Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Oklahoma Legislators Admit a Conviction-Based Classification System with No Risk Assessments Has Resulted in a Meaningless Registry

Per the below article, Oklahoma lawmakers admit their states Conviction-Based Classification System for Registrants is flawed and wasting valuable resources. 

I have personally asked Governor McDonnell’s staff (2 times-December 2009 and June 2010) The Virginia State Crime Commission (2 times-2009 and 2011) and numerous State lawmakers to eliminate our current 2 tiered (Non-Violent and Violent) Conviction- Based Classification System for Registered Sex Offenders in Virginia. 

Multiple crimes of varying degrees are “registerable” offenses, the plain and undeniable truth is there are even innocents listed on the Virginia Registry. The current laws that stigmatize someone as a “Sex Offender” in Virginia DO NOT distinguish between dangerous and stupid behavior. More than 94% of criminal charges in Virginia end with a plea deal mainly due to ignorance of the system, fear of prison time, lack of financial abilities to cover legal fees and the inevitable  fear of losing ones steady employment, housing and family. As opposed to actual guilt, believed by most citizens as the reason for any person would accept a plea. 

Once listed on the registry all are considered the same, all are assumed to be a “pervert”, a “pedophile” and a “predator”. 

When in reality only a fraction listed is a danger and should be monitored. 

Not to mention the “due-overs” the Virginia General Assembly has done without any due process. 

  • In 2006 and 2008 the Virginia General Assembly retroactively re-classified Virginians who were classified as Non-Violent to Violent. The offenders were notified via letter of the new mandate to register for another 5 years after the law went into effect that July. When this change occurred it meant the offender would not be able to petition to be removed from the registry.. …ever. They would be listed for life. It also meant instead of re-registering in-person with the VSP once per year they were mandated to do so every 90 days for life. A lifetime with no option to be removed, a lifetime of state resources and monitoring on people who were originally deemed Non-Violent by the courts.
  • In 2008 the Virginia General Assembly retroactively increased the mandatory time Non-Violent offenders were required to register from 10 years to 15 years before they would be allowed to petition the courts to be removed. A few Virginians that had successfully petitioned and were removed before 2008 were notified via letter of the new mandate to register for another 5 years after the law went into effect that July and were put back on the list. Everyone else had 5 years added onto their time-frame but weren’t even notified of this change by the state.
Today, approximately 83+%*** of the 20,000+* Virginian RSO’s are classified as Violent due to Virginia's inferior 2-Tier, Conviction Based Classification System. That's approximately 16,600 Virginians who are incorrectly classified as the “Worst-of-the-Worst” when in fact that category should be 12-22% of our total based on States that have a 3-Tiered, Risk-Based Classification System. That’s 12,200+ too many people in the lifetime monitoring category! 

On the current grow rate** for RSO’s in Virginia sometime in 2018 we will exceed 25,300 RSO’s. Of those 21,040 (83%***) would be mandated to a lifetime of registration with no opportunity to ever be removed. 4 certified letters per year will be mailed by the VSP to each offender, the offenders are required to re-register every 90 days and they'll receive a minimum of 2 in-person residential visits by a VSP employee each and every year until they die. That could be another 30, 40, 50 or even 60 years. Too many of our citizen's who pose no threat to society are being needlessly added to the Virginia registry every week, while millions of dollars (VSP spent $5.48 million in 2010**** on monitoring/registering RSO's) of scarce State resources are being wasted monitoring them for a lifetime.  

Our classification system in Virginia is broken and inverted.

Dilution is Not the Solution. 

Ultimately, Virginia needs to convert to a Risk-Based Classification system as opposed to a Conviction-Based System to ensure accuracy. This will take time, but is the best system a civil society can have. By taking this much needed step we'd be ensuring the safety of our citizens while allowing for successful re-entries to the majority of RSO’s who pose no danger. 

Oklahoma sees the error they’ve made, why can’t Virginia? 

If you support reforming the Virginia classification system to a 3-Tiered/Risk-Based process, please email or call your one State Delegate and your one State Senator today! If you live in one of the 11 districts without an incumbent running for re-election on November 5th  please contact the candidates in your district today so they are aware of this need in case they are elected and take office in time for the January 2014 Virginia General Assembly session. If they don’t know there is an issue and that their constituents support such a request then they won’t be well informed if it comes before them. 

Mary D. Devoy

*              -January 1st Yearly Virginia State Police Report: Monitoring of Registered Sex Offenders for the Governor and General Assembly (2012)
**             -January 1st Yearly Virginia State Police Report: Monitoring of Registered Sex Offenders for the Governor and General Assembly (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012)
***           -February 2011 FOIA
****         -October 2011 FOIA


Experts say Okla. sex offender registry is flawed, July 23, 2013