Anyone convicted of a crime involving sex may be put on a public registry. At a conference on sex offender laws Vicky Henry, president of Women Against the Registry (WAR), tells of the horrendous consequences of the registry for the registrant and their family. There is no benefit to the society from the registry but quite the opposite.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
By Puck Lo
Frank Lindsay, 62, is a father, small-business owner and avid surfer. He’s also one of 105,000 people in California — and 760,000 nationally — listed as a sex offender. In accordance with federal law, his name, photograph and home address appear in a public, online offender registry. In 1979, Lindsay, then 27, was convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14.
“I thought I could do whatever I wanted,” Lindsay says. “Add on some alcohol, and I was a real asshole.”
Today, Lindsay considers himself a reformed man. He says he hasn’t had a drink in 30 years, is a Taoist and advocate for restorative justice — encouraging violent people to make amends for their actions. But, he says, “It seems that I can never be forgiven.”
Few groups are as widely despised as sex offenders. Activities prosecuted as sex offenses vary by state, but can include public urination, consensual sex between teenagers, streaking, prostitution, downloading child pornography and rape. In some states, law-enforcement officials distribute flyers to notify neighbors of registrants’ convictions. Some registrants are prohibited from using the Internet. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that indefinite detention at psychiatric hospitals — or “civil commitment” — of sex offenders is constitutional.
The first law requiring sex offenders to register publicly and for life was passed in California in 1947 and targeted gay men, according to Andrew Extein, executive director of the Center for Sexual Justice. But many of today’s laws have their origins in the late 1970s, when feminists and social conservatives worked together to publicize high-profile “stranger danger” attacks on children, says Roger Lancaster, anthropology professor at George Mason University and author of “Sex Panic and the Punitive State.”
Beginning in the mid-1990s, several laws went into effect that changed how sex-offense cases were prosecuted. In 1994, states were required to create databases of sex offenders. Two years later, Megan’s Law, named for a 7-year-old in New Jersey who was brutally raped and murdered by a neighbor with two previous sex convictions, allowed states to make those registries public. States passed their own versions of the law; in some cases, they required that neighbors be notified of paroled offenders’ previous convictions. Later laws moved those sex-offender databases online, created a national registry, required lifetime registration of people 14 years old and up and imposed harsh mandatory minimum sentences for crimes involving children.
But almost 20 years after the passage of Megan’s Law, criminologists and judges, along with a burgeoning movement of sex-offender registrants and their families, are challenging not only the constitutionality of the laws but their effectiveness in reducing sexual assault. In January, a California court ruled in favor of a paroled sex offender who had argued that city and county “child-safety zone” ordinances prohibiting people in the registry from using parks, beaches and similar recreation areas were an unconstitutional form of banishment. In April, the state Supreme Court upheld the ruling by declining to review it.
See Also: California Reform Sex Offender Laws
By Peter Hall
Some of Pennsylvania's latest sex offender registration requirements run afoul of a constitutional ban on laws that create new penalties for people who have already paid for their crimes, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.
The panel of seven Commonwealth Court judges also found, however, that requiring sex offenders to reveal their email addresses and other online aliases is not a violation of the First Amendment right to anonymous speech.
_____, convicted in 2001 of sexual assault, had already served his prison sentence and probation when the fourth revision of Pennsylvania's version of Megan's Law, named the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act, took effect in 2012.
_____ argued that the revisions to Megan's Law were so much more punitive than the earlier version of the law that they violated provisions in the state and federal constitutions that prevent states from imposing tougher penalties for crimes than were in place when they were committed.
He also argued that the new requirement to provide information about his online identities violated his right to anonymous online speech because his crime did not involve a minor on the Internet.
_____, 63, was convicted in Montgomery County Court of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at a suburban Philadelphia restaurant. His attorney, Burton A. Rose of Philadelphia, had not read the decision and declined to comment. State police officials were unavailable to comment.
In an opinion for the unanimous panel, Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer rejected _____'s claims with regard to a majority of the new registration requirements, including mandates to appear in person to register four times a year and to provide extensive personal information, palm prints and DNA samples, plus advance notice of international travel.
Jubelirer wrote that each of those requirements is related to public safety and not intended as a punishment.
Failure to comply with the requirements is a felony punishable by a five-year prison sentence, according to the opinion.
By John Vibes
A string of recent complaints filed by alleged victims of wrongful arrest are bringing question to NYPD practices of arresting men in public restrooms. There are currently undercover cops posted up in public restrooms across New York City, waiting to catch “sexual predators” in the act.
However, according to dozens of alleged victims, average men are becoming entrapped by these undercover agents, when they have done nothing wrong. Many of the victims have claimed that after urinating, “shaking off” and zipping up their pants, they were accused of “simulating masturbation” in view of the police officer.
The New York Times recently reported that police have been standing in public restrooms and staring down everyone who passes through, while they use the urinals. If the person makes any movements that the officer does not approve of, they can be arrested for “lewdness” with no evidence aside from the testimony of the officer. Since police have been stationed in public bathrooms, lewdness arrests have increased 7-fold. In the past year alone, over 60 people were arrested in one bus terminal restroom, many of them for alleged “lewdness” in the bathroom stall.
Dozens of the people who have been arrested in this trap have sought legal representation from The Legal Aid Society and other independent sources. Many of these people reported that the police made them feel uncomfortable by staring at them while they used the restroom, and it seems that if anyone is guilty of lewdness it was actually the undercover officer.
It is not clear why undercover agents have been placed in these bathrooms to begin with, even Capt. John Fitzpatrick, the Port Authority police commander who oversees the bus terminal, admits that complaints of lewdness in public bathrooms are “few and far in between”.
Although, Fitzpatrick is still standing by the actions of his officers, claiming that the dozens of men who have now filed complaints were in fact being lewd in the restroom, otherwise, he says, they would not have been arrested.
“They are not sidling up to somebody, trying to sneak a peek and misrepresenting what the person is doing, there is no mistaking their behavior,” he said.
One man, accused of “simulating masturbation” says that he was simply “shaking off”, a near instinctual act that is not at all lewd or uncommon.
“I wasn’t committing a lewd act, I was peeing in the beginning, but I was shaking off when the guy stepped back and looked at me,” Mr. Holden, a 28-year-old baker, said of his police encounter.
After Holden walked out of the bathroom he was arrested by police and taken to jail. When Holden was being processed in the jail he overheard one of the other cops refer to his arresting officer as “the gay whisperer”. This was a fairly offensive comment for Holden, consider the fact that he is a gay man, and feels that may be the reason why he got arrested.
“I wore a leather jacket, fitted clothes. I guess that fits the description of a homosexual male, I was like, O.K., although I’m gay, I wasn’t doing anything,” he said.
Holden’s story is just one of dozens, and although there may be a few perverts in the bunch, it is safe to say that a vast majority of these people are innocent.