Some Tennessee Representatives and Senators seem hellbent on promoting a never- ending stream of bills that serve one purpose, to make the lives of registrants miserable.
There are several state representatives in particular that concoct a constant barrage of new bills aimed specifically at “sex offenders”, bills that appear to be the “bread and butter” of these “representatives of the people.” If they’ve made it their life’s mission to deny any humanity, any shred of dignity to registrants, they’re doing a fine job.
Perhaps they reason, this is what gets them re-elected. They are modern-day snake-oil salesmen, instead of selling the towns folk magical elixirs that will treat anything from warts to consumption, they sell their “Sex Offender” bills to the public. “Sex” sells. “Sex Offender” garners attention, especially in the bible-belt south. Their shtick is the guarantee that their bill will “keep everyone safer”, when in reality, like the snake-oil salesman, it’s just a line to win over the towns people or in this case, a guarantee of votes for the next election.
Recently I came across TN HB2221/ Rep. W. Lamberth and SB2152/ Senator J. Johnson and couldn’t help but wonder, WHY?
WHY put forth a bill that prohibits a group of people, those convicted of a sexual offense, from being eligible for an alternative to incarceration? Aren’t alternatives to prison, good? Isn’t that what the “representatives of the people” should be striving for, ways to keep our prison population to a minimum, ways to reintegrate people back into society early, ways to control the sky-rocketing costs of incarceration? Isn’t that the reason these people were elected, to do good things, the right things, for all of us?
Under present TN law, an offender who meets all of the following minimum criteria is considered eligible for “punishment” in the community. A) Persons who without this option, would be incarcerated in a correctional institution. B) Persons convicted of property-related or drug/alcohol related felonies or other felonies not involving crimes against the person as provided in title 39, chapter 13, parts 1-5 (which includes assaultive offenses, criminal homicide, kidnapping, false imprisonment, robbery and sexual offenses.) C) Persons convicted of nonviolent felony offenses. D) Persons convicted of felony offenses in which the use or possession of a weapon was not involved. E) Persons who don’t demonstrate a present or past pattern of behavior including violence. F) Persons who do not demonstrate a pattern of committing violent offenses.
Lamberth and Johnson’s bill adds, that to be eligible, the person must: ) Not be convicted of a sexual offense under title 39 , chapter 13, part 5, 2) Not meet the definition of a sex offender or violent sex offender under the Sexual Offender and Violent Sexual Offender Registration, Verification and Tracking Act and, 3) Not be required to serve a sentence of community supervision for life under the present law (which are persons convicted of rape, aggravated rape, aggravated sexual battery, rape of a child or aggravated rape of a child.)
Perhaps if these stereotypical good old boy “representatives of the people” only proposed bills like this once or twice during the course of their careers, I could forgive their ignorance in not knowing that those accused of sex offenses have a low re-offense rate or that comparing the terms “sex offender” and “violent sex offender” is comparing apples and oranges. That the very definition of “sex offender” has expanded to include offenses that have nothing to do with sex and that a sentence of community supervision for life should “include” not “exclude” those in the community.
Unfortunately for Tennesseans, these select few elected representatives seem focused on continuously presenting bills aimed at making life for anyone convicted of a “sex offense” as difficult as humanly possible. Their snake-oil salesmanship would have you believe that they are the healers, that their bills will benefit and protection their constituents. Like the registry, there’s no truth behind their misrepresentations that bills of this sort make anyone safer. These modern-day snake oil salesmen are slick, their proposed bills peppered with catch-words like “violent sex offender, assault and rape”, words that are sure to elicit fear and garner the immediate support of their peers. And to their credit, this tactic must work, because as often happens, when bills like this reach the Tennessee Senate, representative don’t ask questions, the votes are all “Ayes”, and the bills are passed.
I can’t help but wonder?
What underlying issues do these representatives have that make them seem to despise all registrants? What kind of sick, twisted pleasure do they get from constantly proposing bills that vilify an entire group of individuals? Yes, individuals. Each having a separate offense, not all the same, not to be lumped together and automatically excluded because they’ve all been broad- brushed with a “sex offender” label.
What’s made these “representatives of the people” so vindictive?
Need I say more?