ACLU: Florida Sex Offender Reform Should be "Based on Facts, Not Fear"

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For legislators - especially the ones looking to earn tough-on-crime points - it's open season on sex offenders. Following a Sun Sentinel investigation that found a high number of re-offenders among the worst of the worst, Tallahassee has elbowed everything else to the side, clamoring to find new ways to cool down the frayed nerves of a frightened public.

But as new ideas for handling sex offenders keeping popping up, it's time we look at where the line between safety-at-all cost and constitutional rights come into play.

Take No Porn for Pervs. Last week, we wrote about how Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Katie Edwards were pushing off legislation that would make it illegal for sex offenders on probation to view, access, own or posses "obscene, pornographic, or sexually stimulating visual or auditory material."

First off, the whole idea behind the bill is the light-on-stats assumption that porn viewing correlates with sex offenses. But really, the prospect of the government wagging a definitive finger over what material someone can and can't view - that seems like a dangerously slippery slope.

The Florida American Civil Liberties Union has actually been looking into the situation. Last week, they gave New Times the following statement.

The intention that the bill authors state they had in filing the legislation - the reduction of recidivism for former offenders - is an important one. But there hasn't been any evidence presented to suggest that this change to Florida law would support that important goal.  Also, by expanding the universe of banned materials to any material that could be 'sexually stimulating,' the bill would make the law vague and subject to inconsistent and abusive application. Reducing recidivism and ensuring public safety requires looking at genuine policy solutions based on facts, not fear.

But really, No Porn for Pervs is just the beginning. Since the Sun Sentinel's initial report, there's been a steady torrent of updates, each piece jacking up the political pressure for the state TO DO SOMETHING. Last week, legislators held hearings to air out new ideas. Although some of the responses seem like concrete steps toward improving the system, others are a little troubling.

For example, we can probably all agree that it would be a good idea to increase the supervision on all sex predators released from custody, or to expand who is evaluated under the state's Jimmy Ryce law, the provision that aims to identify the greatest public threats for civil commitment.

But the same panel also kicked around the idea of expanding the definition of sex offenders, but provided no specifics.

A 50 year minimum sentence is also on the table - sounds appealing, but can the criminal system handle it?

And most disturbing, there's the idea that prosecutors should be allowed to pursue civil commitment even when state psychologists don't think it's appropriate. That means giving the law-and-order arm of the state an override option when they don't agree with what medical professionals have to say.

At this point, these are all just ideas that haven't yet been workshopped into specific legislation. But as No Porn for Pervs shows, lawmakers are pulling the trigger quick on this stuff. We're in a heightened atmosphere of panic right now over sex offender issues, the exact hothouse conditions for cultivating some extremism-in-defense-is-no-vice policy which we might regret in cooler times.



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4 comments
val03
val03

Vicki Henry wants to insinuate its the "families" of sex offenders taking the brunt of societies repercussions against sex crimes. If the public took the time to read some of these websites from the "families" you would be left shaking your head why Children and Family services havent stepped in on the majority of these dysfunctional family units. She quotes recidivism rates. The public should know the difference between recidivism and reoffend rates. Recidivism are stats that correlate with convictions. Reoffend rates are up over 88% when offenders are tracked long term. The public should also be aware the the overwhelmingly documented "vigilante" attacks on sex offenders are committed by family members or persons in the close circle of the sex offender. WHY? Because sex offenders are opportunist and opportunity presents itself with those who allow the offender into their airspace. Vicki Henry loves to tout education versus punishment. Ask her how we educate a 40 pound child cowering under a 200lb. man WHO CAN SEE NO FURTHER THAN HIS OWN SEXUAL SATISFACTION?

val03
val03

There are entire support groups for families of Sex offenders on the web. These women pour out their trials and tribulations of having a family member(s) on the registry. Uniformly they blame the "victim" first and Porn second. Having said that, there are also entire websites devoted to offenders looking to "circumvent" their oversight and "buck the system". Whereas this legislation may sound good and according to the support groups "porn is a trigger" for offending, I am not sure how enforcable it will be. Sex offenders are "too stupid" to figure out what will land them on the registry, but quickly figure out what their "constitutional rights" are under supervision or after supervision. Add to that the Nambla loving ACLU and this proposal might become a moot effort.

val03
val03

Groups like Women Against Registry subgroup of RSOL (reform sex offender Laws) and their motives.

A closer look at their goals and history will clarify their agenda, and leave any law-abiding person who wants the best for our children disgusted. It will reveal that RSOL is the "New NAMBLA", and that the goal and agenda is actually to change legislation in such ways that would allow pedophiles to rape children without any repercussions at all. The goals are the same as NAMBLA's goals: to normalize pedophilia and give pedophiles access to children -- to turn the United States into a pedophile "utopia," the same "utopia" that they discuss on the many pedophile activist websites across the internet. They are organized and methodical. They prepare their propaganda, and then spread it into every corner of the internet: on news groups, forums, news article comments, blogs, videos, audio, social media sites, etc. They fabricate "statistics" which they share with each other, and propogate to the outside world. The ones who do this call themselves The Minutemen.

Vicki Henry is a more high profile member of "The Minutemen" They are the wives, mothers and girlfriends of convicted sex offenders who want to imply all sex offenders peed on a bush or had underage consentual sex. Their members have crimes that would warrant a "needle stuck in their arms".

vicki.henry
vicki.henry

Legislators in Florida seem to relish spending the taxpayer money on frivolous "feel good" measures while chipping away at the human and civil rights of registrant families. The reason they get away with it is because society has been duped into the concept that a sex offender is a nasty old man who has raped small children and if given the chance "will do it again and again" and that is almost 360 degrees from the truth based on studies from academics and the likes of Justice Policy Institute. Recidivism for another sexual offense by a registrant is 5.3% while the remaining 95% of sexual offenses come from the family, acquaintances and those having access to the children and MOST never get reported. Are you beginning to see where the focus should be....on prevention and training children and teens how to be safe as much as possible.  

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children there are over 751,138 men, women and children (as young as 8 in some states) required to register and the "crimes" range from urinating in public (indecent exposure), sexting, incest, mooning, exposure, false accusations by a soon-to-be ex-wife, angry girlfriend, or spiteful student, viewing abusive OR suggestive images of anyone18 years old or younger, playing doctor, solicitation, Romeo and Juliet consensual sexual dating relationships, rape and many others.

If you multiply the number on the registry by 2 or 3 family members you can clearly see there are well over 2,500,000 wives, children, moms, aunts, girlfriends, grandmothers and other family members who experience the collateral damage of being harassed, threatened, beaten, have signs placed in their yards, homes set on fire, vehicles damaged, asked to leave their churches and other organizations, have flyers distributed around their neighborhood, wives lose their jobs when someone learns they are married to a registrant....all these things occur when these people try to hold their family together and provide the three things that professionals state are needed for successful re-integration; a job, a place to live and a good support system.

Political posturing at the expense of our families is NOT acceptable.

 Vicki Henry

Women Against Registry dot com

   

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