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Response To "Tread Carefully"

Response To "Tread Carefully"

By Paul Wright

In Issue #1, Vol. 2, of PLN we had an article by Mark LaRue titled "Tread Carefully With Sex Offenders." In it Mark discusses, among other things, SSB-6259. This bill in the state senate, which passed and has since become law, among other things, called for sex offenders to register with police. Mark supported that part of the bill stating it would protect citizens from being victimized and better help the surveillance of convicted sex offenders.

I think that Mark is wrong in supporting any type of registration of ex-prisoners, sex offenders or not. Mark starts with the assumption that this registration will only apply to sex offenders. Time and time again we have seen laws passed which only dealt with sex offenders and it turned out that when there was no opposition to it they turned around and broadened it to affect ail prisoners. Examples of this was when the parole board started requiring polygraph (lie detector) tests for sex offenders on parole, no one complained and within a year everyone on parole had to submit to polygraphs if it was a condition to parole. More recently the state legislature ruled that sex offenders convicted under the SRA would only receive 15% good time off their sentences rather than the 33% all SRA prisoners had been receiving. That turned out to be such a good idea that as of July 1, 1990, anyone convicted of a "violent" offense only gets 15% of their sentence cut for good behavior.

I think it's only a matter of time before all released prisoners have to register with the police upon release, some states such as Florida already have laws like this. I disagree with Mark that this type of registration law will help protect the community. The news media has already reported that most released sex offenders aren't registering, then the police lack the resources to track down the non-registrants (several non-registrants have been charged in various county superior courts and a constitutional challenge is pending on the matter.) I don't see that registering sex offenders, or any other type of ex-prisoner, will make anyone safer. The registration information is kept by the police and might only be useful after a crime has been committed (assuming the perpetrator registered). Common sense dictates that a responsible parent won't let children play unsupervised, leave their kids with strangers, etc., greater awareness in protecting themselves is what citizens need, not registration laws that open up the prospects of police state surveillance.

After a lot of media hype and publicity about sex crimes (the fad "crime of the year") the legislature felt they had " to do something" to pacify voters. Of course not one will step forward to oppose these repressive measures because it's "only for sex offenders." Sure, that's today, wait until the next bill passes that expands it for everyone. I am wondering if a law passed that requires all released prisoners to register with police if Mark will be going down to the police station to register.

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