Current Issues

What can the sex offender registry do?

By Sandy . . . The headline sounds rather bad: “Peoria council points to sex offender at vice mayor’s house as grounds for resignation.”

The first part of the accompanying piece lays out some seemingly valid reasons for concern:

Derek Lawson, registered in Arizona as a sexual offender due to a conviction in 1984 in California, is required by law to register any address where he stays three or more days a month.

He stayed at the home of Peoria, Arizona’s City Council’s deputy chief, Denette Dunn, “intermittently throughout the past year.”

He did not register her address.

Mayor Jason Beck and the city council have asked Ms. Dunn to resign her position as deputy chief as her relationship with  Lawson has “breached public trust” and “depicts behavior that ‘does not uphold the standards of conduct we expect from our public servants.’ ”

Then other information is – almost reluctantly – given.

Mr. Lawson’s estimate of his time spent overnight at the home in the past year is between 20 and 30 days, which averages to between 1.6 and 2.5 days a month, less than the 3 days per month that triggers an obligation to register the address.

In addition to Ms. Dunn living in the home, the mother of Mr. Lawson lives there.

Local law enforcement has no open case against Lawson; he has a legally registered address at an extended stay motel.

Derek Lawson, his mother, and Denette Dunn have been close family friends for years, and Lawson did maintenance and security chores at the home where his mother and family friend live.

Ms. Dunn has for years been terrorized and harassed by a neighbor with clear mental health issues, extremely well documented; some of Lawson’s overnight stays at the home were to provide safety and protection.

Mayor Beck and Ms. Dunn have divisive political conflict, lending credence to Dunn’s belief that this entire issue is being used in an attempt to force her resignation.

So when all is said and done, what remains?

A man who committed a crime 39 years ago, has long ago completed punishment for that crime, and is not wanted by law enforcement for any reason, spends some time in the home that his mother and a long-time friend share. The mayor and city council are able to use that fact to try and force the resignation of one of their members, Ms. Dunn.

How is this possible?

It is because his crime requires that he register himself on the state’s sexual offender registry, a non-criminal but civil regulatory registry – a civil regulatory registry that can have very serious criminal implications, that seriously inhibits rehabilitation and reassimilation, that is used to inhibit movement of law-abiding citizens as wall as persecute and harass them, and that can be used to harass and destroy family members and friends who have the audacity to maintain a relationship with a person on the sex offender registry.

And all of that with being a civil policy.

God knows what it could do were it a criminal one.

Sandy Rozek

Written by 

Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.

14 Thoughts to “What can the sex offender registry do?”

  1. AvatarLarry T

    Sandy, well written. But if we are willing to look past the propaganda and see the real reason for the registry, we can see how it’s a convenient tool for the politicians. Using this type of tool and justifying it as a regulator basically takes it out of the DOJs hands and places it in those that will and are subverting it to solidify a position of power.
    The Nazi party under Adolf Hitler did the same thing to the Gypsy and Jewish population of Germany. It spilled over through gun registration and owner registration.
    But last week the article about the retroactive registration was a violation of expost facto brought some hope.
    In that, it said that it was a punishment. Maybe I am reading this wrong, but, if an action is a punishment for some people, wouldn’t the same action be a punishment to all that are currently subject to it?
    I may be wrong, but, I believe that there have been a number of opinions published stating that the registry is considered a continuing punishment.
    All I can say is that if being beaten with a whip is a punishment for one, it’s a punishment for any one receiving the same treatment .
    The injustice of this is obvious to anyone that has the ability to see through the fear mongering and the political smoke and mirrors. Too bad that SCOTUS has become weponized by the politicians.

    1. AvatarWC_TN

      I may be out in left field here, but I believe the ex post facto issue of punishment is because a penalty is being imposed that was not in place at the time of the commission of the crime(s). There was no knowledge that such a thing was even a possibility. People accepted plea bargains in the pre-registry era and then were required to do so under pain of incarceration.

      I think the line is drawn because, erroneous or not, the courts probably hold the opinion that since the current law is on the books and publicly available, it’s not the state’s fault that a person who commits a sexual offense did not choose to read up and learn the full extent of the consequences of their sexually criminal behavior. People post-registry have prior warning in the current statute of what will happen.

    2. AvatarLloyd martin

      You can commit murder, and receive 30 years in prison. Serve only 27 years, and there is no registry after that. And. You can live in any state you can live and go anywhere as you choose. The sex offender registry has really gone too far.

  2. AvatarOswaldo

    Why don’t we just call this what it is – supporters of the registry are just mean people who get their thrills by oppressing other people. Even worse are those whose ignorance is enhanced by their staunch refusal to research the facts about the registry and realize it’s a tool of oppression that doesn’t protect anyone.

    1. AvatarD,A, Dorsett

      Sounds like the same thing that has been happening to black people for centuries.

  3. AvatarR.Arens

    It is a criminal policy. It’s just cloaked under the guise of civil policy by whatever words they use to word it so it passes constitutional muster. No matter how they spin it, we all know what the registry’s true purpose is. “Civil” relates to ordinary citizens and their concerns. Most grievances are handled internally in that respect where criminal sanctions are punished with hefty fines and hard time. SOR laws are civil?…. I think not.

  4. AvatarJim from Indy

    I think we all know what would happen if the registry was a “criminal” policy. It would have long been abolished as an unconstitutional policy. The government created this criminal policy and disguised it behind “civil” policy terminology and “intent”.

  5. AvatarWilliam M Hart

    I just checked out Peoria, Arizona. Thank God I didn’t spend any money in that area when I vacationed in Phoenix. I think the actions of the Mayor and City Council says a lot more about them than it does about Derek Lawson, his mother, and Denette Dunn.
    But it’s not surprising. Countless politicians and reporters have built their careers on the backs of sex offenders. It’s been going on for years.
    If I had the misfortune of living in that city, I would be much more suspect of a Mayor and council that would stoop to such petty attacks than ordinary people trying to survive.
    The Mayor and council must be very afraid of Ms. Dunn’s policies and abilities.
    As always, thank you Sandy.

  6. AvatarJann Patterson

    I believe that every state needs to be sued by the citizens of that state to remove the registry. There is no other type of crime that requires a registry and even worse the registry does not make any distinction between a violent crime involving another person or a no contact crime such as possession of child porn. That interpretation is left to the public and we all know how that goes – they assume the worst. People who have committed a sex crime have paid by serving time and should be free to assimilate back into society but the registry continues to restrict their movement, their ability to get housing and employment. What is left for them to do?

    1. AvatarD,A, Dorsett

      I believe that once you do your time for any crime, your records should be expunged on each case unless you’re a Habitual criminal. Bu we all know that Laws were more or less created for runaway slaves back in the day..

  7. AvatarThomas

    I’m on it for life. No because of my misdemeanor conviction, or tier 2 Michigan requirement, which is where my conviction was in 1998. But because the states of Georgia and Florida say I have to be. That they do not have a misdemeanor version of my conviction. I could get a letter in the mail from Michigan stating my requirement is over, and that is supposed to be this November, or even be granted relief by my local court. The registrar has stated that she will not remove me from it. Even under court order. Only if I get granted relief from the court that convicted me, 1300 miles away, will she consider it.

    It doesn’t matter for what reason you are on the registry. Only one term applies to all those on it. They are considered pedophiles no matter the conviction by all those not on it. I have read soo many comments of hate.

    Sadly, I only see this getting worse as time goes forward.

    1. FredFred

      Please let us know if you get that letter from Michigan in November. I would be interested in knowing if that is the process they follow.
      There are paths off the Georgia registry, and maybe the Florida registry as well.

  8. AvatarAustin

    I believe we should force our legislators to either pass the death penalty for sex offenders, or actually assess the risk of individuals convicted of sex offenses. Anything else is half-hearted, lukewarm, BS.

    Make them put their money where their mouth is.

  9. AvatarED

    This registry mess known as SORNA was created by two people president George W. Bush and John Walsh in 2006 and passed by Congress the same year. It’s a federal law and the only means for it to be abolished is it must go through the U.S Supreme Court and back into Congress.

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