October 11, 2017

California Is Right to Curb the Sex Offender Registry

10-11-17 California:

It's overly applied, unintentionally harsh and ultimately self-defeating.

Say what you want about Governor Jerry Brown, but never say he’s not brave. He just signed a law that could eventually purge 90 percent of the names off of California’s lifetime registry for sex offenders.

I expect that he, and the legislators who passed it, will be subjected to the withering outrage that accompanies any action or statement, however mild or correct, that seems “soft” on sex offenders. I once wrote a column suggesting that pedophiles who are attracted to children but do not act on their impulses need more support from society to help keep them on the straight and narrow. Of course I was roundly scorned as being, at best, a woolly-headed liberal with a permanently broken moral compass, and at worst, probably a pedophile myself.

This is how we have ended up with the absurdities of the sex offender registries. In which teenaged boys who slept with their underage girlfriends can be required to spend years of their life (perhaps all the years of their life), fending off revolted stares from neighbors who think they’re child molesters. In which men have to sleep under bridges because there is no abode in the county that is far enough from a child for them to legally take residence. In which work, marriage, travel or even a roof over your head become near-impossible dreams for anyone ever convicted of any sexual offense -- and you may even be liable for these penalties if you are accused of exploiting … yourself.

The results can occasionally be not only absurd, but also tragic. At 19, William Elliott had sex with his then-girlfriend, who was a few weeks shy of her 16th birthday. Five years later he was shot to death by a pedophile-hunting Canadian gunman who found his name on Maine’s sex offender registry.

In this context, California’s step back is rather modest; they are allowing sex offenders to be removed from the registry 10 or 20 years after they serve their sentence, provided they haven’t committed another serious crime in the meantime. What’s remarkable about the legislation is that it happened at all; it stalled for years, because lawmakers were afraid of being seen as soft on crime. ..Continued..

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