Sex Offenders - A Thin Line

I should be working right now. But it's Friday, and I've got this on my mind so I've got to get it out.

When I received a mailer in support of Jessica's Law back in October 2006, I read it over with mixed feelings. It proposed tightening the existing law in jailing and monitoring registered sex offenders, spouting off a bunch of verbiage to persuade me into believing that the current law does no good whatsoever and the new law would fix all the problems. After reading it I felt sick. I usually don't use the word hate, but I think I will now. I hate how politicians and law makers will take such a sensitive subject and twist and mangle and slant it to achieve their own designs. I felt sick for the families who have endured the horrible pain and suffering as a result of child sex crimes, which sometimes lead to the death of the child (such as in the case of Jessica Marie Lunsford, after whom the law was named). It makes my heart break. However that very issue is used as a platform for politicians who might feel morally involved in the cause (but probably not), but who need a "hot issue" to boost their campaign and usually stand at high financial gains if the law is passed. That's what makes me really sick. "If this bill is passed, will it even do any good?" I asked my wife. My top concern was that the new law did little to actually protect children and nothing to empower them to testify against offenders, it just punished the offenders more heavily. According to the mailer, its presumed "highlights" were:

  • Electronically monitor convicted sex offenders for life, if they are ever released from prison, through GPS tracking.
  • Create a 2,000 foot “predator-free” zone around schools and park (sic) to prevent sex offenders from living near where our children learn and play.
A 2,000-foot bubble in which no sex offender could reside. Now, the existing law already made provision for these restrictions with certain offenders. I guess I'm ok with GPS tracking for life (argh... it still doesn't seem right to track a human being for life...), but what good will a "predator-free" zone do? What real difference does it make if someone is 2,000 feet away or 2 miles away (10,560 feet) from a park or school, if they have bad intentions? As I was asking these rhetorical questions to my wife, she looked as concerned as I did. We both agreed that creating a legal force field around schools and parks would not deter many offenders (some drop off the radar the minute they register anyway) and those who did abide would be in quite a predicament: for anyone who has been in north-central OC, you know that there's a school or park every half-mile or so (that's 2640 feet right there), so where would they live? We feared the worst, that this law, if passed, would force large numbers of registered offenders into small areas. These offenders, whose crimes are gross but are still human beings, would be caged together in the worst parts of town with nothing to do all day (very few business hire registered sex offenders).

It turned out that in Orange County, the bill had a landslide victory, with 75% of voters supporting it. It seems that the politicians were able to pull our heart strings enough throughout the state as well and the law now stands on the books. With life as busy as it is, I forgot about the law and moved on with life until this morning when I read "Sex Offenders Moving to Garden Grove Motels" in the paper. Here's what caught my attention:
"We feel like we've been flooded," Garden Grove police Capt. Mike Handfield said. "This has gotten to the point where it's just too many [offenders] in one place. We just have to let people know they are out there."
There are just three locations in Orange County where parole agents can house recently paroled sex offenders that fall outside of the half-mile radius of schools, Handfield said. Garden Grove, Anaheim and Costa Mesa have motels that fit the requirement. Parole agents were unaware so many offenders had been packed into one location, Handfield said.
Motels? That's considered homeless. Talk about marginalization. And the parole agents - the people who had no say in authoring the law but are expected to enforce it - are taken by surprise by their new expectations. Is this really the way to approach the problem? Can't we put our tax money into services for these offenders instead of slapping a tracking device on their arm and throwing them into the streets? The crimes these offenders commit are sickening, their total disregard for life and human dignity and their gross abuse of vulnerable individuals. But it's also sickening to me that some politicians and law-makers can do the exact same thing, in the name of Justice, and get away with it.


Anonymous said...

You have hit on a hot button. And I do agree, that there is marginalization. However, it will NEVER end, as it is IMPOSSIBLE to ever find common ground. Even if the Supreme Court ultimately rules in favor of offenders (by ruling that blanket residency restrictions and GPS monitoring unconstitutional), parents will NEVER feel that anyone classified as a registered sex offender will be ANYTHING less than a threat.

That is why I urge you to consider my solution. Sex offender colonies.

It is obvious. Nobody wants sex offenders to live in their neighborhoods, or even their cities. I'm a parent, and I would fight tooth and nail to prevent sex offenders from living anywhere that children may live, even if their victims were people they knew. It means NOTHING to me; what means EVERYTHING to me is they committed an atrocious crime against children. That's enough for me.

Unfortunately, these sex offenders have rights. If they are not in prison, they will probably get the ACLU to sue the city and we will have to spend thousands of dollars defending the restrictions.

The ONLY thing, therefore, is to create an amendment to the US Constitution, creating sex offender colonies to restrict where these convicted sex offenders live in the first place. How to do this?

The first thing that needs to be done is to create an outline of such an amendment. I looked at the process for how an amendment is created. Here is the process:

Under Article V, there are two ways to propose amendments to the Constitution and two ways to ratify them.

To propose an amendment

1. Two-thirds of both houses of Congress vote to propose an amendment, or
2. Two-thirds of the state legislatures ask Congress to call a national convention to propose amendments.

To ratify an amendment

1. Three-fourths of the state legislatures approve it, or
2. Ratifying conventions in three-fourths of the states approve it.

I would submit that the state legislature route would probably be more effective, but the congressional method can be tried first. It can effectively be used as a litmus test for voting, i.e., if someone doesn't want to vote for proposing the amendment in congress, their 2008 opponent can have a field day in saying that the incumbent protects sex offenders at the expense of children's safety, etc.

Such an amendment would solve many problems. First of all, the registry would not exist in its current form. Parents don't have to worry where the sex offenders live, as they all would, by law, have to live in the colony. This also eliminates the need for GPS, as the sex offenders would be restricted to the colony in the first place. No worries about convicted child molesters stalking your children's school or favorite park, or trolling on the Internet.

Next, registrants would constitutionally have to be subjected to non-court ordered search of their premises within the zone. In addition, all their mail and phone calls would constitutionally be authorized to be monitored for illicit activities. Internet usage would also be strictly regulated, with all file storage for every computer actually done at the server-level. In addition, emails would be assigned by the administration, no Instant messaging or accessing MySpace or other children sites allowed, and all keystrokes and sites visited will be recorded 100%. All costs for such usage would be borne out by the offender, incidentally.

All registrants would be required to work, with their paychecks being handled by the administrators. Deductions for medical, rent, all services, and everything else would be done automatically, and any credit the registrant have be used for discretionary income ONLY from the colony store. Also, EVERY registrant will be required to go through treatment appropriate to his crime, and be certified as cured; otherwise, he can be subject to a felony charge and returned to prison.

Now, please keep in mind one thing: The sex offender colony is NOT...repeat...NOT a replacement for tough, appropriately long, non-paroleable sentencing guidelines in the first place! THAT IS PARAMOUNT. The colony would exist because society cannot handle the large amounts of offenders in their neighborhoods, with the inherent terror parents have with the knowledge that offenders are around their children. Therefore, the colony is SPECIFICALLY for offenders to spend their entire registration periods in a constitutionally-approved manner, eliminating the need for registries as they exist now.

Keep in mind, many offenders also are able to leave the registry for certain crimes after a specified amount of time has passed. Therefore, once a registrant's time period has expired, he can petition the administration to be relieved of the duty to register and live in the SORERA zone. A panel of professionals, law enforcement individuals, and the offender's victim representatives, will go over the request. If they feel the offender is ready to join society, then he can leave the zone and live anywhere he wants, although he will have to permanently register with law enforcement wherever he goes for the rest of his life. Bear in mind, also, that any registrant who has to register for life will NEVER get the opportunity to leave the zone. Only the most benign of the registrants will ever be allowed to leave.

So there you have it. With a constitutional amendment, we can control where they live, where they work, and how they communicate, with confidence that they won't have a "relapse" when our own children are in striking distance.

Anonymous said...

You sound like a smart person who can reason out the hysteria that has been produced by the politicians. You say you think you are ok with GPS for life, but if residency restrictions don't stop a crime, how can GPS. Considering that over 90% of crimes occur between a child and familiar adult, the chances of the crime being committed at a school or park is almost zero. GPS does nothing except tell you where the person is, not what he is doing. It is a shameless waste of money since it is completely ineffective. Mr. GPS wearer would be smart enough not do anything at a school or park. The people of Garden Grove are getting what they voted for! These are the people who voted for this draconian proposition.

Jennie said...

In the SF bay area, the tracking sex offenders prop also won by a landslide. But the courts are still deciding if it is Constitutional to actually implement the policy. Most likely it will die in the courts.

I felt similarly as you about a few other propositions, where the TV ads were based on emotional appeal rather than the actual merits of the platform. Politicians know people vote with their hearts, not with their heads, that's why they do it.

I guess we can take the Oprah approach -- No second chances for sex offenders. When they offend once, they stay in jail. Not sure if that'll fly with the limited jail space and insanity pleas.

Anonymous said...

Sex offender colonies are worse than residency restrictions. You are not only banishing and exiling a large group of people in this supposed "land of the free" but now they wear a scarlett letter by means of where they live. If your son or grandson was convicted of a sex offense because he had sex with his under age girlfriend, would you want him banished to a sex offender colony? If your loved one was falsely accused of a sex crime due to divorce, for example, would you want him exiled? A great majority of "sex offenders" fall into this category, not to mention the false accusations, which are rampant and impossible to defend with the public is such a state of hysteria. Think rationally not emotionally.

xanghe said...

Wow, look jennie, someone who writes longer comments than me! hic jk

I ran across this article in the Người Việt paper - DB Trần Thái Văn muốn ngăn chặn tội phạm tình dục cư ngụ trong Garden Grove. Typical of most media out there, the details are a little skewed, but I learned some interesting things, such as the hotels are no longer letting the sex offenders live there anymore, and now the offenders are "loose" and no one seems to know where they are. Here's a shocking thought - instead of out to find their next victim, they might just be sleeping under a highway overpass. In the above article, Gretl Plessinger, a state Correctional Department spokesperson for Florida (yes, the state that started all of this) articulates my sentiments well: "[This] is a problem that is going to have to be addressed. If we drive these offenders so far underground or we can't supervise them because they become so transient, it's not making us safer."

I'm sorry anonymous number one, sex offender colonies is not the answer. I won't go into a full explanation, but hopefully these two reasons are sufficient: 1) We already have places to put criminals, called jail and prison. These facilities are already packed to the seams and lack the budget to effectively deal with the problem. 2) If our country somehow pulls money out of the air to fund "criminal colonies," where will we put them? If those funds do exist solely for sex offenders, could there be a better usage for them, such as psychopathic help or similar services?

I understand that parents fight so adamantly against sex offenders (I could say "for protection against sex offenders," but it looks like it's turning out to be the same thing) because the issue is personal - they and their children are the victims. But where do we draw the line between punishment and the demolition of human rights? (What? America denying human rights?... You betcha.) Maybe ask my grandpa, he'll tell you what it's like to live in the internment camps. Oh, and if he tells you anything about that experience, please let me know. He's hasn't brought it up to me once.

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)