Reforms to California’s Sex-Offender Registry
California’s sex-offender registry is under the loop.
Recently, a new bill had been passed by the State Assembly and if signed off, it is expected to become legislation by 2021.
The Bill advocates that sex offenders be re-evaluated after 10 or 20 years.
The idea is that they’d be given a chance to be removed from the sex-offender registry, should they now be honest citizens and repentant. To make these persons’ addresses and photos widely available is increasingly seen as being unconstitutional and cruel.
Consider Greg. He is newly married and excited about a new baby on the way.
When he was 18, he pled guilty to child molestation. He was doing a lot of drugs at the time and molested an underage girl after a night of hard partying. “I didn’t even know what I was doing”, Greg says. He was sent to jail and subsequently placed on the sex-offender registry.
Greg never intended to hurt anyone, he made a stupid mistake. He got sober and turned his life around. But, every year, the police come to visit. His crime was committed 14 years ago. “I am still being penalized”, Greg says.
Due to Megan’s Law Greg’s neighbors know about his presence in the neighborhood and about his past.
Named after 7-year old Megan Kanka, who was raped and killed by a recognized child molester who moved in right next to her, Megan’s Law allows the public to be notified about sex offenders moving in amongst them.
Known sex offenders have nowhere to hide. Anyone can do a search and find information on sex offenders in their locality, throughout the United States. All states have some form of Megan’s Law in place.
Why is a reform needed?
Sex crimes can be devastating. Many believe that habitual sex offenders pose a real threat to communities and should be monitored.
Even so, it must be remembered that the register does not ‘catch’ all offenders. Most sex crimes are committed by someone whom the victim knows and trusts – and more often than not, that someone is not on the sex-offender registry. The registry is therefore not a fool-proof method for identifying sex criminals. Some might argue that Megan’s Law only protects the tip of the iceberg.
The other side
There is also another side to the story. There are lots of Greg’s out there. Megan’s Law places them under a lifelong ‘sentence’ and they are unable to ever get away from the stigma of their crimes.
Sex offenders on the list are discriminated against when they are looking for a job or when they are applying for new housing.
The reform suggested is asking for sex offenders to be given the chance to petition to get off the sex-offender registry after 10 or 20 years.
In effect, they are asking to be judged again. People convicted of misdemeanor sex crimes such as sexting with someone underage or indecent exposure can be removed from the list after a time.
“Look at my story,” the petition will say. “What I did was this. What caused it was that. I’ve changed and I am sorry. Please give me another chance.”
The proposed bill is saying we must judge each petitioner again and decide if the person should be allowed off the registry or not.
In some cases, of course, the answer will be a very firm and resolute NO. Some crimes, such as for being convicted of felony child molestation or having child pornography, must be monitored for life.
But, the Greg’s among us can perhaps be relieved from the burden they have carried for so long. They’ve paid their dues.