How we will take down public registries

By Brenda Jones….

Although many of our constituents would love to see some sort of silver bullet to end public sex offender registries once and for all, realistically, this is a long-term war. It will take many more silverbul-page0001battles across many different fronts to win. Those fronts include our legal system, our legislatures, and the general public. It also includes… ourselves! EVERY battlefront is important, and EVERY soldier is needed.

The Legal Front

We have many legal “soldiers” out there challenging various aspects of public registration, sometimes for individuals, sometimes for entire groups. These challenges are very important but are merely one part of the war. And as dramatic as a victory may seem, there is no single victory that will take down all public sex offender registries.

In order for a court – even the Supreme Court – to end a law once-and-for-all, it would have to find that the law is unconstitutional on its face. For a law to be judged as facially unconstitutional, there must be no set of circumstances under which it could operate lawfully. The registration of sex offenders is one of the countless registration/regulatory schemes that operates throughout our country. We have registration schemes for school children, voters, automobiles, guns, and even young men must register with Selective Service. These registration schemes have and will continue to operate without violating the Constitution. This is the reason all SORNA challenges are “as applied” rather than facial. With the exception of First Amendment challenges, courts will typically consider a challenger’s unique set of facts and render an opinion as to whether or not the law is unconstitutional as applied to those particular facts.

If an appeals court finds that some aspect of registration is unconstitutional as applied to a person or persons, this does not prohibit the legislative branch from attempting to enact a fix. This is why sex offender registration, especially public registration, must also be fought through the legislative process. Courts can help prevent the ever-encroaching reach; however, those who wear black robes are not empowered to make our laws, nor can they prohibit those we elect from enacting them. Courts are limited to interpreting or correctly applying laws that are in dispute.

RSOL is closely monitoring constitutional challenges around the country, hoping to assist in constitutional challenges brought by our legal soldiers.

The Legislative Front

Bad laws are being proposed every year by well-meaning legislators whose constituents are telling them that they want to be protected from bad guys and bogeymen. Our legislative soldiers must stand up and speak up when such laws are introduced. Legislators are often shocked that there can be a “down side” to get-tough bills and that such laws cause more harm than good. It is our right and our duty as citizens to monitor and speak out on legislative issues. Our soldiers can also strive to introduce laws that will help improve the lot of persons convicted of sexual offenses (or any other conviction, for that matter). Building working relationships with lawmakers takes time, diplomacy, and persistence, but the rewards of having a legislator “champion” willing to work with us are well worth this effort.

RSOL’s Advocates and Affiliates are among the many legislative soldiers busy fighting bad laws.

The Public Opinion Front

Anyone visiting this site is probably already aware of the huge problems in our justice system and our laws, especially regarding sexual offenses and sexual offenders. Most Americans are not. Almost daily, they see news items and police warnings about abducted children, horrible rapes, dangerous strangers, and incurable sex offenders. John and Jane Public have been terrified into accepting bad laws and policies. In fact, they are begging for them. John and Jane Public need an education and a serious reality check.

Consequently, our soldiers must also stand and speak up whenever they hear untruths, providing solid facts and taking the unpopular stand against the easier “tough on crime” views. As the underdogs, we must do plenty of homework and assure that every point we make is verifiable, every story true and strong.

Every member of RSOL, and indeed every member of the public who has become aware of the incredible falsehoods and constitutional violations resulting from our country’s sex offender policies, must fight on critical battlefronts.

The Personal Opinion Front

All of us have our own internal battles to wage in this war, too. We have arrived with plenty of preconceptions and gaps in our own understanding of the big picture. Each registered citizen must recognize that he/she is not “unique.” Every registrant is suffering to some degree, and nearly everyone was forced to take a plea or got worse than he had hoped for during trial and sentencing. Likewise, family and friends must come to recognize that this cause is far bigger than their own personal struggles. NOBODY deserves public humiliation; it serves no public safety purpose and, in fact, can increase the risk. We have to distinguish ourselves from John and Jane Public by acknowledging and ACTING ON the knowledge that our “get tough” policies are failing us, and that public registries are not effective nor are they appropriate for ANY person.

We also have to take a hard look at our individual political stands and voting habits. Have we been voting for “tough on crime” and “incarceration nation” politicians all this time? Cheering when some Bad Guy “gets what’s coming to him?” Maybe it’s time to rethink our own roles and make some changes.

Who Are Our Soldiers?

Each one of us must find the strength within ourselves to take a stand against harsher sentences, public registration, and civil commitment. As within any army, though, there are a host of different roles to play. At the one extreme are those willing to take the heat and stand up publicly to loudly protest injustice, even at some personal risk. Others speak in a more measured way in legislative hearings, city council meetings, and boardrooms to assure that facts are heard and our Constitution is remembered. Still others write and publish and research and share the truth with as wide an audience as possible. There are soldiers, both attorneys and plaintiffs, willing to go the extra distance on legal appeals that will bring relief to hundreds or even thousands.

But by far the largest number of foot soldiers are those who reach out, one-on-one, and connect with their families, friends, neighbors, random passers-by… taking any and every opportunity to educate and challenge those deep, knee-jerk fears and assumptions that have brought us to this point. Rich or poor, young or old, well spoken or shy, strong or weak, whoever we are, we have a common message: citizens labeled “sex offender” are NOT monsters but human-beings who deserve to be treated with the same human dignity as everyone else. They are no more dangerous than any other neighbor. The rights we have taken away from them can be taken away from ANYONE once that door has been pushed further open.

So RSOL asks of you, have you found your role in this war to bring down sex offender registries? We hope we can count on you!

Okay Troops, let’s get marching!

someone outside of NARSOL

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30 Thoughts to “How we will take down public registries”

  1. Thank you! Maybe it’s time for me to step up my game.

  2. Avatarab

    Thank you for mentioning the long fight and outlining some basics of what must happen before public registries are eliminated. Regarding public opinion it is extremely important to insure facts become widely known and understood. I am going to share a tiny sliver of one misunderstood fact because sometimes advo

    1. Avatarab

      …Advocacy comes from unexpected places.

      Not every county views all sex offenses in the same way. Certain things might not be offenses elsewhere. Meaning sometimes a victim is only a victim in name because of conflicting laws. I am not condoning any form of sexual or other mistreatment, but if someone claims we here in the United States are viewing their past situation or experience incorrectly I advise anyone who cares to find out where the different viewpoints arise. Finally if it turns out the United States is putting sexual contexts on something not thought of as sexual elsewhere, maybe that’s part of our problem.

  3. AvatarCalvin J Stone

    All I say to this is someone would need to go to the U.S. Congress and house to place a bill to remove these unconstitutional laws where they where started. We need our congressman and woman to get on board. Also im requesting that Rsol should look into a conference here in Maine. I never have heard of any conference that is held here.

  4. AvatarOzz

    I think the reason there will never be an end to the SOR is because the Fed Government will take away any further financial assistance to the states that abolish the registry. The politicians have not only created the “monster” that is the SOR, but they were also bribed into KEEPING it. BRIBED by the Feds; “We’ll grant you money for whatever your state needs so long as you keep the SOR up and running”.
    Gee, why can’t we each bribe a police officer out of a traffic ticket? Same sh*t no matter how you slice it. Bribery is bribery. Period.

    1. AvatarJohn

      I believe the the threat of taking away federal money from the states is a fallacy. Just like the fallacy of allowing oil companies to spend billions of dollars of their own money, drilling new oil wells to make gas cheaper. Right!
      In the state of Missouri, there is a prison which holds at least 234 civilly committed prisoners that were transferred there after the completion of their prison sentence for sex offenses. They were committed by a judge, from reports filed by a team of 5 state prosecutors working for the Attorney General. Mind you, this wasn’t for new crimes. They already paid that debt. This prison has been in operation since 1999, with no releases. It employs a minimum of 450 full time employees. Those employees, they buy cars, they go to the store, to the theater, they eat at restaurants, they even get their haircut. They FEED the economy.
      Throughout the state, every county has someone handling the paper work on thousands of sex offenders. Think about it. 10,000 registrants, some 4 times a year, the rest twice a year, being at the local police stations throughout the state, Mondays thru Fridays, from 9am to 5pm, year after year, for life. Nationwide? 850,000 registered sex offenders and growing everyday. The cost? Who cares. What matters is someone got a job to do and it stimulates the local economies, not to mention the police might nab a bad guy or two cause they walk in off the street.
      I can’t find any budget costs quoted by the state because they list it in such a jumbo fashion, I can’t make sense of it. But the common budget term I see is, “hundreds of millions of dollars”. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that the Sex Offense Industry has become a pretty big business. I just don’t know if it can be beat.
      By the way, the last count was there are 20 states that have prisons with civilly committed sex offenders. Seems like a funny thing when a law is so blatantly unconstitutional, we can use the disguise of public safety to justify it, especially if there’s a little money in it for everyone.

  5. Thank you for one of best articles to date. The change we seek must be spoken into existence. Each of us must find our voice, develop the courage to stand, and boldly speak the change we see worth having into existence. I have developed a 1 hour workshop that shows us how to do just that. Ask me to speak at the next conference. 812-266-3582

    1. AvatarTyler Durden

      1st rule of Registry Revolution is we do not talk about Registry Revolution!

      American’s DUTY to Revolution:
      “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their DUTY, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

      Forefathers raged against taxation without representation. Are we not also now in that boat too?

      Politicians would respond to a underground modern revolution if they understood their twisted ambition for power was overpowered by more powerful forces.

      Many are caught in oppressive states that lack judges that rule common sense like Maryland.

  6. Avatarmike

    The SOR is the most evil, harsh non prison sentences ever created by man in this country, against a group of people. We are the only country that would dare to go public with a sex offender registry. To say that all sex offenders are incurable is a despicable lie that anyone with an average IQ would be able to acknowledge.

  7. AvatarRic Moore

    Here ya go!! Check out this:

    Appeal court rules that blanket wiretapping is constitutionally illegal as it is predicated on the notion of what a person “might do”. I think that would apply to any public S.O. registry as well. THAT is the only way a bullet can be put to it, through a federal court order.

    1. AvatarJerry

      You are RIGHT ON, Ric! This MAY be the opening we have been waiting for!!

      It is interesting how all these “love children” of the 1960s have come up with the meanest, nastiest most draconian laws ever known in the country from the Patriot Act to SOR since the 1990s. All the people who did sit-ins, attended Woodstock, and vehemently protested the Vietnam War have come up with all these “beware of the boogie man” laws. It is high time we put a stop to them!

  8. Avatarroy

    All sex offenders laws are unconstitutional. They are segerating people. The only way that the laws will hold up in court (if the judges wake up) is if they apply it to every person who broke the law and was convicted. This would also include anyone who recoeved a traffic ticker. That means everybody will have to register with there police department for the rest of there lives. Apply everything that a sex offender has to live by. In michigan and other states they have taken away statute of limitations and had started to reopen cases back to the 60’s and 70’s and even in the 80’s. That is unconstitutional we need to get together and go to the u s supreme court. That is the only way the laws will get changed

  9. Avatarcarl

    I pray everyday that these unfair laws get changed. But its going to be a very long fight. As you said we need people in congress. That’s the only way we will WIN!

  10. AvatarMike

    The work that many have done in the various legislatures has slowed down the avalanche of oppressive legislation in the last several years. In my opinion, it is like a thumb in the hole in the dyke. I believe a better tactic is to win in the court system. Various courts have ruled parts of different legislation as unconstitutional. First it is pretty clear now that the registry is not only punishment but oppressive punishment. Not only that but if statistics and data is used, it is very ineffective legislation as well. To me the registry is unconstitutional as it is cruel and unusual punishment. When it is clear that laws are not effective for their intended purpose the law is a violation of substantive due process. I had read that there was a Nebraska study that determined that the registry may reduce the recidivism rate for the most serious of sex crimes, yet it was not firm on that conclusion while the laws affect people for many other crimes, many that were committed years ago. I believe that we need to raise money for suits to be filed in order to get to the Supreme Court and change the law all over the country.

  11. Avatarrn43

    I’m not on the registry but it’s getting to where I’m afraid to go out for fear of being arrested. If you want to get non-registrants to join you poor folk, (and I mean that,) a good reminder is to tell them that, if they somehow find themselves in possession of a picture or file of any type of sex offense, through no fault of their own, they can’t burn or shred it because that would be destroying evidence of a crime. Unfortunately, they also cannot turn it over to police or their own lawyer because that would be admitting to the sex offense of having it in the first place. This is Ridiculous! Everyone really should be scared out of their minds by this law.

  12. AvatarTC Young

    We need to use a multi-faceted approach in order to make progress as this article states.

    First: Judicial. In many of the cases already closed on the SOR, it was recognized that it had tenets (such as Ex Post Facto effects) that were unconstitutional, yet were allowed due to “the good of the community”. However, in Sept., 2013, the Supreme Court in its decision on ICE’s detention of illegal immigrants addressed this very point. They had determined that incarceration for greater than 6 months without deportation was unconstitutional. The justices discussed the fact that almost 2,900 known sex offenders would be released. Discussion included the basis of “the good of the community”, however, the majority held that the rights of the individual trumped those of the community. This is clearly the standard we should be using to address that aspect of the reaction of some lower courts.

    Legislative: It is difficult to convince any politician to side with sex offenders and make their life any easier. So a different approach needs to be taken. We need to approach them with proposed changes that result in them coming across as addressing the needs of the community. The strongest argument at the moment is that the registry has become so overgrown with non-dangerous offenders that the focus on truly at-risk offenders is lost. In order to strengthen the value of the registry we need to be able to cull it of people who have been determined to be of little or no risk. This could be based on professional evaluation, community support and individual analysis… blanket determinations are ineffective and do not provide society with any expectation of safety.

    Why are we concerned with the guy who urinates in public, but not the drug dealer on the corner who may be leading some to turn to sex crimes (pimping, prostitution, etc.) as well as other criminal activity? If the purpose of the registry is to warn the general populace of dangerous individuals, why is it limited to sex crimes, but includes activity which doesn’t pose a threat to the community? This gets back to judicial solutions also… the rationale of the SO registry fails based on study after study showing that it hasn’t led to less offenses. It is discriminatory, ineffective and does not provide the safety that such laws promise.

  13. AvatarCory

    The SOR is unconstitutional and needs to be completely repealed, I really don’t care how the public feels about it. This law was passed based off of peoples emotions, under our system of law, we don’t pass laws based on how people feel, we have what we call a constitution in this country that is the base for passing laws, no where in that document will find anyplace that states that once convicted of a crime you lose your citizenship, and nobody has the right to vote to remove the rights of another individual. And based on the fourteenth amendment, we are guaranteed equal protection under the law, which means that if anyone thinks this law should stand then that means that anyone convicted of any crime, even as little as a traffic ticket should have to sign up for some type of registry. Not to mention the eighth amendment of the constitution guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment. I have studied the constitution for years now and there is not a person out there that can break my arguments, that includes the 9 injustices on the supreme Court.

  14. AvatarMartin

    The insanity continues. Since my conviction for possession of 6 deleted photos of 16 or 17 year old girls (who could tell), I have been treated like some kind of predatory monster. I lost my professional license, paid thousands of dollars in fines, attorney fees and registration fees. They say I am allowed to travel yet if I do I must spend many hours in a local sheriff dept or police agency registering if I plan to stay more than a few days. Some times as much as 40 miles from the location I am visiting (Montana). Leave the country for vacation? Forget it. Homeland security or US Marshall will make real sure the country you want to visit gets the idea that you are only going there to rape, pillage and plunder. They reject you at the airport in front of your own children. I have never touched a child, never wanted to touch a child or ever would. I did moon someone one time when I was in high school. Does this make me a horrible person or a monster? This is insanity and it must stop!! While I will admit I was very wrong for looking at pornography in general. I also admit to looking at what I thought were young women. At no time did I think I was looking at a child. Only forensic evidence was used against me. I had nothing in my possession that I knew about.Everything had been deleted or so I thought. I was rail roaded in court into a plea agreement under extreme threats of a possible long prison sentence. My life has been destroyed. This is a witch hunt.

    Being a father myself (I do live with my children) I can fully appreciate the need to protect my children. I have done so by educating them about the risks that life has to offer. This unconstitutional insanity must stop. Destroying peoples lives with no hope of ever being able to move on from a mistake is inhumane. It plays on the fears of parents. Politicians use these fears to their advantage either out of selfless greed or pure stupidity. I am only praying that the class action suit being filed this fall with the supreme court will change the definition of “registry” from regulatory to punishment. It will be a step in the right direction. This is going to be a long battle one I am sure will outlast me. Hopefully the next generation will not be thrown away for a mistake. I understand the need for law enforcement to track real predators. I am not sure public shaming will even have any kind of an effect on someone like that. Public shaming for life for those of us that made selfish mistakes is insane.

    1. AvatarDebbie bos

      Well said!!!

  15. AvatarSamuel McGrew

    I live in South Carolina, and I have asked this question of several lawyers and none can give me an answer. The question is this: Under state SOR law I must register every three months and once a year i must pay $150. Other than the number of times I must report and the amount of money I must pay this is exactly like being on probation and last time I checked probation was a punishment. Exsplane to me how it can be a punishment in one instance but not in another?

    1. AvatarPaul

      It is punishment. The supreme court lied

  16. AvatarJaime

    All the S.O.R Is doing is putting targets on people’s backs. It’s going to get someone seriously injured or killed!

    1. Avatarrwvnral

      Thank for your comment. There have already been several vigilante-style murders related to the registries, and in at least once case, the murder of a registrant’s innocent spouse. -Admin

    2. AvatarLP

      It already has gotten people killed-more then one.

  17. AvatarDavid

    Well, one thing the newly-accused could do, and I admit it would take considerable courage, is to refuse to plea-bargain with the prosecutors. If we had a movement of refusing to accept plea deals (and not just in sex offenses but in all criminal cases) then the courts would be in very serious trouble. If a substantial number of defendants were to do so then we would quickly see some positive results in terms of over-charging and illegitimately charging individuals.

    As for bringing an end to the registration scheme? Another, equally courageous, measure would, if deployed simultaneously by a significant number of people, bring the system to its knees: simply stop registering. A coordinated movement of non-registrants, organized across the U.S., would not only burden the system but bring much-needed attention to the gross injustice of registration. Hold a demonstration in Washington D.C. for an entire week or longer. Get people to go who will then refuse to re-register in D.C., block the steps of the Capital, refuse to comply with police orders to disperse, get arrested.

    Who’s going to do that? It doesn’t look very encouraging, does it? But I will say this: unless we START doing these things, I don’t see any incentive on the part of our oppressors to change the way we are treated. That’s the way it has always been, from civil rights to Vietnam war protests. Those are the only things which got results. And by results, I mean the abolition of the registration laws, not little tweaks that appease the least offensive of registrants over decades of time.

    1. AvatarPaul

      These points are outstanding. Imagine what would happen if 800,000 registrants simply refused to register? Of course there are 2 problems. It is impractical to organize and if only a small percentage participated, they would be made examples of by the judiciary. And of course the politicians would use it to reinforce the danger of registrants. But a massive protest in DC would be excellent. Also every form of civil disobedience

    2. AvatarDavid

      It’s not impractical to organize; it’s not BEING organized. It is entirely possible to organize. It would not require all 800K registrants but would require far more than who show up at anything I’ve seen organized on behalf of registry victims so far.

      It would require bravery, no doubt about it. But we would have to believe that RSOs are uniquely cowardly to imagine that there are not sufficient of their number to take the requisite actions for such an event because there have always been those, in any of the afore-mentioned struggles, who were willing to put their bodies and their liberties on the line for those socially-defining movements.

      I will leave you with the words of Thomas Paine:

      “THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

    3. AvatarJimmy

      Jimmy in not my real name. I changed it to protect me and my family from the police so I can comment on David’s post.

      While I cannot recommend that we registrants stop “registering”, I can give a suggestion that will show resistance, BUT it can only be used by some and not all of us.

      The following is not legal advice and should not be considered as such:

      I finished my sentence years ago. I am not on probation or parole and this is an important point to consider when you read my comment.

      At the bottom of the registration form is an area that is for our signature and a place for a thumb print.

      In the police computer, there is a box that can be checked that says “Member refuses to sign”. I refuse to initial/sign the document or give them my thumb print every time I go to register.

      This is how I protest against the registry. You have to decide for yourself if this example is right for you. They (the police) don’t like it when you refuse, but (for me, as I have tested the water), the police can do nothing legally.

      “I” look at the registry document as a “business contract”. I am not legally bound to subject myself to a contract I do not agree with. However I am bound by the laws set in place i.e. telling them where I live and work etc… I just don’t sign their document which in effect lets them violate my civil rights.

      Once again, do not consider this legal advice. You must decide if this is what you want to do in your state/county. It is a form of protest. It slaps SORNA in the face for those of us (who have finished our sentence) and who have been caught up in this ex-post facto law.

    4. AvatarDavid

      I applaud your (in)action in refusing to sign the registration but, I’m afraid, symbolism is entirely lost on these people, especially low-level government functionaries.

      No, refusal to register is absolutely what is needed. Indeed, it is, perhaps, the only thing that will work, given the solidarity of those refusing to do so.

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