Friday, February 13, 2015

Roanoke Times Editorial- Campbell: Sex Offender Bill Would Stir up Angry Mobs

 Somehow I missed this being posted on Roanoke Times yesterday! 

They edited down my original submission to meet the word count maximum, but it still came out great! 


Campbell: Sex offender bill would stir up angry mobs, February 12, 2015/ February 15, 2015
By Mary Davye Devoy

HB1366 patroned by Del. Jeff Campbell, R-Marion, passed the House of Delegates recently, unanimously, with absolutely no discussion or debate and with very little notice by most Virginians. 

First some background on the issue. 

In Virginia, Registered Sex Offenders who are classified as violent (approximately 83 percent of the registry, so around 17,000 Virginians) are legally prohibited from being on school property during school hours or attending any school-sponsored event. 

Any violation is a felony.

Most Registered Sex Offenders are parents, and many of them are single without a spouse to assist in the day-to-day responsibilities. 

Parents who are RSOs can petition for a court order allowing them to be on school property and/or to attend school-sponsored functions. This makes it possible for them to drop off and pick up their children at school if riding a bus is not an option. It may also allow for them to attend their children’s recitals, plays, athletic games and graduation. 

The process to petition is expensive and timely for the parent but makes participation in their children’s lives possible. The school superintendent and principal are allowed to oppose the parent’s petition and they usually do. If the RSO’s child changes school districts, the parent must go through this process all over again, it does not transfer . 

Campbell’s bill proposes that a parent who is also an RSO should be required to post notice of their upcoming court hearing in the local newspaper for two weeks and would allow any member of the public to come to court and oppose the petition to the judge. Campbell claims “it’s every parent’s right to know if an RSO is allowed on school property.”

Harassment and intimidation tactics instead of facts will rule Virginia courts. 

HB1366 creates a public spectacle of each and every petitioner’s rights as allowed by law. 

Obviously, complete strangers (especially in our smaller communities) are going to show up in droves to object to the petition, thereby creating a mob of angry parents and citizens spewing vitriolic opinions about someone they don’t even know. 

Every, single petition filed by a parent attempting to take his or her own children to and from school would require additional police presence inside and out of the courthouse, to de-escalate the inevitable angry mob and media presence. The odds of a violent encounter in the parking lot, possibly in front of the child whose parent has filed the petition, are extremely high. Imagine the bullying the child of the RSO will endure between the newspaper announcements and the public hearing. This proposal is a recipe for disaster. 

Registered Sex Offenders are undesirables, they are the most despised people on Earth (other than terrorists) and most people wish for their immediate and painful death. Anyone listed on the registry is openly hated by our citizens, as it has become our government-sponsored Public List of Shame. 

HB1366 might be considered a feather-in-the-cap for Campbell just in time for November’s re-election, as our lawmakers have become accustomed to luxuriating in the chest-thumping rhetoric against sex offenders; they can never lose by condemning and regulating the despised and heinous “Sexual Predator.” 

The fact is that those listed on our registry have the second-lowest recidivism rate of all crimes. The majority of them will be released one day by the state back into our communities and they are told to become productive members of society. They must find employment, secure housing and provide for their families; their success is our success, yet every possible barrier and hurdle our legislators can conjure up is thrown in front of them, usually to the hateful cheers of the public behind them. 

Doing the right thing for our citizens isn’t always the popular or easy route, but for successful re-entries of former offenders, for cohesive family units and for justice to be served in our courts, some courage is desperately needed with HB1366 as it heads to the Virginia Senate. 

Campbell might as well hand out free rocks at the courthouse doors so the angry mob that shows up to prevent a petition can stone the RSO parent to death in front of his or her child. 

No person who has paid his court-ordered debt to society should be continually persecuted year after year. Under the guise of public safety, we are allowing our elected officials to create an environment of public spectacle and eternal shame. 

HB1366 is draconian, cruel and beneath us all.