Criminal Records Reforms: Questionable Outlook

Let’s suppose that you are an American and want to view a criminal record from a long time ago. Some states enacted Sunshine laws that allow anyone to see a criminal record typically located by the state agency that oversees incarceration, probation, or criminal convictions. Other states may not have an open source of documents and require a few simple steps for requests. But there are plenty of information hubs on the internet that track citizens down quicker than a boy puttin’ on pants at a girlfriends’ house when her dad pulls up in the driveway.

Sunshine law (noun): a law requiring certain proceedings of government agencies to be open or available to the public.

But with all the talk and noise about justice reform, and it is a very valid argument, there must be room to discuss the bigger picture. Our nation is made up of laws that we as citizens must abide by. In contrast, as a nation founded upon capitalism, it is businesses that have a differing set of policies and regulation. For example, many towns and municipalities have begun implementing the “ban the box” initiative for job applicants with a criminal conviction. Just because it passes doesn’t mean that companies will follow it. Before ban the box, some policies automatically waivered criminal convictions over ten years old. Yet, companies continued to skirt its implemented plan just because it could. Companies have the prerogative to act any way it chooses as long as it follows the law. But companies well aware of undetected methods embracing the at-will employment clause as its permanent and unchallenged safety net.

Ban the Box is the name of an international campaign by civil rights groups and advocates for ex-offenders, aimed at removing the check box that asks if applicants have a criminal record from hiring applications.

If justice reforms miraculously passed tomorrow by the legislature of the State of Anywhere, it could never be useful towards a real clean slate. The internet, search engines, databases, unofficial registries, mugshots, news articles, social networking, tax records, and transparent sunshine laws will forever keep a tarnish on most measures in real criminal records reforms.

If the registry somehow became a police only tool, it would manifest similar to how Colorado provides a printout to anyone that asks. Additionally, the U.S. SMART office maintains a federalized database linked to state, federal, and international sharing platforms. As long as these tools remain in effect allowing third parties to capture, query, or possibly exploit information, then justice reforms will somewhat be stuck in the mud for decades to come.

The Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) provides jurisdictions with guidance regarding the implementation of the Adam Walsh Act, and providing technical assistance to states, territories, Indian tribes, local governments, and to public and private organizations. Individuals found responsible and sanctioned for university or college campus sexual misconduct policy violations will begin importing information even if no criminal charges are assessed.

If you are against the sex registry or public criminal records exposing felony convictions from decades ago, I support your efforts and stand by you. But ridding of the public registry and/or criminal databases has a major stuck point. Our nation has allowed tax records, social security information, job applications with sensitive family information, genealogy networks, credit reporting, banking records, and police records to be stored on cloud networks and collocation servers with data continually exposed and maintained without applicable laws to protect it’s present or future. If a telemarketer from a foreign country can call home with all your relevant information today leaving you with few options to stop spam calls, imagine a world where those same calls become services providing avenues of information no longer available if a registry or criminal database is closed to the public. Inevitably society and companies will find a workaround.

The days of “do the crime, pay with time” are long gone. They have been replaced with “we keep a list, so you won’t be missed.” I have repeatedly suggested that crime does pay in America. Criminal justice and the legal system will always be an enterprise state monopoly creating layer upon layer of bureaucracy. Yes, there are bad people out there that do bad things — but eliminating a specific stigma to discover data resides elsewhere will remain a constant issue as long as information connectivity of warehoused data remains infinitely searchable.

While transparency will undoubtedly be contentious in justice reform legislation so will discussions on how to address criminal records reforms. The lobbying of many well-funded businesses, victim advocacy organizations, and corporations that partner providing sale and services certainly will be armed and ready to viciously defend justice reforms is an attack on companies. Currently, the analytics of law and social policy do not align nor will in the short term. To rid of a mammoth service with ample support backing the current conditions combined with the complexity of laws, safety provisions, and states rights has disaster written all over it. It is not to suggest throwing in the towel. Instead, it should be interpreted with the discovery of a practical method of middle ground of compromise allowing a format for diplomatic discussions to continue.

Perhaps a cautionary warning is what I am suggesting. There is a common adage of “be careful what you wish for” to be applied here. Bellowing out the injustices of registries or criminal records without an alternative may allow the rearing its ugly head of something much more catastrophic. As smart device applications, facial recognition software, vehicle telematics, augmented reality, RFID, NFC, and other technologies surpass traditional web-based platforms, the registry and similar criminal records databases may be headed towards a new frontier that could arguably evince registry styled platforms as practical for the time being.

Dwayne Daughtry is a Ph.D. student of Public Policy and Research Fellow at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Dwayne graduated with a master’s degree of public policy from The University of South Dakota where he was a research analyst assigned to the federal government for compliance and ethical review. He is a graduate of Arizona State University and has certifications in database, archival, non-profit, and “white hat” vulnerability systems administrations.

View from the Gloryhole

Growing up I learned a lot about having to cover for whom I really was. Thirty or so years ago there was no such thing as the LGBT community in the public view. In fact, merely saying that you were gay, lesbian, bisexual or experimenting could be the difference between life and death. During that same period, I witnessed witchhunts in the military, at school, in the church, and community of those that didn’t fit the straight model citizen approach. Any person not straight or straight-acting learned quickly to lie or make up any excuse from being identified as gay, lesbian, or any deviation from the public norm. Back then it was a matter of pure survival in a world filled with machoism and legalized beatings based on fear.

 

As I grew older, I began to find people somewhat like myself. There was an unwritten and complicated code of “people like us” or “friends of Dorothy” styled references that would ultimately allow ones guard to be let down for a brief moment. That guard was immediately restored if something traumatic or raised suspicion within the close-knit community. It was an era and continues to be, a somewhat traumatic for those raised during a period of pre-LGBT history.

 

As people would let down their guard and become comfortable there were two sets of identities to utilize. One would be your gay friends. The others would be those that would never meet your gay friends – thus the alter-ego of straightness. While songs by the Village People, Soft Cell, Indigo Girls, and Culture Club could let you off the gay hook, one had to be careful not to be singing Madonna loudly “Like A Prayer” or Cher “Believe” with drag styled hand motions. Otherwise, your secret is no longer a secret.

 

While LGBT issues appear to have significantly improved over time so has the opposition that demands nearly criminalizing anything gays have tried to highlight. As the wall of guilt and shame eventually were removed, it was straight people that began to outnumber gay patrons at predominately gay establishments (talk about a confusing time to differentiate who is gay, really gay, with the girlfriend, or secretly wishing they were with a guy instead of the girlfriend, or the dreaded “this is my first time here” liner). Gay marriage finally passed, but straight people are still trying to figure out who is the groom or bride in some weird traditional comparison. Of course, wedding cake makers seem to be devout Christians for some strange reason, and we seem to be living in a world where anyone can wear a rainbow shirt. But that is where the party ends, and queer life goes back to being really gay leaving the community divided, displaced and minimalized.

 

I watched a world where AIDS was joked upon by President Reagan and fear from contracting HIV was similar to blaming the cat for the spread of the plaque. Today HIV testing is buried and defunded yet infected rates continue to climb. Hate crimes are still relevant today with gay club shootings or random killing acts that capture the headlines of the evening news that are quickly forgotten. The George Michael days of public restroom cruising, Gloryhole arcades (yes, they called them arcades), exclusive LGBT hookup sites such as Craigslist, Men4RentNow, and many others have been forcibly removed because of claims of possible sex trafficking. Much has changed over the past decade. What has incredibly changed the most is how LGBT issues and rights are once again becoming a campaign moment that somehow “the gays are responsible for terrorists” ideology? Despite all the religious-right talk, there is very little of people actually countering to argue back. Keeping silent is pretty much just as the same as agreeing with the rhetoric.

 

There was a time were acquiring condoms, birth-control, or other sex-related items primarily came from people in the LGBT community – sometimes for free to promote safe and responsible sex values. However, today sex education is removed from the educational curriculum or most meeting establishments. Those free condoms, birth control or other informational handouts have been criminalized leaving all communities vulnerable.  Once again, the gays seem to take the blame.

 

One upside to the gay community is that more men are allowing themselves to become a bit more promiscuous because of the #metoo movement. If you think your man is over at a buddies house watching the game? – Think again! Some men are actually fearful of engaging in conversations with the opposite sex or having one night stands for fear of being sexist or possible false accusations. Therefore, the gay community is once again open for business to take care of what straights usually fuck up in the first place. But without condoms, education, and a way to become connected with a buddy system so will the rise of hate crimes, STD’s, false allegations, sex crimes, and other violence will undoubtedly begin to trickle again making the gay community the villain in these cases. That’s just how politicians want to paint that canvas – but the gays know how to add vivid color!

 

It is funny that history always seems to know exactly how to repeat itself. There are no real official spokespeople for the LGBT community. There are many advocates and high profile celebrities. But rarely will that celebrity status be used unless it benefits that individual. I don’t visualize Tim Cook, Peter Thiel, or Lady Gaga gunning for LGBT issues – unless of course, it profits their wallets. The new gay has become the professional and closeted gay saying, “what happens in my bedroom is none of your business!’  That may be true and valid, but society has a vulgar and graphic way of depicting any image it wishes to pursue. The facts remain that children that are LGBT are usually subject to abuse, homelessness, depression, PTSD, living two lifestyles, and disconnected from mainstream society. The programs once with highlight and mantra of the LGBT community has become an app or some weird paid online subscription trying to fix someone that isn’t quite yet broken but looking resources.

 

The gay bars, bookstores, gloryholes, dance clubs, anthem icon singers, and follies of gaydom seems to finally have ended. A few remaining protestors continue to fight to be the instantaneous posterchild for fifteen minutes of fame before becoming the lightning rod of the Republican party or religious-right groups. Perhaps we need to bring those infamous Gloryholes back? It could stimulate the economy and excite a few returning Republican Party members and religious-right patrons- as they were the most significant contributors to the Gloryhole society.

%d bloggers like this: