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Our cruel, counterproductive sex offender laws: Anthony Weiner is a window into what’s wrong with our system of punishment

[ – 2/20/19]

Emily Horowitz is a member of the ACSOL Board of Directors and was a Speaker at the 2018 ACSOL Conference.

Last week, Anthony Weiner was released from federal prison to a Bronx halfway house after serving 21 months for sending sexually-explicit messages to a 15-year-old girl. Next, like approximately 4.5 million others on probation/parole, he’ll spend 3 years on supervised release.

Supervised release is no cakewalk; while on it, one is subject to unannounced visits and random searches, needs approval for travel and housing, and must regularly report to probation (in New York, reporting can take hours, resulting in missed work). Each year, more than 600,000 people leave prison and face a web of re-entry challenges — first probation/parole, which often act like a “tripwire” by creating barriers rather than supports for re-entry, with infractions like late curfews, moving violations, or missed phone calls from officers resulting in penalties or more prison. In Weiner’s case, he’ll also pay a $10,000 fine.

Most significantly, Weiner is also now about to become one of the more than 900,000 Americans on sex offense registries for the rest of his life (only Level 1 offenders in New York are removed after 20 years). We’ve spent decades now adding people to these lists without thinking hard about whether the ostracism it engineers is effective or humane.

So what will this mean for Weiner, and for us?

His address and personal information will always be public, and communities may be notified when he moves in. He’ll have to register in other states if he travels (if he travels to Florida for five days or longer, he’ll also be on their registry for life; many other states have similar rules). While on probation, Weiner may face residency restrictions as well as other regulations regarding contact with children, including his son.
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If he moves, he’ll have to notify police there and be on that registry. Other numerous lifetime restrictions in New York include reporting annually to the state sex offender office, notifying them within 10 days of moving, reporting yearly for updated photos, and providing all Internet screen names and email accounts.

When is enough enough?

Read more


Join the discussion

  1. KM

    Weiner isn’t the most sympathetic of registrants. This is the problem with the registry, everyone is treated the same. What critics of the registry beed to do is heavily publicize, political-neutral, sympathetic victims of the registries. The women with her two children from Oklahoma is a perfect example.

    • Joe

      Why is this guy so unlikeable? Is it his name? Is it his appearance? Is it his politics? Is it his connection to HRC? He won 7 terms in congress, never with less than 60% of the vote. More people voted for Candidate Clinton than any other candidate in the last presidential election.

      To keep things in perspective – his “heinous’ crime was a conversation with an unseen person several states away who was old enough to be considered an adult any day of the week. About biologically appropriate conduct, and sending a photograph of his anatomy. Had the topic of conversation been blowing up a bridge or a Federal Building, and the transmitted file a bomb making diagram, the 15 year old “child” would be arrested and prosecuted as an adult so fast your head would spin.

      I am not really aware of Rep. Weiner playing a part in the hysteria of the past few decades, but if that were the case, I guess what goes around comes around.

      Me, I am more upset with things like Rep. Weiner voting yes on things like authorizing military force in Iraq (Bill HJRes114 ; vote number 2002-455 on Oct 10, 2002) – action that directly led thousands, if not tens of thousands of children to be KILLED, crippled and traumatized. That bill was sponsored by, you guessed it, Dennis Hastert.

      That now his life is ruined – and everyone here knows it is ruined – because he had a conversation with a “child’ older than several of the kids who were kidnapped and held in places like Guantanamo Bay, against all laws international and domestic, and subjected to what can only describe as torture – for the terrible crime of defending their home against foreign invaders, does make one chuckle silently.

      Personally, I hope A. Weiner will get involved in the mission to abolish this madness once off supervision. Contrary to his most recent behavior, he cannot be all stupid.

  2. RegistrantNotAnOffender

    Its tough to feel compassion for Weiner but I remember when this happened and the president called him aa pervert. Why do people feel the need to judge someone who has fallen?

  3. TS

    We discussed this here when he was sentenced about his stature and what could happen. Foley got away, Hastert is medically gone for all intents and purposes, but Weiner has the opportunity to experience it firsthand and maybe use it for change. Not saying he will, maybe he won’t even garner the sympathy of the masses, but he does have a child and ex-wife he has to work with during this time.

  4. AO

    Someone like Weiner doesn’t deserve any sympathy as he was one of the many politicians that pushed for the very laws he’ll now suffer under. He’s literally getting a taste of his own medicine.

    • Gwen

      Anybody that suffers unjustly at the hands of the registry should have sympathy. Do not forget that no matter your feelings on Anthony he does have family and friends that will unjustly suffer do to the registry, especially his small son. One should take this moment to remember that there are mothers, fathers, children, spouses, siblings that have not done one blasted thing wrong and yet their lives are being destroyed by this Scarlet Letter of the Registry. Children can not have a parent, a spouse whether married or not has to suffer unjustly, parents loose their child, siblings are torn away from their brother or sister. The more one person or a whole family has to go through this mine field one will never understand.

      • AO

        I feel sympathy for his family, but not him. He’s one of the architects of this. I’m not going to feel sorry for a man experiencing his own creation. He deserves every bit of suffering he’s going to get, especially since this was his second offence. He know what the registry was. He helped create new laws for it. He got a get out of jail free card the first time he screwed up.

      • Dustin

        Agreed. I was never a big fan of his before, but that’s irrelevant now. Same attitude I had in prison when the rumor mill was floating around that so-and-so was a cop; who cares? Now, he’s just another crook.

        The registry as a whole is just plain wrong, period. No matter what he may or may not have done to contribute to the registry mess, Weiner is now just another registrant. Disagree with his former policy positions all you want, but don’t celebrate his registry status. That’s implicitly agreeing with those that support the registry.

      • Robert

        We should have sympathy for Weiner?? You can. I wont and I hope he suffers for the rest of his life. It was “Anthony ” who helped push and write these offender laws. He labled us “animals”. Now he has to live by laws he helped push and created. Yes he does have children. But did he care about mine? No he didnt. It is coming up on 4 years that I have not had any contact with my wife or two young girls who are somewhere in the Phillipines as far as I know because I am forbidden to petition them to come to the US because of the Adam Walsh Act. A law HE helped create. So f@#k that bitch. I want Anthony Weiner to suffer the worst. He sure didnt give a rats ass about us “animals”

  5. Cool CA RC

    This reporter did a great Job writing this!!

  6. NY won’t let go

    Maybe I missed it but it seem like she forgot the part where if he moved out of NY he would still have to register in NY for the rest of his life as well

  7. Steveo

    Gwen, I agree with you and I disagree with AO:

    I don’t like Anthony Weiner, and if he did push for the same laws that he is now being punished under, then you can bet now that he has had a big wake up call about how unjust they can be. I can tell you that I would probably have much different views of these laws had I not suffered under them, so let’s not be vengeful like the very people are who use these laws to punish us for life. Anthony Weiner needs a chance for redemption as much as any of us. Justice is supposed to be blind, so we shouldn’t hold his prior folly against him after he has paid the price for his actions. Also, we all know it does affect our families. It damages them ans for those of us who know our victims still it damages them because they don’t feel like they can move past something defining them and owning them if we also can’t move past actions in our deep past that have defined and still own us.

  8. DD

    Thats what happens when you throw stones at the glass house! Florida is 3 days to register btw.

    • DD

      I agree with you AO. Weiner is a hypocrite. And if he had not been caught he still would have been pushing the agenda. You think he felt bad for you guys? He did not give a flying f*** about you and your family and he would have screwed you even more if he didn’t get caught. Some of you people need to wake the f*** up.

  9. RegistrantNotAnOffender

    I have a different take on Weiner. His continual poor behavior hurts us. It feeds the believe sex offenders reoffend. I don’t judge him for falling but my thoughts to anyone who reoffends is how can you be so selfish?

  10. FinallyOffTheReg

    A very well written and lucid view through the window.

    However, I think what the gravitas of the article is trying to show is the role that a RC under Federal Supervision must endure is that of the serving of “Two-Masters” each with particular and onerous-often conflicting rules.

    Mr. Weiner faces two very powerful forces. The first being that (according to the article) he is on the Reg for LIFE. That alone, is phenomenally overwhelming for anyone. Granted, Mr. Weiner may have preserved some financial and social resources to assist him in his return from the half-way house. But, I doubt many are going to be rolling out a red carpet for him. His actions destroyed his career, family, reputation and so much more. IMHO, I think it was HE who was predated upon. However, that’s a different argument.

    The second force he faces is that of Federal Supervised Release. There is no wiggle room here. For the next three years if he “farts” the wrong way, it’s a callback into court where the rules of a SR revocation hearing basically have one guilty even before the case gets heard. It’s a much lower threshold to get sent back to the Feds for a Violation than one can possibly imagine. Here, the domain of evidence is based on “more likely than not” (to simplify).

    Thus, Mr. Weiner will face a withering double-tap of compliancy and restrictions which will infiltrate his life in ways he cannot even contemplate. And let’s add into that what will be mandatory SO “Treatment” by some local outfit all the more happy to have a “celebrity” and break him down even further.

    So, for this once influential and in some circles respected career politician, those days are DONE. Lifetime Registration will be the no doubt undoing of him. Unless one has faced/continues to face the Registration nightmare, I doubt there can be an understanding by Mr. Weiner yet at all. I do feel for the man. I understand what he will be facing. I have been through it myself. I lost everyone and everything. 19 years later I am still struggling to get even 10% of it back. But each day I gain a little more and a little more.

    In closure, I can’t give Mr. Weiner a “pass”. What I can do, if he were sitting next to me right now is to look him dead in the eyes and say: Hang on, you thought prison changed your life, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet”. Also to say to him that yes, one can have a life and he is lucky he is “home”. Fight the good fight. Use whatever remaining and forthcoming clout to CHANGE THE LAWS. Finally, I would say: “welcome to what has been OUR nightmare”. Now do something about it Mr. Weiner, for all of us.

    • Tired Old Man

      it may soon require more proof that he farted!
      Next week, a “sex offender” case will come for oral arguments before the Supreme Court. The case is US. v Haymond and deals with the standard of proof required before imposing a sanction.

      • FinallyOffTheReg

        @tired old man,

        I agree.

      • FinallyOffTheReg

        @ Tired Old Man

        Yes! I have been following that one. It’s got moxy.

        Thank you for replying and I will be sure to check out SCTOUS and see how it’s resolved.

  11. Timothy

    The “cruelty” at its base resolves from the conflict between man and database.
    The sex offender registration regime literally compels by Law a citizen to maintain state’s database machine. The states machine is the people’s property and the regime plain indentured servitude to the property. Always was but never argued. Nice.

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