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Commentary

Oregon Voices Submits Formal Response to Proposed SORNA Regulations

[oregonvoices.org]

Oregon Voices, an organization devoted to support and advocacy for individuals and families affected by the sex offender registry, submitted yesterday its formal response to the proposed SORNA regulations issued by the federal government last month. Below is an excerpt from that response and a link is provided after the article to the organization’s full response.

“We commend Oregon Voices for formally responding to the proposed SORNA regulations,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci.  “ACSOL and its allies will submit its response next week prior to or on the October 13 deadline.”

We wish to comment on the proposed rule changes regarding SORNA. The expansions they describe are not warranted by the evidence, and they will cause chaos in the majority of states who have not fully implemented SORNA.

There are well founded reasons that SORNA has been avoided by the majority of jurisdictions. Thirty-one (31) out of 50 states have made the conscious decision to avoid the pitfalls that come with SORNA. Included among these is that the provisions of SORNA are overbroad, expensive to implement and maintain, and fail to achieve desired safety objectives. Furthermore, there are aspects of SORNA that raise a variety of Constitutional questions, which are by no means settled.

The rule-making states that it “is not innovative in terms of policy.” However, statements throughout the document appear to contain novel ideas that appear to have a potentially great impact on the sovereignty of the various states. We ask for clarification and revision of statements reiterated throughout the document—specifically in relationship to the following claims:

The requirements of SORNA apply to all sex offenders. All sex offenders must comply with all requirements of that Act, regardless of when the conviction of the offense for which registration is required occurred (including if the conviction occurred before the enactment of that Act), regardless of whether a jurisdiction in which registration is required has substantially implemented that Act’s requirements or has implemented any particular requirement of that Act, and regardless of whether any particular requirement or class of sex offenders is mentioned in examples in this regulation or in other regulations or guidelines issued by the Attorney General.

This rulemaking should be reconsidered and revised in several parts:

1.  We request revision and clarification of statements that imply that persons convicted of sexual offenses must register within their respective states as SORNA requires, even when the state has made the decision to avoid substantial SORNA compliance in favor of evidence-based registration and monitoring systems.

2.  The policies and laws of the states of the United States should be respected.  Therefore, persons previously convicted of sexual offenses should be excluded from SORNA compliance, both interstate and intrastate, when the jurisdiction in which that person resides is found to be under any of the following conditions:

a)    where state courts have ruled that SORNA cannot be applied to pre-enactment offenders such as for reasons of prohibition on retroactive punishment or due process violation; or

b)    where the offense is not registerable under that state’s laws; or

c)    when a term of registration has been completed under state law; or

d)    when the person previously registered has been relieved of the duty to register under state law.

3.  There should be no influence exercised over or enforcement of intrastate registration when the jurisdiction has made the decision not to comply or participate in SORNA as iterated in 34 U.S.C. 20911(2)-(4), 20913, 20914(a)(1)-(7), 20915, 20918.

In each of these cases, the sovereignty of the individual states to conduct their own justice system is of paramount importance. Ample law exists in each of the 50 states and territories to require re-registration under the laws and procedures of the state when traveling into that state even if the individual registrant is not required to register in the state of conviction.

In most cases where registrants have been released from the registry due to retroactive punishment issues, the person committed the offense long ago and has not committed any subsequent offense (committing a new offense would pull that person back into the current registry scheme). Re-capturing individuals with ages-old convictions into 25-year or lifetime SORNA registration serves no public safety purpose.

There is no evidence to support any claim that SORNA is a superior system to what is used by states. In fact, there is a much greater body of evidence to show that SORNA is a detriment to successful reintegration through its destabilizing impacts.

Particularly in cases where individuals have been deemed by their jurisdiction to be of insignificant risk, or had long ago convictions, a new focus on pulling them into the SORNA scheme serves no public safety purpose, creates confusing double-standards, and places law-abiding persons at serious risk of prosecution while conducting innocuous activities such as traveling on business or vacation.

Indeed, pulling individuals back into an invasive and arduous sex offender registration scheme creates the real risk of destabilizing individuals who have developed prosocial lifestyles that have a correlation to reduction in recidivism (Hanson, 2018, p.58).

The rulemaking repeatedly indicates a premise that individuals deemed by the Federal Government to be subject to SORNA must comply regardless of whether the jurisdiction in which he/she resides has chosen to become compliant or is otherwise released from duty to register. Thus, the implication is that individuals who cannot register in their respective states are subject to arrest by the federal government but may have an affirmative defense under 18 U.S.C. 2250, subsection (c) of section 2250 that they were unable to register. Such a standard of exposing an individual to prosecution is inherently unfair and destructive to persons who will face prosecution for innocent activities and later need to prove their innocence. By the time this can be done, damage to an individual’s life, reputation and stability has already been done.

The vast majority of states have opted not to implement substantial compliance with SORNA for logical reasons. The heavily burdensome requirements of SORNA are tied to the crime of conviction, and there is no evidence whatsoever that this approach has resulted in any increase in public safety.

Download a PDF of Oregon Voices’ response to William Barr:

Oregon Voices Response Docket No OAG 157-1

 

 

Join the discussion

  1. JC

    A wonderful response.
    Question though, who are the responses meant for? Is it a committee vote?
    Is it to AG Barr himself that will decide upon this proposal? Is it actually possible that these proposed regulations will actually not go through or is this mostly just merely protocol and these proposed sorna regulations will go through and will have to be challenged in court?

    • Harry

      I do not know anything about this process either JC, however, the more these factual comments gets out there it is to our advantage, as people will read them and they will have to answer questions. The only things that these laws and regulations stands on is the “frightening and high” and that fabric is wearing out.

  2. Harry

    Well said.

  3. Tired of this

    As an Oregon resident, my heart just about skipped a beat when I saw Oregon in the title before I read this. Oregon is pretty much my last stand, having moved states multiple times for reasons directly related to registry requirements. At least here, I’m not public. Glad to see that there is an organization here going to bat for us and pushing back. I should probably reach out to them.

    Whatever happened to state’s rights, anyway?

  4. MP

    If you have not left your comment at the DOJ, please do! It does not have to be long. You can simply say you object to any changes as these changes make it even more confusing and difficult. Or you object because the registry protects no one and we should be pro-active and spend our resources in preventative ways. Just let them know, we know, it is wrong.

  5. Ken Nolley

    To “Tired of this,” and anyone else reading this from Oregon. We all have a big challenge ahead, but if we are to succeed, we need all of the engagement and commitment from the registrant community that we can get. Get in touch with us at: infor@oregonvoices.org.
    –ken

  6. Everwondering

    My question is does Oregon do things retroactive now? I was convicted in 2000 but forced to follow laws made in 2006. I’m wondering if they would apply to me there.

    • Ken

      To everwondering–we have a lot of people on our registry in the same situation as you are.

  7. Ken

    CORRECTION–for Tired of this or anyone else trying to contact Oregon Voices, the correct email is: info@oregonvoices.org. Sorry for creating confusion.
    k

  8. TS

    This is a well written document and one that should get, hopefully, gets a lot of positive attention with the data and details. I would like to know what others here think, more than just who have already.

  9. Eric

    I am grateful advocacy groups are speaking up and getting the TRUE data out there. But I am still a little apprehensive about the direction California will go with the tiered registry. Nothing is in stone yet. Things could go either way with my situation. I am in the position where I could get relief from the tiered registry or I could get screwed so badly that the federal SORNA would be favorable. I have to see. I have been to numerous ACSOL meetings over the last couple years (and can’t wit till in person meetings resume), and I know Janice and Chance and company are really fighting for us so I remain optimistic but reserved.

  10. AERO1

    The DOJ has made a blueprint for all LE organizations in America to follow if needed a safety net in incase sexofenders start waking up and realizing they have the numbers and start organizing and speaking out in protest the Department of Justice is scared as hell of this possibly happening in America thats why there paying close attention to sexofenders these days not because there dangerous or threat to society there focused on sexofenders because the growing number of people being placed on the registery everyday it’s becoming a major problem
    The U.S government knows all it takes is that one person that one sexofender who has the ability to reach every person forced to register and harness their power/pain and start one of the biggest civil rights moments since the 1960.
    DOJ knows this could easily happen so to prevent this type of uprising they came up with these new SORNA laws to keep sexofenders bound and gagged alone and isolated poor and homeless shamed and hopeless that way they never gaine confidence or the ability to stand up for themselves

    Good luck

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