The Implications of Allowing an Unconstitutional Registry

First of all, let me tell you my story so you know exactly where I’m coming from.  My punishment for my crime and my conviction are well deserved, but many of the trials I’ve had to overcome since my release are not.  After I tell you my story, I will tell you my views and beliefs concerning the registry and how it will destroy America.

I had a decent career in the US Marines quite a few years back, but I also had an addiction that eventually destroyed that career.  I was addicted to pornography.

Over the course of my adult life, my addiction grew into an obsession and while using file sharing program such as Limewire, Kazaa, and Morpheus, I discovered child pornography.

I knew I had a problem.  I was afraid to go tell anyone though because for one I was ashamed.  For two, I was afraid of being turned in and going to jail.  The only “help” out there for people with a pornography addiction was faith based and I am strictly non-religious.  I continued viewing it over 7 years because I could not find help without getting locked up.  I’m not saying I’m not responsible for my choices because I definitely am, but I think I may have victimized less people and not created a bigger market if I could’ve found help.

In late 2009, I was put under investigation by NCIS and a protective order was put on me against my own children with a CPS case.  CPS determined that my computer activities and my fathering were not related, but the protective order remained.  I had no due process rights to see my kids because it was an “administrative” measure.  The only “due process” for something like this in the military is called request mast, which I exercised.  When I went to talk to the Colonel, his Sergeant Major tried to get me to incriminate myself by asking how long I’d been offending.  At that point, high ranks in the military didn’t intimidate me much because I knew I was going to jail anyways, so I told him he couldn’t ask me that since the trial was still ongoing.

So, fast forward to late 2010 when I was convicted of possession of child pornography and one count of distribution (since file sharing programs allow uploads).  I was sentenced to four years total.  Nowhere in my trial was I ever directed to register upon release to satisfy due process.

During my incarceration, I was not allowed to communicate with my children at all as a rule of the brig.  It had already been a year from the protective order.

While incarcerated in the brig, we had opportunities to reduce our time incarcerated by attending treatment, CLEP classes, and a multitude of other things to better ourselves.  Although I don’t regret any of the things I did to better myself, the time I shaved off ended up being worthless.  This was my first experience of the registry screwing me.  When it was time for my release, I was being forced to go on “mandatory supervised release” which is really a way of saying parole.  This term was reserved for sex offenders only.  I was unable to find suitable housing for my release according to my parole officer.

Some of my family didn’t want the “red dot” on their house, while others lived within range of a school, park, etc.  I was forced to stay in the brig past my release date by almost 3 months because when I did find someone willing to let me stay with them that was compliant with range restrictions, my parole officer sat on my paperwork.  Again, no recourse or due process.

I was finally released in November 2013.  One of my most inconvenient restrictions was not being able to use the internet.  I was also allowed zero contact with children, so I still couldn’t talk to my kids.  I had to get approval to use the computers at the unemployment office to help find a job which I found to be very difficult.  After about a month of driving up there (it was about a 15 minute drive) almost every day putting in applications and resumes, I finally got a job at a national pizza chain where I had experience from before the military.  I told my boss of my history and that I was on parole prior to being hired.  He assured me he didn’t hire underage workers due to insurance reasons already, so it wasn’t a problem.

I quickly worked my way up into an assistant management position and was on par to be in line for a general management position as they opened up.  My parole officer did not let me substitute as a driver though because of the odd chance there would be children answering the door of the customer.  Once my parole was complete, however, I added myself as a delivery driver since I no longer had that restriction.  Within about a week or two of doing that, Papa John’s did another background check on me since I was adding a position and noticed that their store showed up on the registry.  The corporate office subsequently terminated me because they didn’t want to be associated with the registry.  This is actually illegal in my state, but no lawyer would take my case.

When released from parole, I regained contact with my children through my ex-wife without the courts and went to see them every two weeks.  Recently, she cut off my visitation after I asked her to bring them to the city (she lives in the country) to see my new place and scope out the neighborhood.  My prior place was in the ghetto and I didn’t feel comfortable with her bringing them there.  While I was looking for a place, the impact of the registry was really felt when many apartment communities “redlined” sex offenders on top of range restrictions.

After working a temp job for a little while after the pizza job, I decided to go back to school since I still rated the GI Bill.  I applied at the one University that had the degree program I really wanted and they denied me due to my registration status.  I am now going to a community type school for a much more generic type of degree.  I should mention I tried to go to school while on parole, but my parole officer didn’t allow it because I’d have to use computers.

I then started working as a marketing representative for a carpet cleaning company after working on the labor end.  My boss was well aware of my history.  I secured a contract with a very prestigious real estate company for our company to be one of their preferred vendors.  This was a big contract and was going to bring in a lot of business.  Two weeks later, that said real estate company cancelled the contract because my company was on the registry, also illegal in my state, but only the company could sue, not me.  This, among a few other reasons, was part of the reason I ended up quitting a few weeks later.  My company didn’t deserve that.

Now, I have no contact with my children, which I have to fight in court myself since no lawyer wants to take my case, and I am living off of the GI bill since employment is virtually impossible.  I’m working on starting my own business, but I’m sure they’ll have issues with that too.

So, here’s how the registry is completely unconstitutional:  It’s a bill of attainder which is specifically forbidden, it consistently violates ex post facto law with retroactive restrictions, it violates due process given to us in the 5th and 14th amendments.  The 14th is actually more descriptive saying that nobody will be in jeopardy of life, limb, or liberty without due process.  I don’t care who says it’s “administrative” (the government’s way of skirting around people’s rights), redlining, range, restrictions, and the gross violation of privacy on the internet is liberty and should have due process.  It violates the 8th amendment of no cruel and unusual punishment considering no other type of crime is held to a registry (yet!)  The problem with this is that the Supreme Court has deemed the registry to be constitutional on the grounds that the loss of liberty is not the intent of the law, but community safety is.  I fail to see that clause authorized in the constitution, nor do I see that due process is only for criminal justice laws and that “administrative” don’t apply.

Now, they’ve authorized a scarlet letter on passports which has the potential to deny sex offenders the liberty to travel and see the world after serving their debt to society since many countries will deny entrance to the country due to this identifier.

Right now, the people online that still advocate for a registry do so saying it’s a punishment.  I have yet to see one person advocate for the NEED of a registry other than we deserve what we’re getting.  Anyone that advocates for reform is called a “criminal apologist”  Since when is it American to deny the rights of people because the majority just don’t like them?  Actually, it’s been American policy for quite some time now.  Women were severely restricted for many years.  Blacks and other races of color were restricted for many years.  People accused of witchcraft, gays and lesbians, the list goes on.  Here we are in the 21st century and it’s happening all over again.  Granted, the “sex offender class” are people who have been convicted of a specific type of crime which does make it slightly different, but the concept is the same.  It’s the same as the Nuremburg laws in Germany prior to WWII.

Here’s the implications if society allows these registries to continue:  More registries for other things will start popping up.  As a matter of fact, they’ve already started.  In Utah, they have a “white collar criminal” registry.  Donald Trump is calling for a ban on Muslims and highly restricting illegal aliens.  I see a Muslim registry coming if not a Arab registry.  I see a gang member registry coming.  I see an STD registry coming.  I see a Mexican registry coming.

As bad and as ancient as these registry ideas sound, the sex offender registry opens the door because it’s considered “administrative” and “non-punitive”  Lawyers and lawmakers will use the existence of the sex offender registry and the case law that goes with it to justify these other illegal registries.  This is just the start, but maybe it needs to happen for Americans to wake up!  If they fight those registries, it will give the advocates for reforming the sex offender registry case law ammunition to fight ours.  Soon, they may even start removing statute of limitations laws for sex crimes since offenders have to register for life anyways.  If they do that, most of the country will end up on the registry including John Walsh.

There is hope and I’m going to use this opportunity to present my plan that will restore the majority of our rights while giving the naysayers their stupid registry as well.  This plan is not perfect and I truly advocate for abolishing the registry, but things happen more often with compromise which is what I’m proposing.  Any concerns or suggestions are welcome.

Here’s the plan:

Remove names (but leave pictures) from the registry’s public website, yet allow individual reverse lookup on each state’s website as they are starting to do with phone numbers and email addresses.  (This still allows parents in neighborhoods to tell their children not to go to certain houses and you can look at the registry and still see the picture of the offender to know which resident it is)
Remove businesses and colleges from the registry that employ or school offenders to increase employment and educational opportunities and retention.
Have police do checkups on offenders addresses in plain clothes and unmarked cars. (Parole officers aren’t uniformed for the same reason)
Remove range restrictions that have been proven to have no effect or at the very least make the redlining process illegal and set a national standard for max range restrictions.  Also, allow for exceptions of range restrictions on a case by case basis if a family member is within the range and that’s the only place the offender can live.
Institute a due process hearing prior to initial placement on the registry.  I believe about 75% of sex offenders would never go on with this hearing.  This hearing would also determine the risk classification if the offender is placed on the registry and for how long.   A jury under the sixth amendment would be allowed  (I saw a guy go on the “sexually violent predator” class when he was 22 for having consensual {other than age} sex with a 16 year old, but another guy got the lower classification when he was over 30 and got a 13 year old to send him nude pics.)
Allow removal petitioning after 5 years for low risk offenders and 10-15 for high risk (other terms could be applied here of course, that’s just my estimate of time needed).  No petition will be granted under this without satisfactory completion in a state or federally recognized treatment program.
Failure to register and a warrant for arrest will automatically put their name back on the website which will serve as a deterrent for offenders intent on not registering.
Organizations that specifically cater to children would be able to petition for special access to the names of people on the registry if they show they have an interest in knowing and would not release this information except to company officials.  An offender could petition for a “parent pass” if they have children going there and would only be denied in extreme circumstances.  Schools, theme parks, etc, would have no problem being approved under this measure, but a factory would probably not.
Repeal the International Megan’s Law as this prevents offenders with financial means of enjoying a higher quality of life when there is absolutely no evidence that convicted offenders have anything to do with human trafficking and puts their families and business colleagues at further risk and scrutiny and sometimes even causes denial to the country visited when it’s for non-nefarious purposes.  At the very least, have the passport identifier removed as this will only cause driver’s licenses and license plates to come next.
In my opinion, these changes will satisfy the naysayers that still want the registry as well as protecting the privacy rights of those on the registry.  Googling someone’s name will no longer bring up their status, but neighborhood’s would still have awareness.  Employment, schooling, and housing would not have near as many barriers.  Certain states with huge range restrictions that are only designed to force offenders out of their communities into less stringent areas would stop.  Offenders would not be limited to be congested in poverty neighborhoods with the removal of redlining.  Low to moderate risks offenders would either never go on the registry or be able to be petitioned off only leaving the most dangerous on the registry making it more effective.
Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.  If this plan makes sense to you, please email it to your Congressperson.  If it doesn’t, please tell me why and we can discuss it.  Advocacy is better achieved through compromise.
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – Ben Franklin

 

20 Comments

  1. Yes it really undermines what a real sex offender is my son downloaded to p*** pictures and has to be punished for life would not hurt a flea on a dog this is just too much the punishment don’t fit the crime and ruin for life I could just bust and drop a bomb on these lawmakers stupid please tell me how you can hurt a computer and how you can sit in your house and look at something and that makes you a bad person please please someone tell me he got two counts of computer invasion type his name on Google and it pulls him up as a sex offender this is not right and this has got to be stopped I think they should put deadbeat dads on the computer instead of somebody that just looked at something on the computer yeah I get it I sex offender is a sex offender but he is not this is just bogus

    • Jeremy from Indiana

      I can’t in good conscious agree with you that downloading child porn is not hurting anyone and that it’s not bad. No one bad act makes someone a bad person either. People have the ability to change. I would also be careful with advocating for other types of registries that seem to make more sense as well, because I think that’s exactly what the government eventually wants. Some people have called for an all criminal registry. Statistics have shown that people living in poverty are much more likely to commit crime than those who don’t, so should all poor people be put on a registry due to their propensity to commit crime? I would be willing to bet that the percentage of poor people who commit crime is actually higher than the recidivism rate for SO’s. You could argue for deadbeat parents (not always the men), but what kind of safety would that provide the community? I think an STD registry is the only one that makes any sense, but people with STD’s are protected under HIPAA laws. I think that registry would actually get a lot more use too. If you were going on a date with someone you just met and there was an STD registry, you would definitely look the person up to see if they’re clean. Then, the STD epidemic would be almost gone in a matter of about 100 years or less. The only way having other registries for other causes is going to help our cause though is when people fight them on constitutional grounds.

    • Ches C. Edrington

      How do you tell the difference between a “dead beat dad” and a “dead poor dad?” I was dead poor but did my best (being a felon makes it difficult) but people treated me like a wife beater.

  2. Michelle Johnson

    Our daughter is on the registry. When she was a Sr in highschool she had a relationship with a freshman. Our daughter went on to college and the relationship continued. Her girlfriends parents found out and they pressed charges. There were a total of 8 felonies and two misdemeanors. She was arrested and spent 10 months in the county jail awaiting trial. We took a plea bargin for one felony. Lewd acts with a minor under the age of 16. Her girl friend was 15 and she was 19. She she was 8 days to old for protection under the romeo and juliet laws. The felony she has is a lifetime sex offender registry. Her future is going to be tough. These laws protect no one and do more to hurt people who could possibly have an impact.

  3. DJH

    I am not a sex offender but I have had my life recently touched by one. I’m a registered nurse and one morning in report, it was announced that our newest patient is an elderly man recently diagnosed with heart failure. He is currently stable, asleep in bed, no complaints of pain, and oh yeah we almost forgot: He just completed a 23 year sentence in prison for child sex charges.
    The room fell silent, then came the uproar. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. Nurses and doctors, residents and students…they were refusing to care for this man! Disgusted with the entire room, I stood up and I LOST IT.
    An hour later, I was assigned to the hall of the gentleman and he was under my care. He and I never spoke about his charge, the way I saw it, he did his time and he repaid his debt to society. The one thing I will never forget though: That man treated me with more kindness and respect than most people combined.

    • antiestablishmentarianism

      You should remind every one of those “caregivers” that refused to provide services that they swore to the Hippocratic Oath and by refusing care they are violating that oath which reads:

      ” I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

      I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

      I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

      I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

      I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

      I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

      I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

      I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

      I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

      If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.”

      This is the oath every doctor and nurse swears to and it’s disgusting to think that they would violate their oath because of their hate.

  4. I wonder if some on here are men or mice. Look I’m on the registry but to this day I don’t know who I offended. That might sound strange but its true. Now I don’t have kids or family but I wish I did as I could have support from family, see my kids, give my emm a hug and a kiss but I guess that wasn’t in the cards for my life’s journey.
    Even this sex registry wasn’t in the plans for me but it is what it is for now. Now I do have my faith and a sister that loves me. I don’t bother with my probation officer as I told him I’m not going to bow down to you, oh I’ll follow his rules but I can’t jump.
    You see nobody can serve two masters…. now most of these sex offense are done by force. Even the military uses force on the enemy. All thru history Governments have used some type of force in civil government or other forms of things to keep the common person in line.
    Even these sex sting operations are a type of force disguised under the sex registry law to rule over others. Its almost like the survival of the fittest. Stand up for your rights. You are still a man and human…. We all make mistakes. They are taking advantage of you and you are letting them. That probation officer bleeds just the same as you do but he wants to be in control. Well the bible tells me God is still in control believe it or not.
    Who do you think is making money off the porno.. the government? Its a shame that some think they have still lost there freedom to speak up in a peaceful way.
    There is a book called Resist, not Evil and that can tell you a lot about the criminal justice system and I hope all of you all get a chance to read this.
    Hey after my probation I have a lifetime on the registry.

  5. Barb Wright

    You raise so many great arguments, the key is to get someone to listen. The list is worse than any you describe, because not only the “offender” (as in the case of women, blacks, gays, etc.) are marked with a scarlet letter, so is anyone coming in contact with the offender. Ohio currently has legislation pending to basically add all family members to the register. Guilt by association. It’s McCarthyism, the Red Scare, all over again. Easier said than done, but the key is to get the attention of your legislature. Maybe your state sheriff’s association can start the ball rolling; they are the ones charged with administering an overcrowded register. There are so many offenders on the list, the sheriff does not know which ones are most likely to re-offend. This costs the state a lot of money and does absolutely nothing to prevent crime or protect public safety. And why does the public need to know every detail? As you say, provide only essential information on a need to know basis. Minnesota only allows public access to Tier III offenders; Tier I and II are restricted to varying levels of law enforcement. Unfortunately, as you say, no one cares about the collateral damages to the offender and his/ her family. If meaningful change is to occur, it has to be based on cost, ineffectiveness of the laws to prevent crime or protect the public, and lack of judicial discretion. Again, maybe the state judge’s association can challenge registration not based on risk assessment as a separation of powers. My son’s judge went on the record saying he thinks the registration laws are unconstitutional; yet my son still landed on the register. Anyway, good luck and God bless.

  6. Antiestablishmentarianism

    I want to add an update real quick to this. I suggested the government remove statutes of limitations laws for sex crimes in my essay and I’m pleased to report this is starting to happen. I also commented on the article because this law actually had more resistance than sex offender registry laws which makes no sense to me. They even used the same constitutional arguments advocates for reform have fought with (and lost) even though they actually don’t apply in this case. Here’s the article: http://www.pennlive.com/news/2016/04/child_sex_crimes_abuse_clergy.html

  7. Terri

    Great essay! There are so many that have no business being on the SO List in the first place. The list was meant to protect children from dangerous SO; not from everybody. Now you can be put on the SO list, just because some kid walks up while you are urinating in the woods, or underage consensual sex, minors getting upset with family members, etc.

    The SO list should only be for dangerous and repeat SOs. Sometimes, people make bad decisions on a on time basis, but then are punished for the rest of their lives. Not only are they punished, their children are punished and other family members and friends. They have a hard time with living conditions, employment and education. They have less rights than those who do out and murder someone or repeat DUI offenders. Once you pay your debt to society, you should be given the same opportunities as any other convicted criminal.

    There should be criteria for the SO list, not every one deserves to be on there.

    • I whole heartly believe that. How is it that someone has to register from 9 pic of minor coming from a web sight stating barely legal. No victim, no intent, one bad mistake on one occasion. Not guilty by reason of mental defect. 8 yrs conditional release register as a SO living in community (with parents) because no one will rent to you or hire you. And to add insult the 15 yrs don’t count down until 8 yrs done. A life and family ruined and wasted. The laws in Wisconsin need to change to reflect the severity. No victim !

      • Eva

        How was there no victim? Those children that were viewed were victims. Someone forced them to pose or have sex with adults to get those shots taken so every offender that looks at them does indeed have a victim. Minimizing the harm offenders do to children is the hardest pill for me to swallow and those victims are victimized over and over for years. Child porn is not a victim-less crime.

      • d

        What if the pics were selfies taken and posted by the “victim”? What if the “victim” claimed they were 18?

        Sometimes people download large files from file sharing sites and inadvertently end up with some CP thrown in. It has happened.

        My opinion is there should be a higher priority given to finding the makers of CP. Especially the type that involves adults with young children, rape, torture, ect. You cannot compare viewing an image with the actual event happening. Viewing a video of a murder or violent act does not make one a murder.

        In the name of “protecting the children” we are compromising our RIGHTS and losing the protection of due process. You can’t pass laws based on an emotional response while disregarding the MOUNTAINS of evidence showing these sex crime laws are doing NOTHING to protect children.

      • antiestablishmentarianism

        I have to agree with you Eva that they are all victims, but only to an extent because I don’t agree with how you state they are victims. There are many situations where nobody forced anyone to take pictures or videos of themselves. In the same regard though, most if not all of those that took it upon themselves to film themselves in that manner did not expect older men to get a hold of those pictures for gratification. They were more than likely sending it to a boyfriend or to boys similar in age. The victimization has more to do with lack of consent for the viewing rather than the manner the pictures were taken in. Some treatment providers would consider this a minimization, but rather it’s the truth. Maximization is not exactly conducive to healthy behavior either.

  8. susan

    Wow! The more I look into this, the agrier I get! How are people supposed to survive when they cannot get an education nor a job! It seems we have gotten out of control. Maybe we can at least make the registry different depending on the severity of the crime? Kids who are sexting don’t know they are even committing a crime!

  9. david

    Great essay!! I’m so sorry you are unable to have contact with your children. My opinion is that these crazy sex crime laws do more harm to children overall by destroying families and punishing the children of SO’s.

    John Walsh. Yeah, what a hypocrite. Why the hell isn’t he put on the registry? I know of several cases where govt officials got sex crime charges dropped. The system looks out for its own i guess. But really….what a douchbag. He practically brags about screwing a 16 yo in his stupid book. Walsh is nothing but a self- aggrandizing, opportunistic hypocrite. Sorry about his son but it’s gross how Walsh turned his boy’s death into a showbiz career.

    I think we need to abolish mandatory minimums. Have guidelines, but allow judges discretion. Also, we need to do something to limit the prosecutors power. They often have more power than the judges.

    Personally, i feel the public registry is a bad idea. It is so easy now to do a background check on someone. So if you want to check out your new baby-sitter, or if you just get bad vibes from someone, it’s simple to google their name and see what comes up. Or for a few bucks you can pay for a thorough check. The registry should only be for law enforcement. Period.

    • antiestablishmentarianism

      If you get bad vibes from someone, don’t let your kids around them… It’s really that simple. When I was younger, about 13 or 14, there was a guy that lived in our apartment complex that tried hanging around me and some other boys by becoming friends with our parents. My mom felt there was something off about him and told me to stay away from him and he was not allowed around without her being there. Turns out my mom was right because he ended up getting arrested a few months later for abusing boys in the neighborhood. He had never been arrested before, so he wouldn’t have been on the registry if it existed. I was saved in that instance from being a victim by just good ol fashioned parenting. These registries have indemnified parents into thinking they aren’t responsible for good parenting practices anymore. That’s one of the biggest problems with the registry.

      As for me seeing my kids, I finally took it to court and now have visitation every other weekend. It’s supervised, but the supervisor is either my ex or my mom, so I don’t have to pay some government employee for supervision. In this case, I think the courts did the right thing.

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