Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Prop 83 Passes - Now What?

California

Proposition 83, Jessica's Law, named after nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a paroled sex offender, passed by about 70% of the vote. Its intent is to strengthen sentences against sex offenders, open up more sex offenses to felony status, restrict where sex offenders can live and create a system for lifetime tracking via GPS.

I think it's going to fall apart.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the intent. Hell, I even voted for it. Personally, I'd like to see convicted rapists and child molesters hunted down in the streets and shot like, well, not like dogs. I like dogs. Shot like some obnoxious, slimy thing that one shoots in the streets. Rats, telemarketers, possums.

Anyway, my point is that it's intentions are good. I recognize that. I agree with it. I just think it's going to be too difficult to enforce and easily attacked by civil liberty groups.

This year alone there have been 742 reported rapes in the city of Los Angeles. That doesn't include the surrounding cities or unincorporated county areas. Look at those and the numbers top a thousand plus easy. And that's just rape. Other sexual offenses don't necessarily fit into that category.

There's a common element to all spin. The idea is that you find a buzz-phrase, or a particular topic that is so overwhelming that the details can be hidden in the rhetoric. "It's for the children." "A vote for him is a vote for the terrorists." And so on.

The big one for this was, of course, "Get rid of the rapists". More specifically, considering its source, it was "Get rid of the child molesters". A strong enough statement to overshadow the holes in the legislation.

There are two areas that I think are going to get hit, the GPS tracking and the housing restrictions.

The GPS is just going to turn out to be a failure. It's expected to cost at least $100 million. They're going to have to expand the tracking facilities for local law enforcement, standardize it across all agencies, have software that will effectively alert law enforcement to any violations, hire more people to pay attention to it, etc. Not to mention the fact that nothing is foolproof. Someone will figure out a way to take off an ankle cuff. It's not like it's going to be the kind to enforce house arrest, which is tied to a central location and movement from that location sets off an alarm.

It's going to cost a fortune, and nobody knows how it should be implemented. After all the money and time is spent getting everyone up to speed they'll realize that it's ungovernable and we'll have wasted a bunch of time and money for something that doesn't work.

The housing restriction requires that a convicted sex offender not live within 2000 feet of a school or park. Great. Keep them away from the children. Except...

There are very few cities in California that fit that model. San Francisco, for example, according to a State Senate created map, has only a few blocks that are more than 2000 feet from a school or park.

This means that sex offenders will have to live in rural areas, areas that maybe don't have a dense enough law enforcement presence to effectively track them. They move to a rural area, they fall off the radar.

Then, of course, there's the question of whether or not the state will need to pay to relocate people currently living within a restricted zone. Where will the state put them? How much will they pay for? Which rural burg is going to become known as the Sex Offender Capitol of California?

The lawsuits have already started on this one, and the ACLU is going to have a field day. And if one part of the law gets sacked, it could easily put the other parts into jeopardy.

What I would rather have had happen, and I think this holds for almost all legislation, is that a series of bills were proposed. Bills with only one or two conditions. That way, if one area of the law is contested and found lacking it doesn't threaten the rest.

I know that's not how it works, though. Riders get attached, every group involved wants to add their own thing. People don't want to have to vote for what they think is the same thing over and over. There's always a perception that a law enforcement bill didn't go far enough. There are countless reasons why this approach doesn't work.

But when good ideas get lumped in with bad ones, sometimes you just have to take the hit and hope for the best.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Prop 83
Real life proof that Nancy Grace and Chris Hanson really lead our nation.
Since most child sexual victims know their attackers, how far do thier uncles, grandfathers, family friends, and even fathers have to live from a school.
Answer to that one: they are never convicted, and not on a registry.

Mike Sperry said...

And sadly, if someone drafts a better, more workable version of this concept, people will look back on the failure of this one and think that the new one will fail as well.

Michelle said...

Eh...just send 'em to Texas :).

Anonymous said...

I have to register as a sex offender because 10 years ago I stupidly ran unsecured ftp server where someone uploaded obscene and perverted porn of dogs and children.

I turned the server over to the police who later questioned me on why I didn't remove it. I explained that there was more that I had already removed, but the anonymous user sent more and I simply didn't have time to sit there constantly deleting and not time to figure out the security settings. Although decided it was best to close it altogether but the DA later filed charges that I was knowingly in possession of child porn because I didn't remove it.

The prosecution was aggressive and zealous and the jury was uninformed (like me) about the exact working servers and the laws were what they were then. This was new to my Public Defender and in the end I lost the trial and was convicted of a misdemeanor.

Because I refused the take the original plea of 60 days house arrest I was given 1 year in the county jail and no probation for going to trial.

I come from a large family and have always cherished children and protected the sanctity of their innocence. I'm cut from the cloth that says you will be SEVERELY dealt with if you harm our children. Now here I was, cast to the other side by a completely regretful and stupid lapse in judgment and responsibility security. I have therapeutic papers saying that I had and have no past of present interest in children for sex, and in my own opinion I never will.

I was very distraught and bitter about the whole mess, and in the haze I didn't completely understand the reporting requirements. I signed papers and was released from jail thinking I was registered. I subsequently discovered that I wasn't, so I went to register weeks after I was supposed to. No problem. I registered mostly on time in the following years in the midst of picking up the pieces and continuing to raise my family, we had another addition to our healthy family, and Business was hectic but booming.

After almost 10 years of this grind I ended up being several months late with registration. Because they never gave me a problem about being late before, I thought I had time. I was wrong. This time they came to the house and arrested me - There seemed to be this big enthusiasm about it while I wondered why a working father who's lived in the same place for many years required 8 sheriff deputies at his door. Whether I liked registering or not, a letter in the mail would've been jarring enough of a reminder that I should comply. Instead, I was cuffed in front of the neighbors (who understand), embarrassed, arrested, charged with a felony, and bailed out. Although I was out on bail in 24 hours, now fully registered, pending court appearance, I was arrested less than 30 days later again, 2 days before Christmas and the arresting officers (only 2 this time) said they didn't know why other than they got the order to come and get me. I was told someone might have made a mistake, but not even my lawyer knew who.

With two teenage step children, a baby less than 10 months in my wife's arms as she tearfully begged the assistant DA to please have some mercy I was sentenced to 9 months jail, 3 years formal probation (costing $4300.00), lost my business, and more.

Do I want to see sexual predators punished and/or helped for their deviant behavior? Absolutely.

Do I want to scooped up, labeled or punished with them because of the circumstances I allowed myself to be caught up in? Absolutely not.

I could've made so many different choices that might have changed things. But I went to jail basically for putting up the sever, not deleting the garbage or maybe not taking it more serious sooner. Looks like some think I should pay for this for the rest of my life. I have court ordered psychological evaluations that says I basically normal in the sense of some other things, but I'm definitely not a pedophile or rapist or pervert or deviant, but our society's standard.

There so much that the general public doesn't know and the people can be fooled in to an attempt at a blanket solution because of politics and fear. Because their problem is not your problem.

I think I understand. There so much that the general public doesn't know, because I've asked and they said they didn't, yet I've seen it.

I also saw people in jail who hadn't been to court yet or who was on psyche meds be physically mistreated by someone who they should be compelled to look up to. Officers of the law are people too, but I was disappointed because the law (even universal/spiritual law) went out of the window.

Just one person caught up in the frenzy...and yes, still after everything, I would still give up my breathing life to save a child, and many people.

Anonymous said...

Forgive the typographical mistakes of the above message. Just wanted to make a quick comment.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Anonymous... The first Anonymous, I mean, you raise an excellent point, and Prop 83 won't do a goddamn thing to prevent that. In fact, Prop 83 doesn't really do anything to prevent. Someone has to be a registered sex offender to begin with.

The problem you're talking about is one that I don't know if legislation will ever be able to solve. As you say, in many cases the victims know the attackers.

How do you solve that? I suppose ridiculously strict penalties might help as a deterrent, but I doubt it. It's not like the death penalty does anything for murder.

Educating children as much as possible in the schools about what is and isn't appropriate behavior might help some, but bear in mind that the men and women who molest children have tools like fear, secrecy and, most disturbingly, love and loyalty at their disposal.

A lot of time the children who are being molested are doing it because they're trying to get the approval of the adult.

It can be stopped sometimes if it can be identified, but I don't know if there's any way to prevent it.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Mike, hopefully, people will recognize that this is such a huge problem that they'll be able to maintain the spirit of the legislation, keeping those things that work, and retooling those things that don't.

But, of course, that requires intelligence, and I'm not sure the California legislature is overloaded with that.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Michelle,

Come on. Don't you think that's a little harsh?

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Anonymous 2,

No worries on the typos. If it weren't for automatic spell checkers I couldn't write my own name.

Your example is the one thing that scares me about this sort of legislation. The definition of "Sexual Predator" gets painted with such a wide brush and has such a kneejerk effect, that some DA's are more than happy to lock up anyone they can pin something on, no matter how flimsy the evidence.

I've known others that similar things have happened to. Wrong place, wrong time, overzealous DA. In at least two cases I know of it turned out that the child accusers lied.

It isn't the legislation that penalizes sex offenders, it's the people who get caught up in political grandstanding, the people who get swept up and demonized for something they didn't do.

It's very easy for the law to destroy an innocent person's life, and there's very little that can be done to get it back.

I'm sorry you got caught up in that kind of situation.