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Commentary

Sex Offender Registries Are Fueling Mass Incarceration — And They Aren’t Helping Survivors

[jacobinmag.com – 6/22/20]

The “sex offense legal regime,” which has developed alongside mass incarceration over the last forty years, has failed.

US sex offender registries now list nearly one million people. Federal, state, and local ordinances prohibit convicted sex offenders from living within a certain distance of schools, parks, day care centers, and other spaces where children might congregate. In places like Miami–Dade County, these restrictions have rendered hundreds of individuals effectively homeless. Only by building and inhabiting makeshift encampments in sparsely populated areas can offenders comply with such residency requirements.

Following the passage of an especially punitive county ordinance — still on the books as of 2020 — a veritable refugee camp of registrants appeared under Miami’s Dolphin Expressway. Facing eviction and possible arrest, residents of the encampment moved to an underpass before encountering similar resistance and decamping in 2014 for an industrial area near Hialeah, a Miami suburb. In the summer of 2018, city and county officials — under pressure from area residents and business owners — applied the same punitive tactics to disband the encampment, once again displacing and dehumanizing its inhabitants. And the cycle remains unbroken: last June, registrants occupying a makeshift “colony” in Miami’s Brownsville neighborhood were forced to vacate.

Such measures might seem sensible to a broad swath of the American public. Indeed, as Judith Levine and Erica Meiners argue, sex offenders’ very humanity remains an open question. Yet these sorts of steps misrepresent the scope and nature of sexual harm in the United States, fueling mass incarceration while doing little to actually help survivors. At a time when demands to dismantle the police and unmake mass incarceration are reaching a fever pitch, we must target these myths and directly challenge the sprawling system of sex offender registration that they have produced.

Read the full commentary

 

Join the discussion

  1. Eric

    California Governor Newsome recently gave a televised commencement address to the Santa Clara University graduating class of 2020. Here is part of what he said:

    “As you go out into the world I urge you to lead through collaboration and empathy rather than dominance and aggression. Leadership is about creating conditions where people can live their lives out loud. That is a paradigm of thinking, and I think we are desperate for this moment. No one–no one–stands taller than when he or she bends down on one knee to hep lift other people up.”

    He is obviously making inference to the current political events in the country, but it couldn’t be a stronger reference to what people on the registry are pleading for. If Governor Newsome believes this, then he is in the perfect position to prove it and help those of us who are persecuted, denied, oppressed and suffocated by dominance and aggression of the so called justice system.

    I did a non-contact offense over 15 years ago. I have met every condition imposed by the justice system, but I am still unable nor allowed to live a normal life. I am still denied the ability to go certain places, travel freely, work certain places, go into certain occupations, receive certain licenses or credentials, and freely attend college. I am openly discriminated against, abused, doxed by sociopaths who can freely look me up on the registry and persecute me, I am shamed by random residency checks by police with flak vests showing up for all the neighbors to see, and I live in fear of that false accusation that will immediately cause an arrest without evidence. I would ask Governor Newsome to back up his wish with action. I don’t ask for special treatment, I only ask for equal treatment. So please Governor Newsome, bend down on that one knee and help lift the one million people on the registry up so they may live there life out loud.

    • someone who cares

      Eric ~ That summed it up beautifully. It was to the point and soooo true.

  2. Bay Area Resident

    You can’t even argue this one.

    The article is just throwing up history and facts. And best of all, it highlights low recidivism.

  3. w

    One thing these movements rely on is the notion of “democracy”. Mob rule. Tell them they can do it and they’ll do it without care for those who have to suffer.

    The registry is all the narrative they care to know. Not the person, not the case or details. It accomplishes what the system wants: to create an easy ladder to promotion and to shame any opposition for being “soft on crime”.

    That’s the difficulty in defending these cases. People can’t fathom “constitutional sex offense laws”. Anything 290 related is a bitter pill. Makes it easy to keep piling on the bad legislation since few are willing to step up.

  4. ab

    What’s fueling mass incarceration is the unwillingness and/or inability to address root causes for problems that result in laws being broken. Until then we will just haphazardly go along wondering why nothing has changed despite new regulations, harsher punishments, and a bunch of other garbage which actually does nothing meaningful.

  5. AERO1

    We need to organize a million man march in Washington DC and have sexofenders coming from all over the United States of American.
    Can you imagine the police department trying to register all those people within 5 working days its obviously impossible it would brake the internet it would prove the registry is pointlessness and these politicians would have no choice but to negotiate for change

  6. Saddles

    AERO at times you sound like a pipe dream but than should we Send all our soap bars to Will care of Patty Hurt pardon Committee. This has been a paid public announcment by Bill Clinton I think. Guess truth is truth no matter how you slice it or are the right to know laws the busybody topic of the day in this brainwashing way.

    One wonders who marries their bodyguard today or who rats on who today with talking about what he or she did that in itself is a form of busybody or is telling the truth a double negative today. Sounds like an Edger G. Robinson , “You dirty Rat”movie with a twing of sex as a bait buffer ingredient flavor factor. Talk about two or more opposing issues or should the South rise again. AERO potential sounds good many times when the chip are down.
    Discrimination for the black man is more or less the same as these discrimination of a sex offender in many ways, if put in prospective, or were is the sin factor lay that we all have. If one wants to kill thats on their conscience, if one wants to rat someone out thats on their conscience. If authorities want to do these internet dollar net ordeals than who has the greater sin. Who is crucifying who or who is upsetting the apple cart today. A servant of justice abusing their power who would think of something like that today in this free country.

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