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State laws on sex offenders should not be crafted by emotion (Editorial) UPDATED

UPDATED with Reader’s Reactions

California’s Supreme Court was right to drop Jessica’s Law, @latimes editorial board says.  Jessica’s Law — California’s version of it, anyway — was a mess from the beginning. Voters here adopted it (as Proposition 83) in 2006 because they mistakenly believed they were cracking down on horrific crimes against children. They were urged on by nightly harangues from national TV commentators who campaigned on-air for swift action following the rape and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Florida, a crime that touched an especially sensitive nerve here because the circumstances nearly mirrored the nightmarish killing of Polly Klaas in California a decade earlier. But emotional outpourings of fear, revulsion and collective guilt too often translate poorly into policy and law, and that was surely the case with Proposition 83. Full Editorial

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  1. mch

    Good article, maybe people are starting to “get it”? If this info could just get to the pea-brains in Sacramento. They’re all like the lion in Wizard of Oz, they have a roar, but no courage to do what is right.

  2. David

    Sunday edition of the Times is a pretty good start.

  3. Janice Bellucci

    Thank you, L.A. Times for speaking the truth and recommending that your readers focus on the facts, not the myths, regarding registered citizens, in general, and residency restrictions, in particular. My favorite statement in the article is: “Public officials and commentators freely label any sex offender as a “predator,” implying that each such person poses an equal risk to the public and thus must be equally restricted and supervised. Clearer thinking, based on data rather than emotion or demagoguery, would serve California better. I would add to that statement: “would serve California and the Constitution better”.

  4. Timmr

    My summary:
    The proponents of prop 83 were so concerned about looking like they were for children, they failed to take the time to make sure their law would actually protect children. Because of their cavalier attitude they put children, families and the Constitution at risk. Would you leave your children with these

  5. Q

    “Proposition 83 had such broad appeal in part because it ignored those kinds of distinctions. Little thinking was required.”

    And it’s really, really clear that “little thinking” by those pushing prop 83 and the public went into this. Proponents and the public always employ “little thinking” and just react.

    • j

      one word from this article really hit home and it’s definition is applicable in this matter :

      “Demagoguery is a manipulative approach — often associated with dictators and sleazy politicians — that appeals to the worst nature of people. Demagoguery isn’t based on reason, issues, and doing the right thing; it’s based on stirring up fear and hatred to control people. For example, a politician who stirs up a fear of immigrants to distract from other issues is using demagoguery. Demagoguery is one of the most negative aspects of politics, but it’s also one that’s all too common.”

      • Q

        Hi J;

        Your right about that; it’s been pretty obvious to me for quite a number of years now that politicians and large businesses (as well as other unseen forces) use the press to shape and mold peoples opinions in order to achieve their goals. I’ve often felt that this whole “sex offender” scare is nothing more than a smoke screen for the much larger agenda of removing the rights of the entire population; we are the seeds.

        There are many face$ never $een by the people that actually control thing$ from the president on down. It’s not a far stretch to imagine a stated desire to further control the populace and then letting the BS run downhill to “bottom feeders” like the Runners, and then just set back as the “bottom feeders” do all the work.

        The majority of the world considers the American public the least and most ill informed about what this government is and has been doing domestically and globally, and I totally agree. It’s all in the words. Anyone that believes any media outlet in this country will enable them to form an accurate opinion is fooling themselves. You must go to “outside sources.”

  6. Q

    “Californians can be forgiven if they keep their safety and that of their children foremost in their minds, ahead of justice for criminals.”

    Oh yea? Tell that to the families of everyone that have been murdered simply because they were a registrant or an incarcerated suspect. I think this state and the f-tard feds owe us some $$$ for the callous and cavalier disregard of our rights.

    • Anonymous

      Except they can’t be forgiven, really. At least not as long as this kind of legislation continues to be passed. In light of the weight of the now substantial body of evidence, any person, from the politician to the common man, in favor of sex offender laws as they’re currently written, should be considered pro-recidivism, pro-crime and anti-safety.

      The unspoken behavior of “People” is they’re not really interested in public safety, they’re only interested in relieving their own sense of disgust at the nature of our crimes through continued acts of legal, sanctioned retribution.

      This behavior is only exacerbated by “People’s” inability to understand that a person is not the sum of their worst mistakes.

      That last part is endemic, not only with the way Registered Citizens are perceived, but in other areas. The recent replacement of the Daily Show being raked over the coals because of Tweets he made years earlier is another example.

      A person changes constantly as they mature and learn. We will only be able to truly move past these issues when we can realize that a person who committed a crime years ago, literally, no longer exists, physically, emotionally and mentally.

      Until then, politicians will continue doing what they think will get them re-elected. Until then, we will continue to have courts that are allowed to justify any punishment, no matter how severe, for any crime, no matter how trivial.

      We need more media attention to this issue on the side of pushing for more fact based legislation.

  7. Q

    This one is straight up laughable!

    “But behavioral science and criminal justice research have come a long way since the 1940s. It was once thought that people convicted of crimes involving sex suffered from disorders that made them constant threats to re-offend; or at least that it was impossible to distinguish between those who did pose such a risk and those who did not.”

    It appears this authors is unable to distinguish between “have come a long way since the 1940s” and “has spiraled downward to a level of outright Nazism and burning witches at the stake.”

    Hey! Somebody’s gotta to be the bad guy! 🙂

  8. Michael

    Where were articles like this before the Jessica’s Law vote?

    • Q

      “The press is the hired agent of a monied system, and set up for no other purpose
      than to tell lies where their interests are involved.” – Henry B. Adams

      The press lied to the people by omission.

      “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned
      that way.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

      • GRR

        The registry across the nation and now many parts of the world is a multi billion dollar industry ran by unions; laws lobbied by unions and politicians elected by unions… it creates jobs for all the union members. Try to name one government agency that is not union.

        Oh, don’t forget our judicial system, law enforcement, and the prisons. A trillion dollar business controlled by unions.

        We have our work cut out for us!

        • Q

          True! That’s why I use the $ symbol in place of an S in some of my posts.

  9. L. Mitaro

    Emotion? That’s only part of it. Here’s the real arrogance in action that brought about this mess.

    The War on Megan’s Law

    For years, it’s become increasingly evident that groups like the American Civil Liberties Union don’t like Megan’s Law and will try to stop it at all costs. In their value system, lip service is paid to the notion that the weakest of our society should be protected from the worst. Why must communities be forced to put the “rights” of convicted sex offenders on the same level as the rights of parents to have safe neighborhoods for their children?

    Every day across this country, thanks to various “Megan’s Laws,” communities and parents are informed of the presence of pedophiles and sex offenders in their neighborhoods. Maureen Kanka told me that people contact her all the time about the value of the law. Questioning the effectiveness and costs associated with enforcing the law is an insult to the too-short life of Megan Kanka.

    So.. it’s an “insult” for SO’s and their family members to feel safe inside their own homes? So basically, ALL sex offenders have to be castigated and their lives destroyed because of the actions of Megan’s killer.

    It’s truly sad that Megan’s mother actually believes that this law somehow keeps honors her daughters’ memory and keeps her from dying in vain. When truth be told, every time someone is made to register, her memory is being defiled by making her legacy stand for fear, ignorance and hatred! Not ONLY does this law NOT prevent the same thing that happened to her, it compromises real and actual safety for perceived safety and security of stranger’s children! This is reckless endangerment by making SOs soft targets, sitting ducks and lightning rods for maniacs with guns and other nefarious intent.

    Depriving a person of his/her sense of safety and security – inside their own homes – borders on torture and terrorism.

    So you see.. it’s the child “safety” advocates that need curtailment in America and be disallowed to fall into the hands of opportunistic lawmakers using the victims’ personal bias stories to craft vengeance and hate legislation that actually makes society less safe. Megan’s Law does the community a tremendous disservice and undermines the Constitution and everything it stands for.

    • Q

      Hi L. Mitaro

      “It’s truly sad that Megan’s mother actually believes that this law somehow keeps honors her daughters’ memory and keeps her from dying in vain.”

      There are millions of people (registrants & family, friends, etc) negatively impacted by the law named after this child. Sure the way she died really sucks. The results of her mothers desire to lash out at the world will forever place her daughters name in a light associated with pain and suffering.

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; “I have to wonder if this is how Megan would wish to be remembered. And I also have to wonder if Megan would approve of all the deaths associated with her name. Do you think Megan would approve of all the suffering and hardship little kids go through because of a law that bares her name? Do you think she would be happy knowing that politicians of the lesser variety used her death and memory to all but destroy much of what once made this land great?

      I don’t think any child with one of these unconstitutional and illegal laws named after them would approve of what has been done in their name.

  10. Tired of hiding

    Mention children and switch the brain off.

    “If it protects one child.”

    Well, then make the Catholic church illegal.

  11. G4Change

    Given that I blame the mass media for most if not all of this hysteria involving registered citizens, it is very encouraging to read such intelligent words coming from an editorial board governed by a mass media outlet. This is a very good step in the right direction.

  12. mike

    According to a 2003 report by the Department of Human Services, hundreds of thousands of children are abused and neglected each year by their parents and caregivers, and more than 1,500 American children died from that abuse in 2003—most of the victims under four years old. That is more than four children killed per day—not by convicted sexual offenders or Internet predators, but by those entrusted to care for them. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, “danger to children is greater from someone they or their family knows than from a stranger.”

    If journalists, child advocates, and lawmakers are serious about wanting to protect children, they should turn from the burning matchbook in front of them to face the blazing forest fire behind them. The resources allocated to tracking ex-felons who are unlikely to re-offend could be much more effectively spent on preventing child abuse in the home and hiring more social workers.

    Eventually this predator panic will subside and some new threat will take its place. Expensive, ineffective, and unworkable laws will be left in its wake when the panic passes. And there are very few who are trying to protect America from that.

    • Timmr

      I’m thinking much of this abuse stems from poverty and unequal access to services like affordable child care. The disadvantaged should be up in arms over the devolving quality of life and the symptoms born of it, but sex crime stories and violent bogeyman act like the bread and circuses of ancient Rome, keeping the masses happy and the attention off what the rulers are doing.

  13. ab

    No law, rule, policy, code of conduct, or guideline for anything should be based on emotion.

    • L. Mitaro

      No law, rule, policy, code of conduct, or guideline for anything should be based on emotion. hate, intolerance or vengeance.

      Big news story happening in Indiana.

      Religious “freedom” law

      • Eric Knight

        Touchy subject, but to be honest I’m more in sympathy with the restaurant owner. Being harrangued by a reporter for a hypothetical situation involving personal religious faith is not the same as actively repressing the rights of people. Indeed, the ones doing the harassing against the restaurant owner act more like the vigilante anti-RSO crowd than the victims of such vigilantism.

        Having said that, I don’t wish to go off-topic with a relatively volatile issue that doesn’t involve registrant rights. That’s why I also do not give political arguments either. Fascists are teeming in both parties, both the Democrats and the Establishment GOP.

      • j

        The entire Indiana story was pulled from many on-line news sources. Censorship is alive and well and helping out politicians who were for it and suddenly aren’t anymore…

        That’s the way registrants are affected, arbitrarily and cynically – with disastrous effects to their children and families without a worry in the world for the people crafting these policies.

  14. Anonymous

    The “problem” with society today is being created by, society. The new trend is to pigeon hole or categorize everybody. The geniuses who believe this is the answer didn’t factor in how quickly one runs out of real estate, or what the ripple effect and mentality of this kind of thinking does to society. The NIMBYS (Not in my back yard)are everywhere now. We polarize people we “think” will not benefit us. It has become a holier than thou society. If you are a this or that, we marginalize those people. I hope there is an awakening; that we are all in this together, traits and behaviors are created and shared by other humans. This mentality causes violence and is creating a ripple effect in our society right now. I hope something or someone pulls everybody together soon. It is an extremely unhealthy approach to fellow human beings.

  15. USA

    Well written article. Let’s face it, there are some bad people out there. Although, as most people are unaware, there are high risk, serious and other/non disclosable offenders! So, there is a big difference between some guy who breaks into a home and assaults someone as opposed to the idiot at the massage parlor or guy who flashed his neighbor. Most people are unaware of this and don’t comprehend the magnitude of some of these crazy laws. Posting someone’s personal photo and address is serious business. You are potentially endangering the persons entire family or even a neighbor ect. Furthermore, we have victims families ect who never want to be victimized again, yet you can impose every law you want, but if someone is out of control and wants to break the law, they will and can! As I’ve mentioned before, when people are working, marrying and starting families, they typically become decent hard working and law abiding citizens. Those who aren’t working and are homeless typically are more prone to acting out! So, California needs to continue to wake up and realize a tiered system must be instituted so that registered citizens can eventually fall off the registry of they walk a straight and narrow road.

  16. Anonymous

    This is a question(s), would appreciate any knowledgeable answers! If your “crime” was a misdemeanor, and they only list your zip code when registering, are registrants required to tell new landlords that you are a registered offender? I ask because many landlords assume the address is going to be published. Thanks in advance.

    • Rob

      I am confused, why would you EVER tell a landlord about your history? If they do not ask the question on the application, DON’T TELL THEM!! Unless you are on probation or parole, and your agent requires it, mine did NOT when I was on parole (off for 3 years now) there is NO NEED to tell ANYONE!!! I don’t understand the mindset of some guys here who feel the need to create problems for themselves. If you get the apartment, move in and LIVE! If they find out later, they CANNOT evict you for being on the registry, it is THE LAW!!! I lived in my last apartment for 3 years, no issues, yes some neighbors knew, too bad! I recently moved, larger apartment, better neighborhood – NO QUESTIONS on application. I have lived here a month. Does anyone know, I have no idea and frankly, DON’T CARE!!!

      • Anonymous

        I am speaking of a sober living house where if they know you are, they won’t let you stay there. This is a mindset they have, I know it’s not legal, I know it doesn’t make sense for someone who wants to get and stay sober. It’s the way they are. Know that I have thought about it, I don’t know why I would want to live there with people that think like that. I guess I had to actually realize that here!

        • Joe

          If you think the benefits of living in a sober living house and the assistance they provide outweigh the disadvantages of living with people with that kind of mind set I would go for it – but certainly not tell them anything. They can always expel you down the road, but it does not sound like you are spending a lot of time and money getting into a place like that, like moving all your furniture, kitchen stuff, yard tools, etc.

    • j

      The law states that housing discrimination is not allowed. I know of several people that work in the rental industry that claim they check the web site as standard procedure, then summarily deny the application. Don’t give them any more information than they ask for so; the same in all cases. It will all be used against you. The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions…

      • Harry

        I rather rent to a sex offender than to most families with kids. I help a friend who is a landlord, the damages from these families are bad.

    • Joe

      As far as I am aware the ONLY situation where the law requires you to disclose your status is when volunteering in an organization where you would work directly with minors. PC 290.95

      Otherwise I do not think you are under any obligation to tell anyone anything. I do not even think actively lying about your background is a crime. Sure, it will be grounds for terminating your rental / lease agreement, but nothing ventured nothing gained.

      I am not a lawyer.

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