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How Big Money Stymies S.O. Reform

[narsol.org – 6/30/18]

By Michael M . . . When SORNA (Sex Offender Registration Notification Act, aka Title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006) required the states to establish comprehensive minimum standards for their state sex offender registries, it created an unfunded mandate that left many states scrambling to comply or lose Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funding from the federal government. Many states did not have sufficient funds earmarked for the creation of a whole new bureaucracy, especially one that depends so heavily on expensive information technology, so they outsourced it.

One of the big beneficiaries of that outsourcing decision was a company called Watch Systems LLC. Watch Systems provides a turn-key solution called the Offender Watch Network to over 3500 government agencies, including sheriffs’ offices, police departments, attorney generals’ offices, US Attorneys, federal and state probation offices, the Department of Corrections, Indian tribes, and the US Marshals’ Service. In fact, they claim that 61% of the nation’s sex offenders are in their database, which resides on their privately owned hosted servers. Their “supplemental” products include mobile sex offender mapping applications, a postal sex offender notification mailing service, and a robo-caller to verify sex offender phone numbers. In addition to their sex offender registry products, Watch Systems also maintains and markets other registries for arsonists, deadly weapon offenders, metal thieves, gang members, and animal abusers.

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  1. CR

    That was an excellent article; eye-opening.

    Former sex offenders are a commodity, a cash crop that brings in big profits for private companies that provide monitoring, counseling, GPS tracking, polygraph testing, and civil committment services to or on behalf of government. The SO services industry has lobbyists pushing for laws and policies that will improve their bottom line, all at the expense of existing and new registrants. Any law that increases the number of registrants is money in their pocket.

    I had no idea the industry and the money was so big. It shows us what we’re up against when seeking any kind of reform that could reduce the numbers of registrants and/or improve our lot by reducing restrictions and mandated registration fees plus counseling, testing, and tracking that we are forced to pay for. That kind of reform will eat into the SO services industry profits, so they’ll certainly lobby against it.

    I sincerely hope that the children of all of the people who profit from the SO services industry, whether monetarily or in political capital, wind up on a sex offender registry for life.

    • Contrarian

      Keep in mind that as it’s currently written, even California’s new tiered registry law will require a judge to consider whether you’ve “successfully completed” a “treatment” program before a petition is granted. A lot of people aren’t factoring the cost of possibly being put in a position of having to successfully complete SO treatment, which might even cost more than the attorney fees for petitioning. Crazy if you ask me. If you’ve been offense-free 10+ years, why would you suddenly be required to successfully complete treatment BUT to feed the pocket of CASOMB approved sex offender treatment schemes (and the “doctors” and “therapists” that run them)? The SO treatment schemes are a growing component of the prison industrial complex.

      • David

        Well, also bear in mind that ACSOL will continue to lobby and fight for amending/revising the new Tiered Registry law before it goes into effect. Nothing is “set in stone” yet.

      • Joe

        “California’s new tiered registry law will require a judge to consider whether you’ve “successfully completed” a “treatment” program before a petition is granted.”

        That is wrong. Plainly and simply wrong.

        The newly crafted PC 290.5 states: “the district attorney of the county of conviction of a registerable offense, request a hearing on the petition if the petitioner has not fulfilled the requirement described in subdivision (e) of Section 290, or if community safety would be significantly enhanced by the person’s continued registration.

        A judge certainly “may” certainly consider favorably the successful completion of a “treatment” program, but at the end of the day it is up to the district attorney to show clearly and convincingly that “community safety would be significantly enhanced by the person’s continued registration.” The onus is NOT on the petitioner to show that s/he is worthy of termination through whatever means available to the individual.

        Is 290 registration useless and unconstitutional? Yes. Is the new tiered registry perfect and totally fair? No. Will there still be people required to register – for life? Yes. Will Janice and ACSOL continue to advocate for the rights of these people and abolish the entire registry? One can only hope.

        Are YOU one of those people required to register for life for some silly reason that makes little sense? Perhaps. But even if so, that is no reason and excuse to make stuff up.

        • Contrarian

          Joe,

          Note that I said of people “possibly being put in a position” of being required to successfuly complete a CASOMB-approved “treatment” program. The treatment completion language is literally in the bill itself, so how exactly am I wrong (or specifically, “plainly and simply wrong”)?

          I am not “making stuff up” because at the end of the day, this tiered bill still relies on judicial discretion. If you are not familiar with challenging a judge’s discretion, then perhaps you should learn that the burden to challenge a judge’s discretion — and prove abuse of discretion — is incredibly high in California. A court acts within its discretion unless there is an “absence of arbitrary determination, capricious disposition or whimsical thinking.” See People v. Preyer, 164 Cal.App.3d 568 (1985); see also People v. Jordan, 42 Cal. 3d 308 (1986) [“arbitrary, capricious, or patently absurd”].

          What would prevent a judge from saying that [s]he’d like to see successful completion of a “Sex Offender Management Board-certified sex offender treatment program,” then saying reapply in an X number of years. Have you read SB 421? The “treatment” factor is listed at least THREE times in the bill!! Here are the three instances of treatment completion being a factor a judge may use as an excuse to deny a petition. In other words, a judge can literally use the absense of having “successfully completed” a treatment program as an excuse to deny a petition for relief:

          1. 290.5(a)(3): “In determining whether to order continued registration, the court may consider: the nature of the registerable offense; the age and number of victims; whether any victim was a stranger at the time of the offense (known to the offender for less than 24 hours); criminal and relevant noncriminal behavior before and after conviction for the registerable offense; the time period during which the person has not reoffended; successful completion, if any, of a Sex Offender Management Board-certified sex offender treatment program; and the person’s current risk of sexual or violent reoffense, including the person’s risk levels on SARATSO static, dynamic, and violence risk assessment instruments, if available. Any judicial determination made pursuant to this section may be heard and determined upon declarations, affidavits, police reports, or any other evidence submitted by the parties which is reliable, material, and relevant.”

          2. 290.5(b)(2): “The court shall determine whether community safety would be significantly enhanced by requiring continued registration and may consider the following factors: whether the victim was a stranger (known less than 24 hours) at the time of the offense; the nature of the registerable offense, including whether the offender took advantage of a position of trust; criminal and relevant noncriminal behavior before and after the conviction for the registerable offense; whether the offender has successfully completed a Sex Offender Management Board-certified sex offender treatment program; whether the offender initiated a relationship for the purpose of facilitating the offense; and the person’s current risk of sexual or violent reoffense, including the person’s risk levels on SARATSO static, dynamic, and violence risk assessment instruments, if known. If the petition is denied, the person may not repetition for termination for at least one year.”

          3. 290.5(b)(3): “The court shall determine whether community safety would be significantly enhanced by requiring continued registration and may consider the following factors: whether the victim was a stranger (known less than 24 hours) at the time of the offense; the nature of the registerable offense, including whether the offender took advantage of a position of trust; criminal and relevant noncriminal behavior before and after the conviction for the registerable offense; whether the offender has successfully completed a Sex Offender Management Board-certified sex offender treatment program; whether the offender initiated a relationship for the purpose of facilitating the offense; and the person’s current risk of sexual or violent reoffense, including the person’s risk levels on SARATSO static, dynamic, and violence risk assessment instruments, if known. If the petition is denied, the person may not re-petition for termination for at least three years.”

          https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB421

        • Contrarian

          To correct myself: A court acts within its discretion unless there is “arbitrary determination, capricious disposition or whimsical thinking.” See People v. Preyer, 164 Cal.App.3d 568 (1985); see also People v. Jordan, 42 Cal. 3d 308 (1986) [“arbitrary, capricious, or patently absurd”].

          Again, nothing in the tiered registry bill could stop a judge from using the lack of “successfully completed” a CASOMB-approved treatment program as an excuse to deny a petition. This is seen in 290.5(a)(3), 290.5(b)(2), and 290.5(b)(3). A judge can use one, some, or all of six factors to deny a petition and s/he would be found WITHIN legal authority. Some of the six factors don’t even change (i.e. stranger victim, taking advantage of a position of trust, offender initiated a relationship, SARATSO Static score, etc.).

          If even one of the unchangeable criteria are adverse to your specific case, what would prevent a judge from perpetually denying petitions?? Denied for X years, denied for X years, denied for X years… can add up to a lot of X years.

          Here are the six criteria/factors that a judge could bull**it to rationalize that “community safety would be significantly enhanced by requiring continued registration:”

          1. Whether the victim was a stranger (known less than 24 hours) at the time of the offense.

          2. The nature of the registerable offense, including whether the offender took advantage of a position of trust.

          3. Criminal and relevant noncriminal behavior before and after the conviction for the registerable offense.

          ** 4. Whether the offender has successfully completed a Sex Offender Management Board-certified sex offender treatment program. **

          5. Whether the offender initiated a relationship for the purpose of facilitating the offense.

          6. The person’s current risk of sexual or violent reoffense, including the person’s risk levels on SARATSO static, dynamic, and violence risk assessment instruments, if known.

          For those classified as “Tier 1,” there is the added unchangable seventh factor of “the age and number of victims.” So Tier 1’s actually have a greater burden, in a sense. Makes no sense.

        • Chiming In

          The bill is now SB 384 and not predecessors SB 421 or SB 695. I’m sure these are simple errors and not a purposeful planting of disinformation. Like mislabeling the DA who gets to basically be the Judge for the beginning petition, as an actual Judge.

        • Joe

          @Contrarian – “Note that I said of people “possibly being put in a position” of being required to successfuly complete a CASOMB-approved “treatment” program. ”

          No, you did not. You stated, and I quoted you via copy and paste “California’s new tiered registry law will require a judge to consider whether you’ve “successfully completed” a “treatment” program before a petition is granted.”.

          And yes, that is wrong. 100%.

          A judge can require anything, within the law. And yes, having completed some sort of therapy COULD be one of the things he requires for 290 relief. Just like providing a full psych exam can and most likely will be one of the things s/he would require for a CoR petition. Even if it has been 20-30-40 years since conviction. 10+ years? You better belief the judge is going to require something. It is called cya. Judges are elected. If a judge requires you to complete your GED, that is his call. It is called judge’s discretion.

          But then again – not. Since, under the new 290.5, the DA has to PROVE that continued registration is in the best interest of public safety. That is how the law is written. PC 290.5 – effective 2021. That is very different from the current 290.5 – where the petitioner has to prove s/he is deserving.

          This whole thing is not unlike it is a judge’s discretion to require someone to register pursuant to PC 290, who otherwise would not be covered. See PC 290.006. All they have to state that they thought the offense was sexually motivated. Voila.

          A few years ago I read a story of a wheelchair bound alcoholic and a most unfortunate Chihuahua. Judge’s discretion to register for life under PC 290. THAT I find a lot more upsetting than some requirement for relief.

        • Joe

          @Chiming In – I quoted from PC 290 on the official California web site. Not from a bill or multiple – the progression which was an exercise in the democratic process gone wrong.

          Exactly how does the DA get to be the judge? Confused…

        • Joe

          @Contrarian – since you are so adamantly opposed to this bill and new legislation…. what is your constructive – and realistic – solution to this issue?

          I am asking assuming that

          – you are somehow placed in the lifetime tier, and
          – you are the same person making the same remarks – under different names – since the first mention of any of these bills.

          My assumptions. My question.

        • Contrarian

          Joe,

          I indeed said “California’s new tiered registry law will require a judge to consider whether you’ve ‘successfully completed’ a ‘treatment’ program before a petition is granted.” How am I “100%” wrong? The six or seven factors are clearly written in the legislation (“In determining whether to order continued registration, THE COURT SHALL CONSIDER:”).

          You say that the “DA has to PROVE that continued registration is I (sic) the best interest of public safety.” However, it is the ultimate discretion of the judge (“Court”) to consider the six criteria (or seven criteria, if you are Tier 1), based on the information provided by the district attorney and defense. If an appellate court were to review a judge’s denial or grant, then the higher courts are obligated to do so through a standard of review or legal standard. You say that the legal standard is not whether the judge abused of discretion. So what legal standard applies?

          No offense, but your argument that abuse of discretion is not the appropriate legal standard is as absurd as your conspiracy theory assumptions. As for a constructive and realistic solution, here are two:

          1. I simply believe that the legislature should author legislation declaring registration schemes as PUNISHMENT. With registration not being declared as punishment, registrants will continue to face consistently changing regulatory burdens, if not based on offense… then based on “risk” assessments. Until registration is declared punishment, any “fix” is a band aid.

          2. If not punishment, then make the registration obligation relief automatic. After ten to fifteen years offense-free, then your requirement automatically stops. No exceptions. Where is the proof that any type of registry, for anyone, prevents recidivism? This whole “petitioning” process seems designed only to generate revenue for treatment schemes, defense attorneys, and will lead to larger bureaucratic budgets for DOJ and DA.

          By the time this registration bill is enacted in 2021, I’ll be over 10 years offense-free. 10 years for anyone on the registry is more than enough in my opinion. Enough with these dumb “petitioning” games that only validate the need for more prosecutors.

        • Dave C.

          Contrarian, spot on, except that it’s SB 384 that was signed by Gov. Brown, not SB 421. Otherwise, the “treatment” thing applies IF the DA decides to oppose a petition (in §§290.5(a)(3), 290.5(b)(2), 290.5(b)(3)). The thing that worries me is that the SARATSO, aka Static 99R, is still one of the things a judge looks at to see if “community safety would be significantly enhanced by requiring continued registration.” From watching the conference videos, most experts spent zero time explaining the Static 99R’s deficiencies. If even experts like Ellman sugarcoat the Static 99R, then I have serious reservations that a judge will take the time to understand that the Static 99R is an estimate from probation or when a person is released from jail or prison. What someone posted on this site recently: Static 99R lumps all crimes and people together with no regard to crime severity or individual characteristics. “The Static 99R doesn’t say what offense a person will commit IF he reoffends.”

      • Tim Moore

        They left out an important factor in judging whether someone should remain on the registry or not. They need to answer whether continued existence on the registry poses a detriment to the health, safety and welfare of the former offender, his or her family, relationships or employers, and whether the registry will increase recidivism by fostering homelessness, isolation, despair and mental illness. The factors in the bill are all pro registry and lies, as if the registry works in favor of public safety when it in fact it lessens public safety. I wish we would stop arguing with ourselves and start lobbying the law makers to make changes.

    • Facts should matter

      That’s exactly right. We’re considered dehumanized commodities sold out to the fear profiteers. It’s about protecting the security theater cottage industry, NOT children. The illusion of “protecting” children is the lie that continues to be sold to the public by the politicians. Thus, nothing changes..

  2. Tim Moore

    Yeah, but even plutonium has a half life. At some point it becomes non radioactive lead. So many years after the offense we have to demonstrate to the judges the danger has diminished. Even among dangerous commodities, we are classed as worst of the worst,

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