Calls for limiting sex-offender registry will be tough to act on

SACRAMENTO — The board that oversees the state’s sex-offender laws has a seemingly unconventional public safety pitch: Californians would be safer if the sex-offender registry were pared down.

The California Sex Offender Management Board wants to eliminate lifetime registration requirements for some sex offenders. It’s proposing that lower-risk sex offenders be removed from the registry 10 to 20 years after their crimes to make the list more relevant and focused on higher-risk offenders. That way, law enforcement and the public can better differentiate between offenders who pose the greatest risks and those not likely to re-offend.

But the board needs a change in law to do this, and the idea is opposed by some crime victim groups. It’s also not an easy feat to find an elected official to carry a bill that eases restrictions on sex offenders.

The board, headed by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, has recommended paring down the list for the past eight years, to no avail. In the coming months, it will launch an outreach campaign in hopes of calming public fears about the proposal, then look for a lawmaker willing to author a bill next year.

“If you say to people that sex offenders don’t have to register after 10 years, they freak out,” O’Malley said. “But we have police treating the child rapist who was just paroled the same as the guy who committed indecent exposure 50 years ago. There aren’t unlimited resources; we need to prioritize where they put their attention.”

California is one of four states that requires sex offenders to register for life, which has contributed to the state’s ballooning registry. The state’s registry has 74,000 people on it. Another 22,000 sex offenders will be required to register once they’re released from prison.

The state operates two registries — one created as a tracking tool for law enforcement that has been around for nearly 70 years and another that was created in 2004 as a public website under Megan’s Law. Not all sex offenders are required to appear on the public registry, such as in some first time-offenses or in cases where the victim was a relative.

Once a person is required by a judge to register as a sex offender, there are few ways to have the name removed from the registry. For example, California’s registry includes 650 sex offenders whose last convictions were in the 1940s and 1950s, according to data compiled by the Sex Offender Management Board. Another 3,000 were last convicted of a sex crime in the 1960s and 1970s.

Tiered system sought

Under the board’s recommendation, California would create a tiered system that allows people convicted of misdemeanor sex crimes to be removed from the law enforcement and public registries after 10 years if there’s no other conviction. Under the second tier, a risk assessment already used by the state would determine whether people convicted of a felony sex crime could be removed from the registries after 20 years without a subsequent crime.

O’Malley said the third tier would require lifetime registration for those with multiple victims or whose risk assessment indicates they are likely to re-offend.
Forty-six states already use some kind of tiered system, O’Malley said.

If some some sex offenders were removed from the law enforcement registry, the board said, officers would no longer have to track sex offenders who have been considered low-risk for at least a decade. With officers in some cities assigned to monitor hundreds of sex offenders, narrowing who is required to register allows law enforcement to focus on those who need the most monitoring.

Removing sex offenders from the public registry creates an incentive for those who have been crime-free for at least a decade so that they can begin to lead normal lives, said Tom Tobin, a Bay Area psychologist who works with sex offenders.

“Less important to some people, but not to be sneezed at, is why continue to destroy these people’s lives? There is no point and no benefits,” said Tobin, who is vice chair of the Sex Offender Management Board.

Citing right to know

The tiered system, however, is opposed by many victim groups, such as Crime Victims United, who argue that purposely shielding the pasts of sex offenders does not serve the public’s best interest. Those groups say the focus should remain on justice for the victims, given the lifelong impact of sex abuse.

“It’s an issue where the public should be able to know their children are safe,” said Nina Salario, board member of Crime Victims United. “Someone could have been a coach and committed a less egregious offense, but egregious enough to get on the registry, and after they are off the registry they can go back to coaching.”

Former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, tried twice to pass legislation creating the tiered system in California, with his first bill garnering 19 ayes among the 82 Assembly members. His second bill stalled in committee.

Already, there’s a bill this year that would expand the registry.

Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore (Riverside County), said AB2569 closes an exemption in the registry many parents may find alarming — the policy that sex offenders who are convicted of molesting their own children, siblings or grandchildren are able to be granted a waiver from appearing on the publicly searchable registry if the crime was not penetration or oral copulation.

The state Department of Justice said that over the past two years, 121 sex offenders were removed from the public registry, also known as Megan’s Law, because their victim was a family member.

Tool for parents

Melendez said excluding the information from the public registry takes away a tool parents have when researching their neighborhood or deciding whether to allow their child to spend the night at a friend’s house.

“For me, I think if you are sick enough to do this to one of your own family members, you won’t hesitate to do it to someone else,” said Melendez, who is vice chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee. “I don’t see why we should keep the public in the dark about who in their neighborhood may be a potential threat to their child.  When my daughter goes to a friend’s house you better believe I check that website, knowing that it won’t tell me everything.”

Melendez said she’s heard arguments in support of eliminating lifetime registration requirements for some sex offenders.

“I’m hesitant, but open-minded enough to listen,” she said.

Original Article on San Francisco Chronicle (Paywall)

–Melody Gutierrez is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: mgutierrez@sfchronicle.comTwitter@MelodyGutierrez

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*shrug* I think if I were on the Sex Offender Management Board, I would probably resign. After all, what’s the point if nobody listens to the recommendations?

The registry should be managed by the CASOMB not politicians. For such a liberal state, CA is pretty draconian in its application of what it considers “justice”.

The SOMB proposal makes a lot of sense: remove from the registry people who have demonstrated they do not re-offend, and enable the limited resources of law enforcement to focus on preventing new offenses. Everyone benefits from this change.

Tool for parents

“Melendez said excluding the information from the public registry takes away a tool parents have when researching their neighborhood or deciding whether to allow their child to spend the night at a friend’s house.”

I’ve always said: Life is simple for simpletons!

“The tiered system, however, is opposed by many victim groups, such as Crime Victims United, who argue that purposely shielding the pasts of sex offenders does not serve the public’s best interest. Those groups say the focus should remain on justice for the victims, given the lifelong impact of sex abuse.

Which translates to: their sense of justice, which encompasses a lifelong sentence of pain and suffering for the registrant and their family members (including innocent children).

Now I ask, who are really “the control freaks” as so many people like to label registrants?

Either you register and place on a public website ALL felons or none. The American Citizen in California is not being “equally protected” if only sex offenders, arsonists and some drug offenders are required to register.

A tall, strong assertive man, unmarried with no kids is at a very low risk to being a victim of a convicted sex offender. However that same man is defenseless against his new neighbors who have three convictions for identity theft, befriend him and offer to collect his mail and watch his home when he goes on vacation. Why is that man not offered the same easy information to protect himself? Identity theft is one of the most costly crimes in the US and yet Americans are not protected.

A family with excellent parents, who review the registry and talk to their kids about the risks of being a victim of a sex crime as well as the far greater risk to life and liberty if they become a sex criminal is defenseless against their new neighbor who was just released after serving 18 months for killing a family of five in Redlands, her FOURTH DWI conviction. She likes to have just 3-4 drinks after work and drive home. The parents of that child has no easy access to information to protect their child and keep her off the street when that drunk driving murderer is headed home from her job. If you have never picked up the literal pieces of a child splattered all over the road from a drunk driving accident, then I am sure you consider an orgasm far worse that death by crushing and loss of limb.

How is that “equal protection under the law?”

You either register everyone and place them all on a website or no one. The current method is only fostering a feeling of alienation and hatred and that is slowly seething and burning into the souls of the children of sex offenders who suffer under these laws. when they grow up….. BOOM….. but you should have thought of that before you passed all these laws because my empathy tank is empty.

The BIG problem I see with a “tiered registry” is its perpetuation that the Static-99R actuarial is accurate. On the contrary! The Static-99R is inaccurate junk science. By CA SOMB’s own figures, the Static-99R is about 29 percent accurate in flagging so-called “high risk” offenders (i.e. it is more [b]inaccurate[/b] than accurate). By the Static 99 scam artist developer’s own findings, Static-99R “risk factors” are useless after 10 years a person has lived offense free in the community. Hanson et al., “High Risk Sex Offenders May Not Be High Risk Forever” (2013). So people, who have remained offense free, will be made to register 20 years to lifetime (as opposed to 10 years) because of an “actuarial” proved more inaccurate up to 10 years? There is no logic to this. Why would CA SOMB continue to peddle junk science that many [b]true and credible[/b] mental health professionals and statisticians know to be hogwash? The Static-99R is a scam!

Here’s my favorite part….when Tobin acknowledges the registry destroys people’s lives….“Less important to some people, but not to be sneezed at, is why continue to destroy these people’s lives? There is no point and no benefits.”

I was busted for viewing sexually explicit minors on my computer 5 years ago. Got 60 days in work release, 240 hours of community service, one year probation and concurrently, one year of counselling. In group, mine was one of the tier one lesser offenses.
While the therapist was approved by the state of Washington, and obligated to report issues of non-compliance by anyone in the group, I truly believe his main goal was to help us adjust our thinking about our behaviors, and if not “cure” us, at least teach us coping skills, and avoidance of circumstances that landed us in trouble in the first place. He did not allow discussion about the “fairness” of our punishment, the law, politics, or anything like that. Pointless and counterproductive. He wanted to see behavioral change, not complaints and excuses for our lot in life. Probably like AA or something.
I’m sure he would not agree with life long punishments and the SOR, but that wasn’t his role. But then I do believe Washington State is a little more lenient than what I read from others on these threads.
Just two days away…Go get ’em Janice!

Well, I’m not sure what to say. I’ve almost been registering for 20 years now (Battery/reduced to a misdemeanor/expunged/summary probation). As such, I’ve never been arrested prior or after. So, to register now and by law never been convicted of an offense is terrible. I support the Tiered System and I personally believe that if its introduced in both a professional and well thought out manner, it will pass. Best of luck

Well the Static 99R perversely treats non-violent offenses worse by giving them “1” point, whereas violent offenses get “0” points. It makes no sense the legislature would put so much weight on the Static test when it would mean a disproportionate amount of non-violent offenders would be required to register for life — whereas violent offenders would be spared the one point that could mean the difference between life -or- 10 or 20 year registration. Where is the logic in relying on a statistic modeled on mostly violent offenders, applied to non-violent offenders, in which non-violence is treated with greater severity? Bogus!

To: Terry. Re: Your therapy in Washington State. Mine was at Center for Behavioral Intervention in Beaverton, Oregon in the late 1980’s. I had same experience as you describe. They give a sort of a menu of things, and you take what works for you. For me, I got divorced at the beginning, so as a single guy the emphasis was learning proper dating and nurturing relationships with women. Along with this was to only date women with no children. If I were to be heading to a committed relationship, after divulging to her my crime and therapy program, to bring her to the program for at least an hour with the counsellors. In my program, it was run by a husband/wife team. This place is still going strong.

However, my years in therapy were before registration, and years before notification. Now, therapy must be much more more challenging. Future hope is diminished greatly.

If you are still living in Washington State, and are registered level one, then you are not under notification. Then you must also be aware of the not yet given State Supreme Court decision involving Donna Zink concerning level one notification. Depending on their decision there will be challenges.

Lastly, you have a friend, Brad Meryhew, an Attorney in Seattle whose clientele are exclusively sex offender cases. And he also happens to to be on Washington’s Sex Offender Policy Board. He fights for us in Washington State.

Thank you, East! If you don’t mind, what does “not under notification mean”? Not aware of Zink but I’ll look it up. Don’t need an attorney just yet, but if I do, I’ll call Brad. My attorney 5 years ago was a clown, who was merely in attendance! I read up, and think I knew more about things than he did!
You in WA or still in OR? Two States East wouldn’t be either!
Tomorrow is the day!!! Go Janice!
I think the all inclusive, overly broad application of “sex offender” without regard to the crime committed, the recidivism rates, length of time since conviction, overall record, age of offender, etc. will be the argument to win the case. On the other hand, all the Japanese got interred, minorities are regularly singled out for punishment, so what do I know! People like things easily explained and generalized, without a lot of nuance…but judges are supposed to protect the people from stupid simpletons like politicians who make crappy laws. We’ll see!

To: Terry. I’m in New Mexico. This place is “two States east” of California. I do correspond with Brad. Goggle their SOPB, and read their minutes for each meeting. Go back as many years as you like. Brad has been on the Board since it started in 2008. Also, go to Brad Meryhew’s website. Ask about notification.

Washington has no advocacy organization (yet). Someday… RSOL chapter ? Hmmm…

So if the Static 99R cannot be used after 10 years one is offense free in the community, why require 20 years or lifetime registration under a tiered registry? Why does a tiered registry imply one is likely to commit a sex crime 20 plus years into the future when the tiered registry is based on alleged statistical science only to be applied a maximum of 10 after one has remained offense free in the community. Makes no sense to have lifetime and 20 year registration period for someone 10 years offense free.

The Supreme court has a little secret, which no normal person sees as any secret, the registry is meant to punish the former offender. That is why even with proposals based on so called science, they have to make it more that a little unbearable still. Why does the CASOMB call for 25 years at level II, when at any level the probability of committing a sex crime after 17 years offense free is the same as the general public’s ? It is to sate the appetite of the politicians to punish beyond any reason and maybe it will make them act a little less stupidly.

Patel and Timmr, the tiered proposal is a fictitious tiered registry. Also, the 17 years cited by Karl Hanson is based on the Static 99 scam. So 17 years is probably an overstatement (as the Static 99R figures seem over-inflated, exaggerated, and unstable in replication). The Static 99R hardliners will do anything to push their scheme, perhaps with inconvenient fear that beneath the seemingly scientific Static 99R pile of numbers lie a bottomoless pit into the abyss of junk science. Most psychologists hate being proved wrong.