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.

Coincidental Trump Followers

Over a year we have rehashed and overanalyzed the Presidential election of Clinton vs. Trump to the point that the average citizen is sick, tired and wishes to move on. Additionally, there is almost a bizarre method to attempt to get into the mind of voters and dissect why they voted the way they did? What was intended to be a landslide victory for one party took a sudden turn to elect what people describe as a country critically divided and with outside election influence?

While it may be true that the nation is politically and socially divided. There may be some rather obvious reasoning as to why there are Trump supporters? I remember a time where Senator Jesse Helms would win by a landslide in a state where Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans. Yet if you asked any North Carolinian how they voted you wouldn’t hear the name Jesse Helms at all. It is a cryptic and secretive voter scheme to protect the politician that people love to hate. It is somewhat like a Trump rally. You may not know any Trump supporter but are surprised to learn of an unsuspecting individual that attended. This is how and will remain the taciturn election cycle.

But the Trump election is somewhat similar to the Helms scenario. Perhaps Trump supporters are slightly xenophobic, conventionalists, or seek strict societal controls? Trump supporters are far less inclined to care about who is not telling the truth, facts, sexual improprieties, corruption, political correctness, or free press. Sure, these descriptions follow an ethical rule, but to Trump supporters, these issues don’t put food on the table or hold much merit.

I was recently at a Target store and overheard two African American women carrying on a conversation. What made this particular conversation stand out was the two were using colorful words such as fuck, bitch, shit, motherfucker and other expletives somewhat loudly where others could hear – including children. I looked over at other patrons watching body language and facial expressions which ranged from deep glares to curled lips. As the two women walked towards the checkout, I could overhear a woman saying to another man “people like that are the reason our country has so many issues.” It was a stark and loose comment that perhaps Trump supporters may have considerable prejudiced viewpoints mixed with authoritarian aggression such as social manners and common courtesies while in public. However, I wonder what would have happened if the two African American women would have been Caucasian? Would anyone notice or express similar facial expressions? Trump supporters will argue that the ‘N’ word should never be used. Yet pop culture continues to frequently use the ‘N’ word in lyrics and conversation. It fuels the opposite as double standards amplifying a further divisional standard.

This brings me to the Trump allegations of sexual harassment and improprieties. The typical Trump supporter doesn’t give a hoot about Stormy Daniels or the list of Trump sleepovers or issues. Why? Because most Trump or conservatives firmly believe consent between two people is just that. It is the attitude that private matters between two parties are none of our business.  Basically, you can claim to be a virgin one moment but cannot declare a mulligan to reclaim your virginity. It is not up to public inspection. The average conservative politician may voice concern about a sex allegation but usually finds the words, “the victim shouldn’t have allowed herself to become vulnerable” or something closely related to that effect. Conservatives and Trump followers think that sex crimes belong in one category where overwhelming evidence demonstrates the classical rape sequence. Anything beyond that is he said – she said story. Social justice warriors are attempting to change that by challenging judges that don’t rule the way they deem necessary and fair. But time will ultimately tell when Trump styled judges eventually find their way to the bench to dismiss or overturn based on evidence or conditions.

As for facts, free press, and corruption it can be argued that politicians have been violating this for eons and will continue to do so as a right of passage or interpretation. Let’s face facts that lobbyists and dollars run the nation – not politicians. American political corruption has been the core of our institution, and a catalyst for pop culture television shows ever since the introduction of the West Wing. As Americans, we love a scandal so much that the Trump administration has made a complete four-year live television series keeping scandal in news headlines. It is so compelling that we have no idea what legislation has been introduced and passed over the past year. In fact, we can barely name any of the Trump cabinets – unless they are under investigation.

A reason the country is divided may be because of how we have separated the dialog. Our advocates are the press with questions not of the typical American individual – but representing particularly social justice or trending feeds. The average American is not glued to Facebook, Twitter, or other social justice sites. Americans are fighting legal battles, high-interest rates, watching Family Guy, and just barely above water avoiding any mention on social media as it may be the result of not having a job. In contrast, the Trump supporter is engaged with any tactic necessary to introduce or forward anything that appears real, truthful, and conventional. Afterall, that is what typical America seems to want no matter what the cost.

What is a landslide is how we embrace media and television to watch a scandal unfold and change right before our eyes. We are no longer concerned for the poor, homeless, wrongfully convicted, starving, needy, and the impoverished. As long as we have our reality television show filled with distractions and unfounded analysis so will the rhetoric of blended real and fake information.

The Uncivil War On Sexuality

The sex offender registry and draconian laws aimed at offenders has destroyed lives of individuals and families. Today a new form of offender registration has transpired. This new offender registry creates life sentences using the internet as its delivery method carefully skirting libel and slander policies under the blanket of free speech. Naturally, this is not a registry, but social movements are utilizing social media platforms to quasi-create a public registry with no hopes of being removed or deleted, and it’s creating more harm than good.

A recent news segment mentioned an R&B superstar named R.Kelly. Kelly is one of pop music’s best-selling artists, with hits including “Ignition,” ”I Believe I Can Fly,” ”Step in the Name of Love,” ”Same Girl” and “Bump N’ Grind.” He has also written hits for Celene Dion, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga. He was acquitted in 2008 of child pornography after a video circulated appearing to show him having sex with a teenage girl. However, as he continued to score hits and sell out stadiums, more women have come forward in recent years accusing him of sexual misconduct. Kelly had been scheduled to be among the performers at popular concert venues but was dropped as efforts by organizers of #MuteRKelly gained attention with support from Hollywood’s Time’s Up campaign. Overnight Kelly has been the target of an issue 10 years old creating a delayed response or condition. Many are wondering if the #metoo campaign has gotten out of control?

Society is witnessing improved tactics to create and facilitate registry styled methods using constructive hashtags and meme styled photos comparable to police lineups. All these methods are protected by free speech rights. There are disturbing trends with guilt by association tactics using political individuals seen in pictures or appearances with individuals accused but never charged with sexual improprieties in guilt by association tactics. The same strategy is being used on individuals as a result of news and information shifting from regular publishing sources to social media.  Social justice movements have designed strikingly similar registry models by combining low-level offenses with significant offenses presenting an appearance of guilt for anyone mentioned. Additionally, to be associated with the accused, guilty, or suspected has created a panic based fear that will eventually become more violent as anger and social stigma increases. Does this imply that we should stop listening or supporting Elvis Presley because he dated a 14-year-old girl? Moreover, does it suggest that hearing or being an Elvis fan makes you a supporter of statutory rights? The question is, “when does the conversation begin?” or is this electronic vigilantism stirred by social movements with no real agenda or cause? Are freedoms of choice under assault? Arguably there is enough evidence to present a spiraling out of control agenda with taking no prisoners mentalities. It is excessively dangerous with no end in sight.

If the sex offender registry was not enough to restrict movement and liberties, then the internet has an interesting way of making life nearly as difficult for those not on the registry. Spotify and Pandora are sizeable online streaming music services. They recently removed artists from its collection where fans must search for specific content. Movies starring accused or guilty offenders have been quickly removed from major content providers. Art has recently been removed from galleries because corporations or entities do not wish to be spotlighted with pressure from social movements. Most interesting, social movements or mob justice campaigning efforts are shaming those that listen, watch, or support such artists. That has many inquiring who is the bully or aggressor in this case? It has become an uncivil war on sexuality.

Social movements do attempt a subtle effect on placing the spotlight on specific issues – and should be commended for bringing a problematic issue forward. However, at the same time, such causes have a responsibility to educate and allow occasional discourse to remedy problems from becoming out of hand.  Those that differ should have an opportunity to be heard. Sex offender registries have harmed individuals, families, and supporters. The same stratagem occurs with social justice campaigns damaging artists, fans, companies, and the innocent. Just as offender registries lump all into one category, social movements are incidentally and sometimes purposely doing the same creating additional harm because emotion and sometimes interpretation is a contributing factor. While #metoo and #timesup campaigns initially were valid, that effect has morphed into anger, antagonism, and losing focus on the opportunity for open dialog and discussion. Maybe its time to stop and take a moment to #ListenToMe where a constructive dialog helping shed pain, frustration, and integrity are reintroduced?

In my #metoo experience from my childhood, I have learned how to cope, educate, forgive, and advocate for myself and others. What seemed like years of pain was a reality of several instances. I cant spend my entire life with an agenda to destroy another person because I want justice. If anything, sharing my personal experiences openly and candidly is the real #metoo movement. It is vital so that victims do not feel alone and non-victims become educated advocates.

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