I became a grandmother for the first time a week ago. It’s a moment I have been looking forward to, and planning for, many years. Who knew it would take place during a global pandemic and less than a week after the death of George Floyd?
Although I am the founder, past President and current Executive Director of the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws (ACSOL), I was uncertain how I would feel about the issue of civil rights for registrants and their families after I became a grandmother. Now that I am a grandmother, I am no longer uncertain.
In fact, I am very certain that I don’t want my grandchild to grow up in a society that continues to punish for a lifetime those convicted of a sex offense. I don’t want my grandchild or any grandchild to worry that they or someone they love will appear on a registry.
We all know because empirical data show that registries are ineffective. They do not protect children or adults from sexual abuse because at least 95 percent of those who commit sexual abuse are not on a registry.
Also, registries punish the individuals who are listed on them. Registries lead to unemployment or underemployment. They lead to substandard housing or homelessness. They break up families.
Registries can and sometimes do lead to vigilante violence. And as a result of that vigilantism, registrants are stabbed and shot or their homes are burned to the ground.
Registrants also face violence from government officials, including police officers and parole officers. This violence takes many forms including a registrant who was thrown to the ground and placed in a choke hold during annual registration because he dared to ask a question.
This must stop! Registries are the equivalent of a chokehold that always injures and can result in death.
What can be done? We can start with adopting the slogan, Take Your Knee Off of My Neck. We can continue by taking that message to the media, to state capitols and to the U.S. Capitol.
This must be done in order to end the tyranny of the Registry, a punishment that does not fit the crime. Any crime. That is because after an individual pays his debt to society through incarceration, probation, parole and/or other methods, his civil rights must be restored. All of them. And he should neve be required to appear on a registry that makes him a target of violence by either vigilantes or government officials.
Instead, of putting a knee on a registrant’s neck, society should take a knee and sincerely apologize for all of the harm that more than a million individuals and their families have endured because of registries.