We’re tired of hearing that the registry isn’t punishment. Tired of “it’s for public safety” rhetoric that politicians use to keep the public in a constant state of fear, fanning the flames of hatred and depicting anyone on the registry as a violent, predatory monster.
The registry is punishment. The courts know it. Registrants know it. Families, friends, spouses and children of registrants know it. The registry protects no one. There is nothing remotely “safe” or public friendly about the registry.
It was disturbing to read that in Kansas, the United States Court of Appeals 10th Circuit, recently reaffirmed the authority of states to maintain “sex offender” registries as a way to “inform the public”, and rejected the claim that they are a form of punishment. How can that be I wondered?
When I read about the Kansas affirmation, my first thought was, what exactly are they “informing” the public of? That there is a citizen who committed an offense, who has already served his/her sentence, who may be living their community? So what? There are probably a lot of ex-offenders living in their community that they aren’t aware of. If “informing” the public of where offenders live really could keep them safe, (safe from what exactly, remains unclear), wouldn’t the public want to be informed of every manner of offender in their community? Wouldn’t they want to know about every murderer, thief, drunk driver and forger in their area? Wouldn’t they want to keep their families safe from those offenders as well as from registrants? I mean if we’re talking safety, let’s be truthful, anyone could be a potential danger, whether they’re an ex-offender, registrant or the guy/girl next door.
If the courts want to keeping justifying the need for registries with the same old “public safety” ideology, then shouldn’t they keep the public informed and safe from all manner of ex-offenders and not just registrants?
I came across several different variations of the definition of “punishment”. Punishment, to impose a penalty on for a fault, offense or violation. The imposition of a penalty or deprivation for wrongdoing. The infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offense.
Doesn’t the term punishment seem to be exactly what those on the registry are having to endure? A penalty that continues long after they have completed their sentences, an ongoing deprivation to their way of life, retribution for a specific kind of offense? Why is the punishment aspect of the registry so obvious to us and so difficult for those in the courts to understand? The definitions are pretty clear.
Public safety/security also had several meanings, the welfare and protection of the general public. Safeguarding and protecting people from crimes, disasters and other potential dangers and threats. The measure to protect the masses and to ensure their welfare and well-being.
Registrants are part of the general public. If public registries put them at risk, that’s not protecting their welfare and public safety. Aren’t they entitled to the same “public safety protection” as everyone else? While the idea of safeguarding the public from potential dangers and threats sounds good, the courts seem to assume that every registrant is a potential danger or threat. We know that’s not true.
The registry. While there’s been no evidence that it has kept anyone safe, there’s plenty of evidence that it has caused harm. The registry. If it’s not punishment, then what is it?