We Have A Choice

Every election cycle may see the creation of a legislative bill aimed directly at people on the sex offender registry. Regardless of what the bill is titled, there will always be an argument without supporting facts or evidence the bill “will keep children safe”. 

It has been only a month into a new political cycle. We are once again witnessing a national legislative agenda filled with residency restrictions, senior assisted living, exclusionary benefit schemes, parental rights, and other bills directly aimed at people on the sex offender registry. 

However, only a few short months ago, we heard manifestos of politicians exclaim criminal justice reforms and a return to compassion for human life. However, the same elected people that we count on to make that change and live up to their word are often the very people that alienate their agenda, returning to fear-laced propaganda and divorcing rational thought. 

If you were to take any of the current sex offense bills and remove the title “sex offender” and replace it with African-American, Jewish, Gay or Lesbian, or Latino, there would certainly be an outcry of discrimination. But that is what politicians do when creating law. The United States has been down that road before with Jim Crow-styled laws and loud politicized rhetoric that always seems to mention protections without any supporting facts or evidence. The truth is that historically once such laws if and when have been rescinded, there are years of apologies, compensation programs, and reeducation policies to heal all the decades of wrongdoing to ordinary human beings. 

It is all a more incredible lesson of what Nazi soldiers said after the war about witnessing atrocities and the rounding up of human beings they were told to treat as criminals. In their defense, Nazi soldiers would say, “I had no choice” or “it was my duty”. Nazi leaders would tout, “this is the protection of the fatherland”. Similar arguments are continually argued about the U.S. Civil War reconstruction era, the Hopewell Native American treaty, the Civil Rights Selma to Montgomery marches, to the Stonewall riots. However, the lesson learned moments are striking similarities that lawmakers and people haven’t learned much from history and continue to spew rhetoric to incite fear without data or evidence citing it is for America’s safety. 

As Americans, we ought to be striving for opportunities to educate and facilitate best practices towards confronting our worst fears by creating a fair policy for all. Instead, we continue to live in a world guided by Jim Crow laws with a McCarthy-styled methodology that everyone could be an offender or sympathizer. We shouldn’t want to live in a nation where fear drives us? 

Our leaders have a moral obligation to do the right thing for all people. While politicians lay claim to following a spiritual path, they too often stray, leaving behind moral thought and embracing corruption by saying, “I had no choice”. Thus history ultimately repeats itself, causing morality to be stuck in the mud. 

Perhaps the best medicine for our history is to become stewards of what is right and fair for all. But such action requires people to become active voices in pushing back. Never assume that others are doing the work for you. While people sat idly by and witnessed Nazi atrocities, civil, gay, or Muslim rights being egregiously violated, what are you doing to back up the voices that represent your concerns? Pick up the phone and call your legislative representative to voice your opposition to a bill. Invest in memberships to organizations that support your cause. Show up in person to your legislature, allowing your lawmakers to see advocacy no longer afraid. 

Dr. Judith Levine researched in 2016, African Americans account for 22 percent of publicly listed registered sex offenders nationally; they make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population. However, that number is staggeringly growing by the day. During this period of Black History Month, we ought to take a moment to reflect on how far we may have come but how far we have to go. We have a moral duty to get things right moving forward.

Sex Offender Score

If you have a credit card, then you have a FICO score. A FICO score is something that measures an individuals credit rating and gives an ability to establish credit or trust between parties. At least with a credit rating, there are various programs to assist people such as counseling, programs, Fair Credit Act laws and a statue of limitations that allow people to rebuild their lives. However, when it comes to the sex offender registry, there are no robust programs, free counseling, fair laws, and the loom of civil commitment issues hangs over the heads of many offenders.

I was trying to form some primary rationale as to why there should be any form of a sex offender registry. Sure, there may be a level that registries pose a deterrent. However, that logic is somewhat dismissive because we are witnessing an increase in registry offenses due in part to the #metoo movement. But what would happen if police were privy in access to sex registries? Would that make things any better for those affected? I would argue specific cases in the State of Colorado where low-level offenders are not required to be listed on public registries. It is the local police that prints a comprehensive or a complete listing of all registrants for anyone that asks. Regardless of what state law mandates, it is an abuse of certain police powers when leaders take upon themselves to create a hole in the system. Therefore leaving that specific power to law enforcement doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of having a hidden registry if it is currently being abused.

Another problem with the sex offender registry is the tier system. At least with a credit report, you are provided a number or score. Perhaps if the offender registry had a FICO styled number that could indicate the seriousness of an individual. After all, the registry is a lump sum deal. Maybe it is time to sort out the violent offenders from the fraternity house field streakers. Let’s say there is a calculation score of 320 for a person with multiple sex offenses, fails to register when required to do so, and the age of the most recent crime is less than a year old. Then there is the best rating of 850 for an offender with a misdemeanor conviction of an offense that is over fifteen years old. If there were a numbering pattern the registry tier system would get small very quickly. However, for the FICO styled registry to work states must allow a measure for offenders to be unconditionally released to allow ratings to increase.

Additionally, if the scoring system is high for certain registrants, then that could allow offenders to be removed from GPS monitoring as long as he/she remains compliant or maintains a specific score level. Is revamping the tier system a good idea? I cannot say. What I do suggest is that while I am for a complete dismantling of the registry system in America. I am willing to compromise and reform the current registry standard into something a bit reasonable and fair across the board. The current lump sum registry system is antiquated and doesn’t serve a purpose to educate or protect the public.

The fair credit act in America protects consumers from predatory styled tactics by lenders, creditors, and third-party agencies. Perhaps our criminal justice system should embrace necessary forms of this method and implement a fair sentencing act that doesn’t create conditions that harm families concerning offenders. Offenders and families shouldn’t be forced to move because a school, park or daycare is so many feet from an individual. If a crime occurs, then there are laws on the books to handle that particular issue. Perhaps introducing a sex offender score could alleviate parts of the current tier program that appears ambiguous and in most cases unfounded. But to overlap code with another law is nothing more than a bizarre method of assumption and defeats the purpose of a registry altogether. To address civil commitment issues, there may be a clause to structure a fair scoring system where a threat is a score that matches a blatant disregard for the law or yields mental health instabilities. At least these individuals would be allowed immediate sex offender treatment at a mental health facility rather than a prison.

The bottom line is that fear drives the sex offender registry and where there is a political motive or business drive there will some forms of corruption and ethical violations. People experience similar instances when reviewing his/her credit report when errors or blemishes impact the overall score. At least with a credit report, there are ways to repair it while offender registries fail to address or allow reasonable forms of rehabilitation. If rehabilitation is to become effective, then there must be a discussion as to how to create a workable solution so that offenders are allowed to return to some normalcy of society. Perhaps a scoring system may be an idea or suggestion of how to separate those violent offenders from non-violent offenders. Additionally, it may create a useful dialog as to if the registry is still valid and relevant in today’s society?