Monday, October 26, 2015

Missouri family speaks out against registry

The registry has an unreasoning reach. Eric Adler of the Kansas City Star writes the story of a Missouri man falsely accused of molesting his son. Twenty-six years later as an adult, the son is working to remove his father's name from the sex offender registry.

The story is compelling and the Midwest Innocence Project is considering whether to take this man's case.

The article provides information about how retroactive laws can affect a registered citizen and his family. This man has lived in his home since 2000 but a new court ruling may force him out. The registry does not recognize his law-abiding life. At all.

It knows only that registered citizens are easy targets.
If sex offender registries are about keeping close tabs on offenders, [Captain Mike Rogers of the Jackson County Sherrif's Department] said, forcing them to move would send the system into chaos.
Yes, if keeping track of sex offenders is important, letting them stay in place seems much simpler...unless we understand that the registry has nothing to do with community safety and everything to do with tormenting those whose offenses we find abhorrent.
“I think sex offender registries are an important part of an overall child-protection strategy,” said Staca Shehan of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Her division at the center helps authorities by collecting information on the whereabouts of “noncompliant” sex offenders, those who have failed to register. No clear number exists, but she estimated there are tens of thousands nationwide.
Note that no clear number exists, but let's assume that her estimate is close. Have those tens of thousands of offenders been out there committing more sex crimes? No.
Certainly national headline-grabbing stories have tended to reinforce the need for vigilance. 
Shehan offered the example of Jaycee Lee Dugard, the 11-year-old California girl who was grabbed off a street as she walked home from school. Dugard remained missing for 18 years until, in 2009, she was recognized and found in the company of convicted sex offender Phillip Craig Garrido, who had kept her captive. 
“There’s others,” Shehan said. “It is anecdotal, for the most part, but we have seen cases where registered and noncompliant sex offenders have re-offended and raped or murdered a child.” 
Case in point, she said, is John Albert Gardner, who in 2010 pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of 14-year-old Amber Dubois in 2009 and 17-year-old Chelsea King in 2010, both in California. Gardner was a convicted sex offender who had been imprisoned previously for molesting a 13-year-old girl.
Shehan could look at the research that shows that registered sex offenders are very unlikely to commit another sex crime but, instead, she tells stories of individual cases.

The two cases she mentions, Garrido and Gardner, both illustrate how the registry offers no protection. Both men were on the registry when they committed the crimes she talks about.

The reporter talked to the mother about how her son came to tell her that his father had molested him.
[She] said that it was in that moment that the notion he might have been sexually abused crossed her mind. She had been following the news, and in the 1980s, child sexual abuse was making national headlines. The McMartin preschool case — in which it was later determined that preschool workers were falsely accused of abusing some 360 children in their care — was still working its way through the courts. 
“All of sudden something hit me,” she recalled. “If you remember, that was about the time everything started coming out, saying, ‘Ask your kids if someone has touched them.’ ”
The 1980s were rife with stories of child sex abuse in day cares and preschools. Each story generated more fear, more false accusations. See here for information about several.

Here we are in the next century and the sex offender registry is generating the same kind of unreasoning fear.

I commend the Missouri family for coming forward with their story. The more people understand what it is like to live under registry rules, the better.

No comments: