As Executive Director of ACSOL, I communicate with registrants and their families almost daily on a variety of topics. One of the saddest types of calls I receive are from registrants who were recently released from custody for an offense that is not a sex offense.
These calls are sad because they are about the fact that a person is being required to comply with the same parole conditions required of a person just released from custody after a sex offense conviction. These calls are also sad because there are no legal remedies available to help solve the problem that was created by a new law that was passed while they were in custody and has been applied retroactively.
The requirements include but are not limited to wearing a GPS device for 24 hours a day throughout the entire parole period and complying with at least 100 additional parole conditions. It’s bad enough that these requirements are being levied upon a person recently released from custody after being convicted of a sex offense. It’s terrible that these requirements are being levied upon individuals convicted long ago, even 30 years ago, of a sex offense.
Many of these individuals are being required to comply with restrictions they did not have to comply with when they were released from custody after their sex offense conviction. For example, they are being required to take polygraph exams – often at their own cost. They are also being prohibited from using a computer even if their offense did not involve a computer or the internet.
How can government demand that registrants comply with these new requirements? The answer, unfortunately, is simple – the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Smith v. Doe – which many government organizations have viewed as a blank check that allows them to pass harsh new laws and apply them retroactively.
As an organization, ACSOL is dedicated to overturning Smith v. Doe, knowing full well that it may take another 10 years or more to do so. In the meantime, many individuals are going to suffer. They will suffer by wearing a GPS device 24 hours a day for three years or more that requires charging twice a day for at least an hour each time.
They will also suffer by living in fear as they try to navigate the minefield of parole conditions as well as their parole officer’s interpretation of those conditions. For example, is the Angry Birds app on a registrant’s phone a toy meant to entice a minor? Similarly, is a small bat handed out at a professional baseball game a souvenir or a toy? Does a condition that prohibits contact with minors mean that a registrant must leave a grocery store if he or she sees a minor in that store?
They will also suffer if they violate their parole conditions because they will be returned to custody. It’s a good thing that the requirement to register is not punishment. Right?