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September 24, 2021

"Sex Offender Registration in a Pandemic"

The title of this post is the title of this new piece authored by Wayne Logan now posted on SSRN. Here is its abstract:

This Essay, part of a symposium examining how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the criminal justice system, addresses whether, and how, state and local governments maintained their requirement that individuals convicted of sex offenses meet with authorities in person to confirm and update their registry information.  Focusing in particular on the first months of 2020, the tale told highlights the distinctiveness of registration: while many governmental operations were suspended, or went online, in-person registration very often persisted.  As a result, registrants were required to travel to a government office (perhaps by public transport), wait in a closed space very possibly with poor ventilation, sometimes for extended periods of time, where social distancing might not have been feasible.  If they failed to satisfy the registration requirement they faced significant criminal punishment.

The in-person registration requirement remained in effect even though registrants often share many of the same health and age-related characteristics of the broader at-risk population, risks often aggravated by sanitary problems associated with chronic homelessness (e.g., lack of access to soap for hand washing) that registrants often experience.  As a result, in-person registration posed the threat of registrants transmitting and contracting the virus, affecting not only the registrants themselves, but also friends, family, and employers, as well as the governmental authorities with whom they had to interact.  As states and localities undertook aggressive measures to stem the spread of COVID-19, the persistence of in-person registration provides a stark reminder of the continued exceptionalism of registration and the population it targets (individuals convicted of sex offenses).

The Essay explores the reasons accounting for this distinctiveness and provides some thoughts on how and why in-person registration persisted in the early stages of the pandemic when so many other governmental operations were suspended or significantly modified.

September 24, 2021 at 03:58 PM | Permalink


And we all know this is the least of the problems hurled at this population that have already completed their 'punishment' (incarceration and probation/parole/sup. release).

As to the why there is a "continued exceptionalism (as applied to) the population it targets (individuals convicted of sex offenses)" - it's because good people sit silent year after year knowing this is registration scheme is ineffective, wrong, immoral, cruel, unusual, unnecessary.

"And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree, so the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all" K. Gibran.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out...etc.

Posted by: SG | Sep 24, 2021 4:53:51 PM

We can only pray that the Supreme Court comes back to reality and reverses its 2003 disastrous decision claiming SO registration is not punitive. The entire SO reg regime must be dismantled.

Posted by: restless94110 | Sep 25, 2021 2:46:51 PM

Here in Lexington, Kentucky the SO registration system is ruthless. Because of statutory limitation about living within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center, SOs cannot live anywhere within 2 miles of downtown, but must reside far out in the suburbs, making it harder for them to get to their jobs (assuming that they can find work). Two Deputy Sheriffs are tasked full-time with monitoring the city's SO population. Once every 90 days, a Deputy visits the SO's registered address to ensure that he still lives there and has not moved without notifying the SO registry. Local prosecutors seek prison time for SOs who fail to register or move without notifying the Registry.
I worked on one case involving a 60 year old man who moved to Kentucky from Maryland after being convicted of statutory rape (but the sex was consensual). He served his time in a Maryland jail, and pursuant to the terms of his Judgment of Conviction, he was supposed to serve 10 years on the Maryland Sex Offender registry. After moving to Kentucky (where he bought a 10 acre farm out in the country, far from any school or daycare center), he Registered as required by Kentucky law, which has only two lengths of time, 20 years and life. He has been advised that because of the nature of his conviction, Kentucky requires him to remain registered for the rest of his life, not the 10 years specified in his Maryland Judgment of Conviction. I have long thought that this is wrong, that Kentucky should give Full Faith and Credit to his Maryland JOC; but state and local authorities have taken the position that if he lives in Kentucky, he must abide by Kentucky law, regardless of what the Maryland JOC says. This man is simply not the kind of person who belongs or needs to be on a SO Registry, much less for life. He was a decorated Army Officer with specialization in electronic communications and signals intelligence. Besides his statutory rape conviction, his only other criminal history is a DUI at age 23 (he is now about 60 years old). He owns a profitable electronics and telecommunications consulting business. There is just too much "piling on" where sex offenders are concerned. The authorities have cast too broad a SO net, which dilutes the value of the Registry to the public, which can't tell who the real threats are. Reforms are long past due to this system of overkill.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Sep 26, 2021 10:12:14 AM

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