Friday, September 25, 2015

Action Item Against Any Legislation from the October 2015 VSP Report -The Effectiveness of Sex Offender Registry Requirements on Public Safety

This year the Virginia Legislature did NOT move forward a bill SJ282 for the Virginia Secretary of Homeland Security to study the Virginia Sex Offender Registry.  

The Virginia State Crime Commission or even an independent group like the Governors Parole Review Commission would have been a better choice in my opinion but a thorough study (9+ months) of the last 20 years of the Virginia State Police (VSP) Registry, the regulations and the restrictions by an unbiased group is what Virginia deserved, like Connecticut is doing. Where public meetings are held, experts in the field of Sex Offender sentencing, treatment and reintegration present research and proven processes and where members of the public can make comments. 

Well, that’s all a distant dream now. 

The Virginia State Police has whipped together a report to the Governor AND the Senate Committee on Rules that they have the gall to title The Effectiveness of Sex Offender Registry Requirements on Public Safety$file/RD247.pdf
As of December 2015 the DLS link no longer works as the document has been removed from the Internet. The Full Report can be read here 
In the end the VSP has used this report cloaked under the extremely misleading title as their wish-list for the state of Virginia to be become certified as Federal Adam Walsh Act/SORNA compliant by the SMART Office and to make their job (the VSP) easier by removing all those annoying “trigger dates” (when the law became the law and applies to RSO’s from then on but not before). 

Also the Department that is tasked with the monitoring and managing of the Registry and those listed upon it is the very last group that should pull together a report on its "effectiveness". Outside sources should be evaluating the VSP, our Registry, our RSO’s and our laws. 

You don’t put somebody in charge of a job, when they have a conflict of interest. 

Now, I’m not saying this report is not worthy of consideration BUT I find approximately 75% of it to be biased. (I cover the specific points below) 

I have asked the Governor’s office and all the Virginia Legislators running for re-election in November not to react with knee-jerk legislation in January 2016. 

I have asked them all to take this report and form a 12-30 month study of the Virginia Sex Offender Registry by a multidisciplinary group like the Parole Commission. Where experts from all points of this field give presentations to the group and proposals and solutions are discussed and considered. 

I am asking all of you to please contact Governor McAuliffe asking him to form this Commission or Taskforce to begin an extensive study in 2016 AND to veto any legislation that passes the G.A. January-March 2016 that comes from this VSP Report until a thorough study is complete. Ask Governor McAuliffe

OK, now onto the VSP recommendations and issues in The Effectiveness of Sex Offender Registry Requirements on Public Safety$file/RD247.pdf 

1. On Page 2 of the PDF-

The Federal 3-Tier Classification system is Conviction-Based, but a Risked-Based Classification System is recommended by most research. 

2. On Page 3 of the PDF-

The Recommendation (by the VSP) is to remove the judge’s discretion in whether a juvenile must register as a Sex Offender and mandate all juveniles must register, period.  

Virginia only has a public Registry and if a juvenile is placed on it, it’s for life. Research on juvenile Sex Offenders recommends no registration because the majority of juveniles who commit a sex offense if they receive treatment will NEVER reoffend.  

But if registration is done it should be a private (not public) registry and they should automatically be removed on their 21st birthday, Maryland does this and they are AWA/SORNA compliant. 

If done in 2011: Virginia would have to spend an additional $12.5 million on increased state police monitoring of sex offenders to fully comply with the federal law”. Now it’s 4+ years later  it would cost even more to comply just to save an even smaller 1amount (10% of the Byrne Grant) than we were receiving in 2011.

3. On Page 3 of the PDF- 

If Virginia were to switch to a Risk-Based Classification system (as I have been advocating for) it would need a Board to do the risk assessments per the VSP. I have also been advocating for the last 7 years for Virginia to form a Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB) to take the politics out of Sex Offender policy in the Commonwealth. 

4. On Page 4 of the PDF- 

The Recommendation (by the VSP) is to keep a 2 level Conviction-Based classification system but just rename the two groups.  

Today 83% of our Registry is in the higher group, which leads the pubic to believe they are the worst-of-the-worst, plus we are wasting state resources are too many offenders who should not be in that group. If Virginia had a 3 level Risk-Based classification system then the highest group would be around 12-18% and resources would be correctly allocated. 

5. On Page 4 of the PDF- 

The Recommendation (by the VSP) is to add to the public information listed online all schools or colleges Registered Sex Offenders are attending.  

Education is one step in a successful re-entry that all Offenders deserve the right to. Every school in Virginia knows who their RSO students are and many schools deny admission to RSO’s, because they are listed on the VSP Registry. More information being posted online does NOT increase public safety but it DOES  significantly lessen the likelihood that an offender will secure employment, housing and become a contributing member of society. 

6. On Page 4 of the PDF- 

The Recommendation (by the VSP) is the General Assembly should examine if there are offenses that should NOT be required to register.  

I agree! 

7. On Page 4 of the PDF- 

The Recommendation (by the VSP) is to allow for automatic removal  for the lowest level Offenders instead of requiring petition of the court. 

I agree! Petitioning the court takes thousands of dollars between an attorney and the two required psychiatrists, it can take a long time, plus most judges are scared to grant petitions so they deny the majority.
8. On Page 5 of the PDF- 

There is no measurable way to determine if the current Sex offender laws are effective methods in reducing sexual victimization 

Not true! They just don’t want to know what the results most likely would reveal.

9. On Page 5 of the PDF- 

The Department anticipates that the Supplement [Robby’s Rule 2015] to the Virginia Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry will cause confusion to the public”. 

Well, dah! I said that during the 2015 G.A. session as did the ACLU of Virginia but the Legislature passed it anyway and the Governor signed it into law…..why? Because the VSP Legislative Liaisons stood in support of it during session, in both chambers! The VSP Legislative Liaisons NEVER expressed any concern about confusion or misidentification when Robby’s Rule was being discussed in Committee meetings. 

10. On Page 5 of the PDF- 

Proximity statutes cause confusion to both the public and sex offenders” [Loitering, on the Property of and Residency Restrictions] 

The Recommendation (by the VSP) includes the out-of-state convictions in proximity statutes. 

Loitering and Residency restrictions are “feel good laws” with NO supportive evidence that they make anyone safer. But they DO harm the children of RSO’s because their parents can not take them to and from school or attend their school sponsored events like baseball, band or graduation. Proximity statutes also increase homelessness because they make securing housing a more difficult task for an ex-offender trying to successfully reenter society. ALL research on proximity statutes conclude they are fear-mongering, hate-based laws used to win elections, period. 

11. On Page 6 of the PDF- 

Additionally trigger dates should be examined. The numerous trigger dates can be confusing to the public and sex offenders”. 

A “trigger date” is when the law became the law, so it applies to convictions from then on but not to ones beforehand. 

This is called ex post facto. If a law didn’t exist prior to a conviction then a change in law after conviction can NOT be applied. 

If the “trigger dates” are removed from Virginia’s proximity statues then that means people who are currently not under residency restrictions would be forced out of their homes, no ifs-ands-or-buts. 

Perhaps if Virginias Legislator’s and Governors didn’t keep adding new and more expansive restrictions and a regulation onto our RSO’s each and every year there wouldn’t be so many “trigger dates” to have to know. 

12. On Page 9 of the PDF- 

The 3 Recommendations (by the VSP) would be to remove judicial discretion. 

I disagree! Our judges need to have discretion every case is not black-and-white they have the facts of the case and the people involved in the crime before them and they can not have their hands tied otherwise justice will NEVER be served. 

If you are as dismayed by the majority of these recommendations as I am please email or call your one State Delegate and your one State Senator and ask them to ask the Governor to form a Commission to fully study these issues in 2016 and until then do NOT vote for any legislation at the upcoming session that comes from this report. 

Thank you! 

Mary Davye Devoy