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Seeking smarter rules for sex offenders

Janice Bellucci is a mother of two, the wife of a pastor and a former Girl Scout leader active in volunteer work. She lives in a gated community an hour’s drive north of Santa Barbara, with needlepoint pillows on the sofa and a vegetable garden in the backyard. She is also the public face of an organization advocating for the closest thing to an untouchable caste in our society: California’s 88,000 registered sex offenders.

A former aerospace lawyer, Bellucci is the president of the California chapter of Reform Sex Offender Laws, a national group of offenders, family members, psychologists and attorneys registered as a nonprofit. Full article

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  1. BillG (again)

    Reading the article begs tears.
    It’s just so very hard to be sure of the path.

    (What a truly troubled world.)

    J., you are doing the right thing.
    But it will be centuries before a solution is forthcoming, so sad…so sad.

    Godspeed.

  2. G4Change

    Great article!

  3. Tired of hiding

    The answers a clear as glass. Those convicted should be help accountable and pay the price just as ANY OTHER LAW that is broken requires.

    THEN

    They are released and FREE…again just as ANY OTHER LAW that was broken.

    If they are a danger to “society” then lockem up…BUT…if they have paid the price and are allowed to be “free” then let them be really FREE!

    Every other “criminal” is allowed a 2nd chance in America EXCEPT the RSO!

    That is simply unAmerican and simply unconstitutional.

  4. B

    First, it was a very good article and I’m glad the issue is starting to move. 20 years ago the concept of gay marriage seemed impossible. Look where we are now. We can make the same kind of progress with registration laws because it is the right thing. Eventually, society returns to rationality.

    Second, I do take issue with the author when she said that the shunning was based on conduct and not status. We have a legal system that holds people accountable for their conduct. If you are convicted of a crime, a judge gives you a sentence. That is your punishment for the crime.

    Unlike every other crime, we are given the additional responsibility of registering. Registering by itself is not punishment, but having the status of “Registered Sex Offender” brings with is punishing regulation and punishing consequences. What if we had “Registered Drug Users” or “Registered Drunk Drivers”. Then more people would see how punishing registration really is.

    And the additional punishment comes from the status, not from the conduct. The conduct has already been punished.

    Except for that, it was a pretty good article.

    • td777

      I blatantly disagree that registering in itself is not punishment. I’m sure that the one third of registrants who are homeless as this article states would also disagree. As a homeless registrant, I have to go into the police department every month to register, which costs me in time and inconvenience that non-registrants don’t have to face. My status as a registrant forces me to be homeless at this time, another punishment, one that affects not just me, but my wife and daughter as well. Having to register means I have to face that scrutiny when it comes looking for a job, and have trouble getting any professional job for which I am fully qualified to do. My ability to travel is restricted, forcing me to notify the local law enforcement in most places within the U.S. I would want to visit. I cannot attend any school function for my daughter, including her graduation from middle school in two months.

      • J

        The initial process of registration, when it was done prior to public disclosure, was administrative and essentially non-invasive and gave law enforcement a tool they felt it was necessary. This information has never been out of the hands of authorities at any point in time.

        When public disclosure happened, then the benign and administrative condition went to active, punitive and allowing any and everyone to set up their own forms of “justice” after the fact. This is evidenced by slogans such as the “battle against SO’s” etc. What battle? These people already have been punished and are doing their damnedest to reintegrate and raise their children.

        So the registration process by itself it not punitive in theory, but the behavior of any vigilante, hateful, fearful, nervous, voyeuristic, curious, opportunistic, obsessed, panicked, information starved, slandering, malicious, misinformed, misguided, vengeful, neurotic, fundamental, holier-than-thou, high-brow, and condescending entity now has a vehicle to impose their own form of ex-post-facto civil punishments, restrictions, tactics and strategies against this group of people that, for the record, have “already paid for their crimes”.

        Please feel free to add any nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and dangling participles as needed.

        Thanks to Janice for being fearless and fighting this daunting. unpopular but very important challenge of providing equal protection under the law to this beleaguered and maligned caste of individuals. Somewhere we have to understand amidst the torrent that it is better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you are not.

        • Tired of hiding

          You have summed it up perfectly.

        • J

          When I accepted my plea nearly thirty years ago, I was told I would have to register because of the nature of the crime. That I understood to be part of my sentence and “punishment” according to the constructs of the law at the instance of my sentencing.

          So from my point of view, I understood that at the time and nothing seemed unconstitutional about it until they made me adhere to changes made to the law after the fact.

          I did not have any need to examine the constitutionality or the “punitive” aspect of the law since I did not feel persecuted, attacked or blindsided by the law as it was administered at the time of my sentencing and for some time afterward.

          When I took my plea, there was no public registry or disclosure; I only needed to register when I changed residence addresses and I led a relatively anonymous life, re-entered the work force and thrived – until public disclosure and other enhancements made in the mid 1990’s.

          I never was mistreated or singled out at any time prior to public disclosure. Maybe your experience was different but I was able to move on with my life, mostly with the help of some exceptional counseling and my own commitment to improve myself and attempt to repair the damage done to my family.

          I have watched the evolution of these laws and disclosure brought about an extreme compromise of my rights, privacy, liberties and ability to pursue happiness. I have fought these laws and have done – albeit with futility – everything imaginable to protect myself and my family from the damage these new breed of laws cause. I speak from first hand experience of the damaging nature of these laws – but from my standpoint, they only became punitive after ex-post-facto changes – including public disclosure and restrictions built into the law – retroactively applied to me.

          If all this seems like some great brainwashing or lie, I have to wonder how different your experience was but I would prefer not to be attacked in this thread by people purporting to support a common cause. Please direct your anger elsewhere – or at least not at me. I am not a constitutional scholar, nor do I know every aspect of the law but speak truthfully about my experience and interpretation of the law as it has applied to my situation.

          So I don’t know what great brainwashing I have been through or what lies I’m spouting. My life changed because of changes to the law after my sentence was imposed (and completed). Before those changes, I didn’t feel there was anything punitive beyond what I understood to be the law at the time of my sentencing.

          Sounds like you have some anger issues but my opinion is only based on my actual experience and interpretation.

          Maybe you had a much rougher road to hoe. I don’t know when you were sentenced or for what but your experience seems to be rather different. I’m sure even though these laws create a one-size-fits-all approach, almost everyone has a unique situation from one extreme to the other.

        • Anonymous Nobody

          J, you are wrong, wrong wrong. You have been brainwashed by the courts of recent years who have been fraudulently ruling that red is blue, and that SOR is not punishment. In fact, it previously was held by the California Supreme Court to be as much as unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment, back in the 1970s and up and until the late 1990s. That was applied to SOR for lewd conduct, and the Legislature followed up by taking lewd conduct out of 290. Later, there was a ruling extending that to indecent exposure, although the language in the opinion was a bit confusing about whether it applied across the board to indecent exposure or depended on the circumstances — but for many years following, it was not enforced against indecent exposure. Many thought more rulings would be coming down calling SOR unconstitutional. Unfortunately, the Legislature never followed up to take indecent exposure out of 290.

          But then times changed, It was in the late 1990s, under a very different California Supreme Court, that the ruling finally came down that 290 not only was not any level of punishment, but “never” had been considered to be (What?! What about the previous Supreme Court rulings!). They set aside the previous rulings that said it was cruel and unusual punishment.

          The courts now just keep ruling that red is blue. They deny that the fact that it is in the Penal Code, which is the penalty code, means it is punishment, They deny that the fact that you can go to prison for violating it means it is punishment. How can you possibly need a PARDON to get out form under something that is not punishment?! A pardon is for PUNISHMENT! They deny that the fact that is comes only with a conviction means it is punishment (they cited that the fact that someone found not guilty by reason of insanity must register means SOR is not linked to a conviction), The court just rules against any argument you present to show it is punishment, just rules that red is blue.

          Now, since in the mid 1990s they added the language that says it is not intended as punishment, that is, that something that is and always has been punishment suddenly is not, because of some words in a book. All any of this proves is that the courts are as corrupted as can be. You cannot look to the courts anymore for honesty and fairness as you once could.

          The courts back then, when SOR was simply to go in and register once a year, as I recall within 60 days of your birthday not within 5 days, and nothing more onerous, said the mere fact of going in was humiliating and cruel, the danger of your mug shot being shown every time a victim came in and was shown the “book” presented the potential for you to be exposed, the mere stigma of being an SOR was cruel punishment. This was enough in and of itself to be ruled unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

          So, J, you are mistaken to say that SOR was not considered to be punishment, but merely an administrative action. In fact, it was ruled to be more than mere punishment, but to be so much punishment as to be unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment. And in reality, it is! Never deny that — because that is a fact. Leave the lying to the courts and politicians.

  5. John M.

    An article that portrays Janice and CA RSOL in a sympathetic light, but does LITTLE to advance the cause that CA RSOL is fighting for. I wonder whether this article will have any impact on whether AB 702 gets voted OUT OF COMMITTEE (Assembly Public Safety!) next week.

    • Janice Bellucci

      John, we will indeed take copies of the L.A. Times article with us when we lobby the state legislature on April 16 and 17. I see it as positive that the L.A. Times wrote an article that explained that the term “registrants” is the correct term to use, not “sex offenders”. I also see it as positive that the author of the article stated that she doesn’t see a purpose for the public registry. And I love the question she asked: “What kind of society builds parks not for children, but to chase sex offenders away”? This article and articles like it help us to educate the public in a way we could never do alone.

      • C

        I agree – the article was good press and valid points were made that, hopefully, a less informed public can relate to and be swayed by.

        Did the piece appear in print edition?

  6. MCH

    Well, if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, poops like a duck, then it isn’t a chicken! However the system describes their actions taken against the majority of RSO’s, it’s still punishment, punitive, penalty or whatever. This “select” group faces additional restrictions and penalties that no other group of people face. I say it’s all duck poop!

  7. Anthony

    Abolish this UNCONSTITUTIONAL registry !!! We want NOTHING short of that !!! The registry as we know it VIOLATES everthing in the US & State constitutions. Due proces…VIOLATED. Ex post facto…VIOLATED. Due process…VIOLATED. Cruel and unusual punishment…VIOLATED.

    We want NO part of this registry……. NONE !!!

  8. Anthony

    continued…….Civil liberties…Violated.Freedom of speech…violated..etc etc etc

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