Thursday, September 24, 2020

suggestions for comments on the SORNA rule changes

Go here to comment on the changes to the SORNA rules proposed by Attorney General Barr. Comments can be submitted until midnight ET, October 13, 2020. See my earlier analysis of the changes here.

When composing your comments, address the proposed changes specifically. Consider the suggestions below.

1. States vs. Federal Government
The changes will be used to push states into full compliance with SORNA. In our comments, we can respond to the suggestion to bypass state legislatures in the push to increase federal involvement in registry violations. Federal bureaucrats, accountable to no one, should not be able to foist changes on state laws, especially when the new regulations create new ways to deprive people of their liberty.

2. Public Safety
Because the proposal pretends to be concerned about public safety, respond to that. What do these changes have to do with public safety? If the Attorney General used evidence-based studies about the behavior of registrants when writing the new rules, the studies are not mentioned in 93-page document. 

3. Additional Reporting Requirements
The changes would add to the list of items SORNA requires to be reported within three days (remote communication identifiers, temporary lodging--being away from your registered home address for more than seven days, vehicle sale/purchase), so we can respond to that. Remember that for many, if not most, registrants, traveling to the registry office requires taking time off work. If current reporting requirements cause problems for registrants, additional requirements will not help. If current reporting requirements have no effect on public safety and no effect on the incidence of sex crimes, additional requirements will not help.

72.7(e) Reporting of changes in information relating to remote communication identifiers, temporary lodging, and vehicles. A sex offender must report within three business days to his residence jurisdiction (by whatever means the jurisdiction allows) any change in remote communication identifier information, as described in § 72.6(b), temporary lodging information, as described in § 72.6(c)(2), and any change in vehicle information, as described in § 72.6(f).

Reporting those additional items--in any time frame--have nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with controlling a group of people who lead law-abiding lives. 

4. Reasons behind Changing the Rules
Target the reasons for the changes. The reasons come down to because sex offenders might do something (use telephones to lure victims, for example), not because they have evidence that this is something that happens with any frequency. 

The rule governing International Megan's Law uses despicable reasoning like this to justify the DOJ reporting a person's international travel plans to INTERPOL and to other foreign law enforcement agencies: 

... for a sex offender disposed to reoffend, it may be attractive to travel to foreign countries where law enforcement is weaker (or perceived to be weaker), where sexually trafficked children or other vulnerable victims may be more readily available

It is unacceptable for the US government to put US citizens in danger by identifying them as suspect individuals to foreign governments when wild imagination is the only reason to suspect an intended crime. Comment on the awfulness of IML if you'd like but a more effective comment will focus on the specious reasoning throughout the proposed rules change document.

Imagining that people on the registry are plotting to commit more sex crimes does not make it true.

The document is weighted down with paragraph after paragraph explaining why the AG has the authority to impose these rules. Those explanations can be summed up as "we are doing this because we can." Because this court decision said it isn't punishment, the government can do what it wants. Because another court decision said it isn't bad to require email addresses, the government can do what it wants. There is nothing in the proposed rule document that refers to research on the effectiveness of registration. No research was used in building that document other than finding court cases that say the government can do this. 

Watching this process underlines how easily the government can devise new ways to put our liberty at risk. Remember that the next time you think we should put the government in charge of something.

More analysis of the proposed changes:

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