July 31, 2014

Sex Offender Registry Insanity

7-31-2014 National:

Writing at Reason’s Hit & Run blog, Lenore Skenazy passes along the story of a man caught up in a particular bizarre application of the laws requiring people register as sex offenders:
See original for underlying story...

As it turns out, failure to properly register is itself considered a sex crime under the applicable law, so this guy is now in danger of having the time he must be on the sex offender registry lengthened not because he committed a sexual assault but because he failed to comply with an essentially bureaucratic requirement. Leaving aside the others issues that this case raises, that fact alone is a fairly concise demonstration of how sex offender registry laws, which were originally passed with the salutory intention of warning law enforcement and the general public of people with dangerous sex-related offenses, especially those related to children, in their backgrounds have become, for lack of a better word, perverted. As time has gone on, the laws themselves have been amended to expand the offenses that cause someone to be required to register.

Additionally, the fact that the lists are public has led to a whole host of negative consequences for people who have been convicted of a crime and served their time, including cases where offenders have found it impossible to even find someplace to live. In this case, that portion of the law designed to ensure that someone keeps their address up to date seems to be being enforced in a way that is both overly bureaucratic and, in the end, designed to create the kind of incentives that would lead someone to fail to comply with the law to begin with.

Beyond those issues, though, there’s the entire question of why Gravens is on the sex offender registry to begin with. Assuming for the sake of argument that the circumstances of the act that led to his conviction and registration requirements are accurate, it strikes me that there was an obvious overreaction here. For one thing, the fact that he was only 12 years old at the time that this happened, and had a history of sexual abuse in his own past, argues strongly that there ought to have been some kind of mitigation in his favor that would have either reduced the charges against him or eliminated them altogether.

Indeed, given the well-documented connection between children who have already been abused themselves who then turn around and engage in behavior with other children that may be considered abusive would seem to be enough in and of itself to argue that his case should have been treated differently than it apparently was. None of this is to downplay the seriousness of sexual abuse, of course, and there may be facts about his case that we don’t know, but based on the description provided in the linked article it seems inconceivable to me that he would end up covered by a law originally intended to alert the authorities and parents to the presence of an adult sexual offender in their communities. ..Source.. by Doug Mataconis

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