyed my life," Webb said from his rural home in Arenac County, where he now lives alone with his dog, Cody.

Webb is one of 43,000 convicted sex offenders in Michigan, most of which appear on the state online sex offender registry managed by the State Police.  Each state has a digital registry that can be searched on the Internet with a total of about 800,000 names.  The registries are widely monitored by parents, potential employers and cautious neighbors.

To be sure, registries in Michigan and across the nation help track violent sexual offenders and pedophiles who prey on children, and they're also politically popular and get lots of traffic online.  But Michigan's law — and some others across the nation — have come under fire lately as overly broad, vague and potentially unconstitutional.  For example, Michigan has the fourth-highest per capita number of people on its registry and is one of only 13 states that counts public urination as a sex crime.

Research also suggests registries do little to protect communities and often create ongoing misery for some who served their sentences and are unlikely to re-offend....

Even some early advocates have changed their minds about registries, including Patty Wetterling, the mother of Jacob Wetterling, who went missing when he was 11 and was never found. Police suspect Jacob was abducted by a convicted pedophile who was living nearby unbeknownst to neighbors.  No one was charged.

At the time, Wetterling lobbied passionately for a federal law authorizing registries and was at the White House in 1994 when President Bill Clinton signed legislation into law.  But she now advocates revisiting the laws, saying some juveniles and others who made mistakes are unnecessarily tarred for decades or life.  "Should they never be given a chance to turn their lives around?" she said in a published 2013 interview. "Instead, we let our anger drive us."

But some legislators and law enforcement officials say registries are useful because they help keep track of potentially dangerous people.  The supporters also dismiss the research, saying it's impossible to determine who might re-offend.  They caution against narrowing the definition in Michigan's law of who should be listed and are against adopting a new recommendation by some that defendants should be judged case by case by who is most likely to re-offend.

"The problem I have is should we go back and say only pedophiles have to register?" said state Sen. Rick Jones, a former sheriff who helped draft some of Michigan's sex offender registry laws. "Do we want violent sex offenders on the school grounds? Do we want public masturbators on the school grounds? I'm not prepared to change the way the list operates."

Many parents say the registries makes them feel safer.  Lori Petty, a legal secretary, has been logging on regularly over the years as she raised her two sons in Commerce Township. "If they were going over to a friend's house to visit, I would look to see who lived nearby, if there was a high concentration," she said. "Not that there was anything I could do, but it helps to know."  Her sons are now 18 and 25, and she monitors the site less frequently, using it to see who may have moved close by, she said. "I want to know who is living in my neighborhood."

Sex offender registry laws were first passed in the 1990s following a string of horrific child murders.  The registries were originally accessible only by police, allowing them to track the most dangerous offenders. But lawmakers in Michigan and other states expanded the laws over the years — they are now public record and include teenagers who had consensual sex, people arrested for public urination, people who had convictions expunged at the request of their victims, and people like Webb who have no felony convictions.

Earlier this month, a Florida couple was convicted of lewd behavior after having consensual sex on a public beach. They will have to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.  In Michigan, most of those convicted of sex offenses are listed online and show up with just a few key strokes on a website managed by the Michigan State Police....

Convicted sex offenders don't generate much public sympathy, but research in the last two decades shows they might not be very effective.  And higher courts recently called registries harsh and unconstitutional, including a ruling last month that says parts of Michigan's law are vague and unconstitutional, making it impossible in some instances for offenders to know whether they are following the law.  For many, there is also a question of fundamental fairness when, for example, a 19-year-old is convicted of having sex with his underage girlfriend or somebody convicted of public urination is grouped on the same list as a serial rapist.

Despite the court rulings and the research, it's doubtful public sex offender registries are going away, although it seems apparent Michigan and other states might be pushed into making some changes.  A big question, though, is whether Michigan's expansive definition of who should be on the sex offender registry is fair to people like Webb....

Nationally, there are about 800,000 people registered as sex offenders across the 50 states.  Michigan is particularly aggressive, ranking fourth in the nation with the number of offenders on the registry, following only California, Texas and Florida. It also ranks fourth per capita, with 417 registrants per 100,000 citizens.  It is one of only 13 states that count public urination as a sex crime, although two convictions are required before registration. And Michigan continues to require registration for consensual sex among teenagers if the age difference is greater than four years....

Michigan legislators are reviewing [the recent federal court] ruling and considering reforming the laws to make them compliant.  Some, though, think tougher laws are in order.  And they dismiss critics who say the registries cause unnecessary misery to those who have already served their sentences. "I say if you do the horrible rape, or if you have sex with a child, you deserve the consequences," said state Sen. Rick Jones, who helped draft some of Michigan's sex offender registry laws.

Jones questions the research that shows sex offenders are much less likely to re-offend and that the majority of those on the registry pose no threat. "I have 31 years of experience in police work, and as a retired sheriff in Eaton County I formed some very strong opinions that the science is still not clear for pedophiles. I believe it is society's duty to keep pedophiles from children so that the temptation isn't there. So I say you need to stay a thousand feet from schools."

A 2010 study by the American Journal of Public Health, examining sex offender laws nationwide and the best way to reduce recidivism, noted: "Research to date indicates that after 15 years the laws have had little impact on recidivism rates and the incidence of sexually based crimes. " Instead, the study found, "The most significant impact of these laws seems only to be numerous collateral consequences for communities, registered sex offenders — including a potential increased risk for recidivism — and their family members."

J.J. Prescott, a law professor at the University of Michigan and a nationally recognized expert on sex offender registry laws, agrees.  He has done statistical analysis of the impact the laws have on crime rates. "I believe that if a sex offender really wants to commit a crime, these laws are not going to be particularly effective at stopping him," he said, noting that there is no evidence that residency restrictions or "school safety zones" have had any positive impact on the rate of sexual assault on children, according to studies nationwide....

While his research also shows that the mere threat of having to publicly register may deter some potential offenders from committing their first crime, this effect is more than offset in states with large registries by higher levels of recidivism among those who have been convicted.

May 17, 2015 at 12:27 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Frankly, I'm surprised that former sex offenders in Michigan are not banding together to raise hell against these laws by doing some direct action civil disobedience, etc. I'm surprised that former sex offenders there have not been doing creative acts of resistance the way that anti-war and civil rights groups would vandalize law enforcement property without doing any harm to human beings. Maybe they ought to study Sister MacAlister and the Berrigan Brothers for their creative acts of civil disobedience.

Posted by: william r. delzell | May 17, 2015 1:58:30 PM

"I have 31 years of experience in police work, and as a retired sheriff in Eaton County I formed some very strong opinions that the science is still not clear for pedophiles. I believe it is society's duty to keep pedophiles from children so that the temptation isn't there. So I say you need to stay a thousand feet from schools."

Instead of the word "strong opinions", the not terribly bright ex-sheriff should use "strong misconceptions and stereotypes".

Wait, I think the last two words are too long for his comprehension.

If only we could keep him 10,000 feet from the legislature so that his "strong opinions" receive the death that they deserve. That goes for Mr. Bouchard also, an originator of these unconstitutional full LE employment laws, and now a current sheriff.

Is there a place where these legends in their own mind crawl out of the ground?

Posted by: albeed | May 17, 2015 3:39:39 PM

Start a Registry of people making Registries, working on registries, advocating registries. Go to their homes at night, beat their asses. Tell them, their name was on a registry, and we don't cotton to their kind in our neighborhood, so close to where our kids play. Give them 24 hours to get out of town, or we will kill them.

Immunize the application of the lash to these thieving, stupid, rent seeking, lawyers and other government worthless make work job sub humans, stealing our tax money. If a vile feminist lawyer, taser her, after the lash. If a male running dog of the vile feminist lawyer, taser him, after the lash. To deter.

I want to criminalize and start a Registry of known rent seekers, to protect our families.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 17, 2015 7:54:06 PM

Pee in public, end up on a list that could threaten your safety someday ... in what way is this just?

Posted by: Suzanne | May 17, 2015 7:58:49 PM

Naturally, the lawyer filth has immunized itself. If you are 10 years old, in pain, and have to pee in an alley, and the police sees your weewee, and you get on the sex offender registry, that is at least, negligent registration, and should result in a huge settlement for the damage done to job prospects, and even living arrangements. The Eleventh Amendment states the citizens of one state may not sue another state. The lawyer filth on the Supreme Court interprets that as immunity of the state from its own citizens. One has to file a fictional claim using a Section 1983 claim. These are nearly impossible to win, even with tons of money and resources.

In formal logic, legal immunity fully justifies personal violence against the lawyer traitor. The contra-positive of a true statement is always true. If torts liability is a substitute for violence, then torts immunity is a justification for violence. While I want the violent criminal dead, one who attacks an appellate judge is a hero for justice in formal logic.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 17, 2015 11:25:19 PM

I just love THE WAY THE GUY WHINES THAT IT IS THE REGISTRY RATHER THAN HIS CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR THAT HAS DESTROYED HIS LIFE.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 18, 2015 1:42:34 AM

SH: Assume his total guilt. She more likely a liar, since most sexual allegations are false or exaggerated or represent face saving buyer's remorse.

Still, feeling the clothed chest of a little tramp is not like gazing upon the Virgin Empress of China, requiring immediate beheading. It is worth nothing.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 18, 2015 4:47:32 AM

Here is the Pennsylvania list. So much as say a word to a registered offender, you can go to jail. So what is its use? It generates worthless government amke workjobs. It is quackery, fraud, a crime itself.

"Welcome to the Pennsylvania State Police Megan's Law Website

WARNING (In giant red font).

Any person who uses the information contained herein to threaten, intimidate, or harass the registrant or their family, or who otherwise misuses this information, may be subject to criminal prosecution or civil liability.

Click on the appropriate button below to indicate if you understand and accept the information contained on this entire page and agree to abide by the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

I entered my zip code, where the lawyers live. There are two, who only work there, and go home at night. Enter, a zip code next to where the lawyer lives, and there are dozens.

Nice job, lawyers.

http://www.pameganslaw.state.pa.us/

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 18, 2015 4:53:44 AM

SH:

This is as polite as I can say it, but you are FOS. Proportionality means nothing to you. He could of (and perhaps should of) beat her unconscious and he would have received a lesser sentence. Do you see that or not or do I have to draw you pictures, Friend of Bill? Perhaps it was the gin that formed your comment based on the late hour of its posting, and the use of all caps.

There are sick people in this world and it is not this "whiner", (which is a lie in itself, he is not whining). I cannot stay silent on these issues any longer and will challenge and debate any "vote whore" anywhere and anytime.

Posted by: albeed | May 18, 2015 6:30:30 AM

Albeed. The lawyer does not debate civilians. They are beneath the lawyer. The lawyer has surrendered 50 IQ points on passing 1L, and is now a moron. Anyone with common sense or a brief stint in high can carpet bomb their idiotic arguments and gibberish verbiage.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 18, 2015 6:41:55 AM

albeed

As I have said I believe execution to be the appropriate outcome for any offense more serious than the theft of a couple hundred dollars and am not troubled by execution as an outcome until talking about thefts in the low tens of dollars. Compared to that I believe being put on a list and having various other restrictions placed upon one's freedom is relatively mild.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 18, 2015 9:19:40 AM

SC:

You are correct. I believe that most lawyers chose the profession because they could not pass calculus, organic chemistry or logic. What is taken as precedent (forensic science or simply incorrect references) and points for consideration (inconsistent droppings from the USSC) would drive a sane thinker mad as hell, and they still believe the Paper Chase and that there can only be "erroneous acquittals"!

Maybe this is the primary reason we are going to hell as a country?

Posted by: albeed | May 18, 2015 3:53:39 PM

Soronel Haetir and other scum that support the immoral, un-American, magic Sex Offender Registries:

We are using your list as motivation to take over this country and drive the scumbags who support it into the ground. You scum are not my fellow U.S. citizens.

I own the places you work. I own the places you live. If not you, then your children and grandchildren. My children will own them as well. So go F yourselves, un-American scum. We will destroy the quality of your lives.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | May 19, 2015 2:07:11 AM

Jessica and Megan would not have been helped by the laws that defiled their sacred names. One opened the door to her neighbor. The other lay sleeping in h her bed when taken. 123D would have saved two beautiful little girls, since their rapists and murderers were kept alive by the lawyer, and only by the lawyer. Each heartless rapist likely raped and killed dozens if not hundreds of other little girls.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 19, 2015 2:32:09 PM

I was convicted of a rape in 1996. Lost at trial and never admitted guilt, hence, did 13 years 7 months on an 8 to 15 year sentence. I currently have a warrant pending because of a registration violation. There needs to be laws that differentiate between each type of offender. They just ran with the pedophile laws with no scrutiny. They also added to my sentence without me being allowed to argue it in the proper forum. If you know of any attorney that is advocating our plight please let me have their information so I can contact him/her.

Posted by: Shannon Flanigan | Nov 4, 2015 8:18:48 PM

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