By Donna Westfall – February 22, 2018 –
My oldest daughter bought a beautiful home in Central Washington and proceeded to fix it up. After a couple of years, a man moved in next door. He had just been released from prison after spending more than 20 years for being a violent sex offender who liked boys.
She has four boys. Her family moved out of the area to protect their children.
In the last 10 years, I’ve met men on the sex offenders list. One took a plea deal because he was young and dumb. He was afraid that he could be sent to prison for a long time if he didn’t. Well, that was certainly a possibility. He’s looking forward to being removed from the list in 2021 and maybe earlier and having his record expunged.
And then there’s 20 year old Nolan Bruder who, thanks to Judge William Follett, spent 4 months in jail, will be spending three years on probation, has to register on the sex offender list after drugging and raping a 16 yr old family member. Follett insisted the “stigma” of the conviction and having to register as a sex offender would deter Bruder and others from committing similar acts. Nationally, there was an outcry against Follet’s ruling that may have resulted in his giving notice that he plans on retiring at the end of 2018.
There are cases in other states that are questioning the constitutionality of requiring registering on the sex offenders list. There are over 900,000 sex offenders on the list in the US. Very few registered sex offenders will re-offend. One eighth of the offenders are located in California. 95 of them are in Crescent City. It costs our state $65 million a year.
Is it really keeping our children more safe and secure from dangerous strangers? Or are the majority of sex offenses perpetrated in the home by family, friends and acquaintances? Answer. Yes. More than 90%. But let’s look at how we got here.
October 22, 1989, Jacob Wetterling was 11 years old when he was abducted, sexually molested and killed. It took 27 years for the killer to confess. His killer did not face murder charges because of the statute of limitations. A 1994 federal law named for Jacob requires states to establish sex offender registries.
July 29, 1994, Megan Kanka was 7 years old when she was raped and murdered by her neighbor. Her killer was a known child molester that moved in across the street. No one had been notified in her neighborhood. California Penal Code 290.46 mandates the California Department of Justice (CA DOJ) to notify the public about specified registered sex offenders.
1996 – Amber Hagerman. She was 9 years old when she was abducted and murdered. The Amber Alert was named for her from the acronym: America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.
February 2005 – Jessica’s Law for Jessica Lunsford. She was 9 years old, sexually battered and killed by a previously convicted sex offender. The Act never passed into law on the federal level, but adopted by the majority of states including California.
Our hearts go out to young love. Unfortunately, young lovers are subject to being put on the sex offenders list if, let’s say, an 18 year old boy is in love with his 17 year old girlfriend. Then her parents report him to law enforcement . We’re not talking violence here. But this is reality. He’ll be on the sex offenders registry for probably 20 years. Even if he marries the girl, has children and leads an exemplary life.
According to a September 11, 2007 report titled: US: Sex Offender Laws May Do More Harm Than Good – End Registration of Juveniles, Residency Restrictions and Online Registries, Human Rights Watch which included a review by Patty Wetterling (Jacobs mother) and others came up with some conclusions:
- The registration laws are overbroad in scope and overlong in duration, requiring people to register who pose no safety risk;
- Under community notification laws, anyone anywhere can access online sex offender registries for purposes that may have nothing to do with public safety. Harassment of and violence against registrants have been the predictable result;
- In many cases, residency restrictions have the effect of banishing registrants from entire urban areas and forcing them to live far from their homes and families.
“Sex offender laws are based on preventing the horrific crimes that inspired them-but the abduction, rape, and murder of a child by a stranger who is a previously convicted sex offender is a rare event. The laws offer scant protection for children from the serious risk of sexual abuse that they face from family members or acquaintances. Indeed, people children know and trust are responsible for over 90 percent of sex crimes against them.”
Therein lies the problem. And, now that I’m aware, I’ve changed my opinion about the sex registry list.
On February 12th this year, there was an Oxford style debate held at New York’s Subculture Theater.
Before the debate, attendees would vote whether the list should be abolished?
The debate was between between Emily Horowitz, who argued the affirmative position. She is professor and chair of the sociology and criminal justice department at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York, and Marci Hamilton from the University of Pennsylvania and CHILD USA who argued the negative position.
After the debate, attendees voted again. The winner of the debate is the one who has moved the most people to her position.
39% voted YES before the debate and 72% voted YES to abolishing the registry after the debate. Emily Horowitz was the winner.
The debate can be watched at this site: https://floridaactioncommittee.org/overwhelming-win-for-emily-horowitz-in-yesterdays-debate-on-abolishing-the-sex-offender-registry/