Today SB384 RSO’s in Libraries - Senator Bryce Reeves Provides that any adult who is convicted of an offense prohibiting proximity to children, when the offense occurred on or after July 1, 2014, shall as part of his sentence be forever prohibited from knowingly and intentionally having any contact whatsoever with children that are not in his custody on the premises of any place that he knows or has reason to know is a public library. A violation is a Class 6 felony was heard by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.
I raised a few concerns with this proposal to the committee members today.
1- Growing up in
during the 70’s and 80’s (long before
the Internet) if I had a school project to research I would go to the Kirn
Library, downtown…. a known sanctuary for the homeless, mostly men. Norfolk
Could some of those homeless men have been “sex offenders” with a prior conviction? Sure.
Did I ever interact with those men in a way that could be captured by this proposal? Yes I did and that’s where “knowingly and intentionally having any contact whatsoever” has me very concerned.
The homeless men held the door to the entrance open for me, they stood in line at the fountain waiting for a drink of water, even holding the stubborn button down for me, they sat and sometimes slept at the same table I was sitting at, they’d walked down the same row of books I was sitting on the floor in, they road inside the elevator with me and they smiled and said hello almost every time, they were polite and so was I.
In today’s paranoid, hyper-sensitive and “think-the-worst-first” world we live in, I wonder if those men who might have been “sex offenders” but were not up to anything sinister would today be questioned and charged for their “contact” with me. Would common courtesy NOW be construed as criminal activity simply because they are on a registry?
This proposal probably sounds reasonable to most people because the perception of a Registered Sex Offender is of a high risk of danger, an inevitable threat. Well, perception is NOT reality. RSO’s have the second lowest recidivism rate of ANY crime.
Wouldn’t it be just as reasonable to instead propose that ANY adult male or female be prohibited “whatsoever” from contact with ANY child not in their custody; ONLY Library employees can speak to, approach or assist minors? After all statistically there is a MUCH higher chance that a person not on the registry will approach, abduct or molest a child than someone who is a known ex-offender. Additionally if a person, anyone is creating a public nuisance or even talking in a library this person can be approached and told to discontinue their activities. Further activities in violation of Library policy could result in them being asked to leave the premises by the librarian and failing to follow this instruction I believe could be charged with disorderly conduct or creating a public nuisance.
2- Today the proposal is for Libraries…. Next year will it be Barnes & Noble stores, McDonald’s, Museums, Zoos, Malls or maybe the State Capitol. Once we start banning contact in one location, won’t it lead to another and another until finally we’ve banished them from having contact with anyone, anywhere, whatsoever? When will it be enough?
3-This proposal creates a NEW Felony for ONLY Registered Sex Offenders. Today in Virginia even after 5 separate attempts over the last 6 sessions to mandate the Virginia State Police inform Registered citizens of their legal restrictions and regulations they still vigorously opposes a requirement to disseminate this critical information.
· 2009- HB2225
· 2010- HB1328
· 2011- HB2382
· 2012- SB420
· 2013- No Bill
· 2014- SB553
Registered Sex Offenders know that their next trip to the local
library could result in a Felony charge if this bill becomes law? They won’t, situations with no
criminal intent and normal behavior will now be a crime with SB384. Virginia
The requester (a Commonwealth’s Attorney) of SB384 came to
and spoke to the Committee to
explain why this bill is needed. Richmond
She stated that there have been 14 separate cases in
where RSO’s have approached and
been seen by minors in libraries with some deviant intent. They fell into 3
categories public masturbators, public urinator’s and sexual “propositioners”. Virginia
I spoke to the requester on January 14 via phone so I knew what the reasoning behind the request was before today’s meeting. Over the last 2 weeks I have been searching on-line for news of Registered Sex Offenders in Virginia libraries committing such acts, not only did I find only one article where it was not noted anywhere that the “flasher” was an RSO but I did NOT find 14 cases. Just one!