For readers/supporters who have thought about coming to Richmond during our annual General Assembly session to speak ‘for’ and ‘against’ Sex Offender Legislation and always find a reason not to make the trip, you need to read the below article from Massachusetts.
I’ve said it for 7 session and this coming January will be my 8th session, the more faces, voices and families that the Virginia Legislators see and hear from who are opposing these hate-based, knee-jerk and punitive bills the more quickly we will see reform happen.
Showing up, speaking out and doing it year after year does make a difference while making an excuse on why you can’t (or won’t) attend Virginia G.A. hearings gives the Legislators the ability to ignore you, your family and the collateral consequences that come with ever new restriction, regulation and mandate.
Once you take that first step of showing up, the rest is easy.
Lawmakers weighing sex offender bills urged to consider supports, stigmas, December 2, 2015
By Katie Lannan
State House News Service
A host of bills dealing with sex offender registration encountered pushback Tuesday from advocates and offenders who urged lawmakers to consider whether the measures were meant to prevent recidivism or to serve as additional punishments.
Legislation now before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary includes measures that would establish restrictions on where certain sex offenders can live or spend time, and other proposals that would make more information available about some offenders.
Smith said that some sex offenders who participate in his program have expressed fears of retaliation by victims' families. He called on lawmakers to focus on "risk prevention" and on ensuring any new legislation would actually promote public safety.
"How do we provide opportunities for people who come home, whatever classification they have as it relates to sex offenses, how do we create opportunities for them to succeed as well? Many people in our program worked tirelessly hard to reintegrate. Their number one problem is overcoming stigma and shame that follows them after incarceration," he said.
Lawmakers who sponsored the bills dealing with sex offenders said they were trying to update laws to provide law enforcement with new tools.
Rep. Tackey Chan, a Quincy Democrat, filed a bill that would require sex offenders to include email addresses and social media accounts with their registration (H 1235). He said that
Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Florida, Colorado, have passed
similar laws. Louisiana
"The bill does not create new penalties, the bill does not create new people to include as sex offenders," Chan said. "It only requires the current application and forms to add one additional piece of information."
After a homeless Level 3 sex offender began spending time around parks and beaches in
last year, Rep.
Brian Mannal said he had been shocked to learn that behavior was not illegal.
The Barnstable Democrat put forward legislation (H 3445) that would ban certain
registered sex offenders from locations including playgrounds, parks,
libraries, schools, youth camps, mini golf courses, go-cart tracks, trampoline
parks, batting cages. Yarmouth
"Basically, what we're seeking to do is create child safety zones -- which are places where children are known to congregate -- and for the specific purpose of not allowing pedophiles, level three sex offenders who have committed acts of abuse towards children, to be able to loiter and engage with people who potentially fit in with their threats," Mannal said.
Paul Shannon, founder of the Cambridge-based group Reform Sex Offender Laws, said there is no evidence linking proximity to "child-dense areas" to sexual recidivism. He said that what is most effective at keeping sex offenders from repeating their crimes is access to a steady job, support system and place to live.
"Are we creating a better society for children, or a place that is scarier than it needs to be?"
Shannon asked the
committee. "These people we call sex offenders, many of whom caused great
harm, do they come from some dark planet or do they come from our
neighborhoods? Are they the other, or are they our brothers, sons and
Shannon and others who testified against new sex offender restrictions said the recidivism rate is low for registered offenders. Joel Pentlarge, a 65-year-old Level 3 sex offender with Parkinson's disease who is scheduled for an upcoming knee replacement surgery, said that at his age and in his physical condition, he belongs to a group with a less than 1 percent recidivism rate.
"Here I am, classified at the highest level of risk when I'm part of a group that proposes less risk to the community than the general male population as a whole," Pentlarge said. "For sex offenders, prejudice against sex offenders is the last socially acceptable prejudice. It's the last state-sanctioned prejudice."