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Wisconsin, what are you doing?

By Sandy . . . It is a given that if one is convicted of a crime, some sort of punishment will follow. Why? It has been thus from the beginning of time. The hope is that the punishment will evoke a repulsion toward the criminal act and the unpleasantness that resulted from it and cause a turning away from it. If the lesson is learned as intended, society benefits.

This is a good thing. Less criminality, increased safety are very worthwhile goals in any society.

But what, then, what if the lesson is not learned? What if the miscreant, rather than turning away from the crime, turns back to it and reoffends? Then harsher punishment is meted out. Obviously, more is needed in this specific case to enable the offender’s realization that continued criminality will result in stronger and more stringent punishment. He had a chance, and he did not seize that opportunity. He must now suffer more severe consequences.

This is the purpose of first-time offenders being dealt with more leniently than repeat offenders. It is logical. It is effective. For the vast majority of those who have committed crimes of a sexual nature, it works; it works better than it does for those who commit every other category of crime with the exception of murder.  On average, virtually all valid follow-up studies show that upward of 95% of first-time offenders did not receive a second conviction for another sexual offense.

Why then, why, would the Wisconsin legislature pass law that renders useless this process? A bill has just been signed by the governor of that state that applies the consequences of a repeat offense when only one conviction has occurred.

It is not uncommon practice for the state to prosecute separate charges flowing from one incident as one, thus resulting in one conviction. For example, someone is found to have three illegal images on his computer; he is charged with three counts of possession of illegal pornography, and they are tried together: one case, one conviction, one sentence, and a required sex offender registration period of 15 years.

Under this new law, he is now guilty of three offenses; he is a repeat offender and is given the enhanced requirement of lifetime sex offender registration and lifetime GPS monitoring.

What is missing in this grand new scheme? There was no time between offenses, no time to consider whether he wished to cease or continue his criminal behavior. He is suddenly a repeat offender when he never had the opportunity to choose not to be one.

As egregious as this sounds, it is not the most so. This legislative action, formalized and codified by the governor, is retroactive. It reaches back and grabs by the throat all those who had two or more charges tried as one case. These are individuals who did learn the lesson, who made the right choice, who have not reoffended and are now living law-abiding lives. These are people with families, with jobs, with careers, people who were counting down the years and months and days until their obligation to register would be finished. These are also people who have completed their 15 years of required registration and been released from the obligation. These are, for the most part, productive, contributing members of society.

Now they will be part of the financial strain this new law places on Wisconsin. Now instead of being individuals who messed up, got punished, learned their lesson, and came out of the end of the tunnel into the daylight, they will be forever registrants, forever burdened with the additional expenses, limitations, and restrictions that sex offender registration entails. Wisconsin will see the burden on the taxpayers increase more and more as years go by, not only that dictated by increased registry and GPS monitoring but that required to defend legal action against them.

And the saddest thing of all? Wisconsin citizens will not see a corresponding rise is public safety along with the rise in financial burden. They will not see any rise in public safety at all. Those who have been retroactively made lifetime registrants will continue as they have been, and those going forward will do so as they would have, with the few who haven’t learned the lesson getting reconvicted and the many who have learned it struggling to make a life under the shadow of a punitive, crippling “civil regulatory scheme” that, in 25 plus years of existence, has no evidence—none—to show that it is effective in lowering recidivism, protecting children, or improving safety.

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.

24 Thoughts to “Wisconsin, what are you doing?”

  1. AvatarAllen Moore

    The State is to protect citizens and stop crimes in the best way possible. No matter the type of crime all involve some sort of thinking error to where criminals think that committing a crime will deal with what they are after. To cut crime the state must deal with correcting those thinking errors in all criminals regardless of the crime. Warehousing people in prison, mandatory minimums, registries, harsher punishments, etc. do not correct those thinking errors, they just make people hate society and the people in it more, hardly a solution to cut crime. U.S. locks up more people for longer than anywhere in the world, why don’t we have less crime, because punishment does not work. We must correct he real thinking problem rather bating people up with punishments falsely believing that will solve the problem.

    1. AvatarEmma

      I’ve always believe, when people serve time for their crimes, they should be able to live a productive life but, some people have to register as if they never Served their Time. This is not protecting the Public. This is Purnishing people All Over Again. The system needs to make Changes.

    2. AvatarMicheal Stachowiak

      As one who has caught up in the vortex of fear, I’ve been in a state of flux. I have totally held myself to account for my previous Deeds. I went to prison in 2013. I went through groups that actually had effects on my critical thinking skills and my behaviors. The state of Wisconsin doesn’t care about that. Forward Thinking? It’s forward moving like a column of ants crying fire because its simply a warm day. Thank you for your thoughts.

  2. AvatarAj

    I was originally told in 1996, 15 yrs or length of parole, which ever longer. Thus the game began.
    In 2001/2002 i was moved (with no due process) to a lifetime registration.
    Now this. Nothing new when you’re pulling down, at least 2.5 million just in fees upon the registrants. 253.00 pr. Month for bracelet add that up.
    Typical crap when ever an election year comes around.

  3. AvatarScott Matzeder

    Kansas did that to alot of people in 2011, myself include,I went from a 10 year Registration to Life, with no way out of it. Its wrong, its not sensible and its damaging to the offender, their families, and society as well. Here, we also have Drug Offenders and Violent Offenders on Registries and no one is any safer by do so. We are seriously looked down upon across the Globe because of our view on Registries and or Politicians and Law Makers are to cowardly to admit that they are wrong because they will lose positions of power and votes. Its all Political, nothing more…

  4. AvatarDouglas Martinez

    No state (or the feds) can prove or even justify the draconian laws and treatment so they are trying to up the ante so it looks like on paper that they are a recidivist. Next will be the argument is a person a recidivist if he repeats his criminal behavior because he has not been caught, and if so, is he a danger to society? Most courts, I believe, would say yes to this, thus unraveling the progress that has been made.

  5. AvatarSean

    Isn’t expost facto the norm for us? They just keep adding on more and more. Why should I respect the law?

    1. AvatarAnon

      Right? Respect the law… or else… or else we will keep retroactively changing it? They want to make somebody commit a crime, they are going about the right way. Make us perpetual criminals.

    2. AvatarMicheal Stachowiak

      I did the crime. I did time. Why are we still doing the time.
      Drug dealers sell to kids. Force kids to prostitution. Traffic them. And kill them. If that’s not heinous enuf to be sex offenders.
      How many chances do these people get before they strike out?
      I got a life sentence on first offense. I left that life behind in 2013.

  6. AvatarJL

    Yeah, this is just another example of how the politicians will NEVER change the laws for the better. It is solely up to the Courts to do so. They need to strike down these laws as unconstitutional and unproductive to the goals of the people. There will be no other way, there is no incentive for the politicians to do anything other than what they’ve been doing. What is coming of the ALI’s recommendations that the laws surrounding registries be changed to be more productive and give offenders a chance to live normal lives after serving their time? Nothing, and there never will be. I’m moving to Germany to regain my Human Rights in an ironic turn of events. The fact that the country that gassed 12 million people now holds Human Rights in higher esteem than the country that “liberated Europe” is absolutely astonishing to me.

  7. AvatarRobF

    Last year when the Wisconsin Supreme Court rendered their opinion of the AG’s interpretation of the original law. Where 1 arrest with multiple files (for child pornography) constituted multiple counts. The court’s opinion shot down that interpretation. There opinion used the example of going to the supermarket, buying and eating an apple while there, then buying another apple in the same visit. Is that 2 visits to the supermarket? My own analogy is going to a bar, getting into a fight where a person punches someone twice. Is that 2 counts of assault??

    I can only think of the motive for this change, which is what AJ inferred earlier. Either the lawmakers have stock in a monitoring company or they don’t want to seem soft on crime. Sex offenders are an easy target. The statistics do not bear the fear being generated by the media and lawmakers.

  8. AvatarBob P

    I’m not a resident of WI and laws like this guarantee that I never will be. This is one of the worst laws I have heard of. Is there not any SO advocacy group in WI that works with legislators to see that bills like this are killed before getting to the gov’s desk? Registrants are the easiest targets for aspiring, ignorant legislators seeking public support. After all, nobody will stand up for a sex offender until that person gets caught up in the machinations of the criminal justice system, be it as the offender, family member, attorney, friend or some other interested party who can clearly see the bias placed on people charged with sex offenses over all other crimes. It’s a travesty in our criminal justice system and needs to be fixed. Unfortunately, change comes slowly and the ALI is only a recommendation.

    1. Sandy RozekSandy Rozek

      From accounts, opposition to the bill was brought by prison reform groups, treatment providers and public defenders, but the legislators were not persuaded. There was little to no legislative push back. It is very difficult for legislators who want to do the right thing–from our point of view–to get support in an election year.

  9. AvatarGrace

    These laws destroy families and all confidence in the justice system

  10. AvatarAJ

    Wisconsin sent letters out years ago, informing me and others on registry, that we were not allowed photos of children under a certian age, without parents permission. It made no stipulation of family. So legally i needed my daughters written permission to have pictures of my grandchildren.
    The state made no reference in the registry, to old age, alzhimers, dementia.
    I was informed my family could fill out the forms for me.
    I informed the state, that my family didn’t commit a crime and i have forbid them to fill out the form. I figure by then they can spend taxpayers money and come get me. Everything since 1996/97 has been applied retroactively.
    I have always said, once the foot is in the door, it’s not long before the body comes through. Retroactive is the new norm for many many laws now.

    1. AvatarBrian

      I have been asking the same question that what happens if a person reaches the point they no longer have the physical or mental.capacity to register? Never have an answer. But, as you and I know, the law says they would have to arrest you and it would be up to a Judge and jury to decide
      No room for what was the intent. You registered or you did not.

  11. AvatarTim in WI

    Why would there be pushback? Wisconsin is doing what lots of states are doing, bowing to their corporate lords. Its firms like ankle bracelets manufacturers funding political campaigns. Big tech firms are engaging in all sorts of political games and in every level of government. When it comes to the sex offender politicians in Congress can get away with most anything including violating constitutional disciplines. SOR is a prime example of that reality. Congress violated the prohibition AND get rewarded for doing so. Chief Justice Roberts is a prime example of how individuals get appointed into positions of power based on falsehoods and abdication of duty. It is supposed to be Congress which declares War, but more often than not Congressional approval is not needed for Acts of war. Those decisions are now made by Administrative branch.

  12. AvatarMax Freeman

    I wonder if they would begin to see the light if we the people demanded that every Politician, public servant/ Law enforcement agent etc etc be investigated for past crimes they have committed and retroactively hold them accountable for the rest of their lives and make them a public spectacle as well on the internet and so on. After all we may have made the mistake of crimes against one, perhaps a few persons where their crimes often affect the masses of the public. Making it also crimes that could be counted as multiple counts under the now new Wisconsin’s view of the law ! I’m sure you all know there is a few tons of their dirt that has been swept under the carpet so no one will see it . I think they would fight real hard to get those laws changed if it was to become a law to fit all of their white collar crimes as well.

  13. Avatarrpsabq

    The only thing that I find helpful is the more severe, the more ridiculous, the more wasteful laws they pass, the better our cases in court. For those States who are bound and determined to recklessly pass more laws simply for political gain, all the while KNOWING they do no good, I say bring it on. Do it. Get it out of your system. All the more reason for those who can actually do something about this to ask, “What are you doing?” Because one thing we absolutely do know, backed by a mountain of research without a single expert voice in opposition is that these laws do NOTHING in further protecting children. The research, the TRUTH is on OUR side.

  14. AvatarJim

    You get a lesser sentence for beating a child to death in this country, than someone who looked at a picture. That says it all.

  15. AvatarSean

    How is it legal what Wisconsin did? They didn’t get their way in the Supreme Court ruling in wi v rector so they promptly just changed the law in question?! This amendment is being used to subvert the authority of the judiciary. Full stop.

    From my list of potential legal challenges this amendment should face:

    Bad Faith or Abuse of Process: If it can be demonstrated that the state legislature acted in bad faith or abused the legislative process by hastily amending the statute solely to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling, it could face challenges on procedural grounds. Courts should review the legislative history and context of the amendment to determine whether it was enacted in good faith. Also the statutes initial intent.

  16. AvatarLivid in Wisconsin

    How is this possible?! Every single person who took a plea deal with minor tier one charges and completed their probation, should be able to go back and have their charges amended to non sexual charges or charges dropped. That plea deal is a contract that the governor violated. Thousands of contracts violated. Bait and Switched. They just took our LIVES. I can’t even bring my European wife home to the US, violating my God given, inalienable right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. I’m not an angry person AT ALL. But right now…. I am LIVID.

    1. AvatarPissed off

      That’s the part that they are overlooking is the fact that 90% of cases don’t go to trial. If they think that it’s not ex post facto to change the civil requirements which is thusly registration for life which equates to literally thousands of dollars, how am I not able to get my charges amended? Makes no sense

  17. AvatarFred

    Currently try to find a way to challenge it. I had my registration changed back to 15 years, now it is back to lifetime and GPS.

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