Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chelsea King's parents pushing "Chelsea's Law" nationwide: What you need to know

Chelsea King's parents: bringing bad laws to a state
near you!
It should go without saying that the Chelsea King murder was one of the largest high profile kidnapping – murder case in recent memory. We also know that when a pretty, young, white girl is the victim of one of these rare tragic crimes, it has become commonplace to bastardize this person's memory by naming a bad piece of legislation in her "honor". It is also a good way to make money in the ever-growing victim industry.

Not content with passing a bad law in their own state, the King family is pushing Chelsea's Law nationwide. Texas, Illinois, Utah, Ohio, and Massachusetts are the first states to be targeted. Since many of these states have very active groups of sex offender reform activists, I thought I would take a moment to review Chelsea's Law.

RSOL has already published an analysis of Chelsea's law, but I felt it was incomplete because it only addressed the mandatory minimums provision (it is still a good read so I suggest you read it). According to the Chelsea's Law official website, there are seven key elements of the law has passed in California. This means some of the elements may be altered when it appears in your state. Still, it is a good idea to review the seven points so that they may be addressed when the time comes.

(1) "A new one-strike life without parole penalty for those sexual predators who commit the most heinous violent sex crimes against a child, as well as increases in other penalties for sex crimes committed against minors by use of force, violence, duress, menace, and fear." 

Mandatory minimums take away discretion in relatively minor/petty cases. The primary concern I have is that the language we choose the use in discussing sex crimes does not differentiate between serious offenders and petty offenders. For example, if a 17-year-old and a 13-year-old had consensual sexual relations with each other ( a "Romeo and Juliet" Offense, or R&J), the legal language we use to describe this would be "sexual assault" or "child molestation". Thus, it is considered a "violent" act. While the RSOL article points out that only eight individuals in two years have fallen under the mandatory minimum provision for Chelsea's law, it is only a matter of time before a relatively petty offender gets a life sentence under this law, if it has not happened already. In addition, the law also increases penalties for a large variety of offenses, which of course fails to take into account mitigating circumstances. As we have already seen with Megan's law, the net will be cast wider with each passing year and legislative session.

(2) "Increases in parole periods with active GPS monitoring for those convicted of felony sex crimes involving physical contact with children, as well as a new prohibition against loitering in parks where children congregate for parolees convicted of most sex offenses against children."

In recent years, GPS has been promoted as some kind of quick fix solution, but instead it has become a costly and ineffective method of monitoring registrants. In addition to a number of false alarms, those determined to reoffend can do so while wearing a GPS or simply cutting it off. Since most registrants are unemployed and cannot afford the $10-$20 a day cost of GPS, it is up to the taxpayers to pay for GPS. Let's not forget the language argument from earlier; the term "children" can mean anybody up to age 17. Thus, a 20-year-old having consensual relations with a 17-year-old in a state with only a two-year age allotment would be eligible for GPS monitoring.

Perhaps an even greater concern is the so-called prohibition against "loitering in parks where children congregate". In addition to violating the constitutional right to travel and associate with others in public places, anti-loitering laws are subject to abuses. The term loitering means being in any place with no particular reason to be there. I am sure some states will interpret this to imply that sex offenders cannot enter parts at all. The term loitering means that the police would have to prove, at least in theory, that a person cannot have a legitimate reason to be at a particular place that particular time. But there are a number of things a person can do to be legally at a place. After all, people go to a park to walk their dogs, exercise, eat their lunches, or just sit on the bench and stare at the sky or watch the other people going by. These are all legitimate reasons to be at a park.

In the late 1990s, the city of Cincinnati made a similar proposal where drug offenders could not enter a particular community, which was struck down in higher courts because it was not narrowly tailored and criminalized a number of activities that are otherwise legal to do. [Johnson et al. v. City of Cincinnati, 2002 FED App. 0332P (6th Cir.), cert. denied, US Supreme Court case no. 02-1452]

(3) Implementation of the “containment model” approach to sex offender management proposed by California’s Sex Offender Management Board, including increased oversight, psychological evaluations, and polygraph testing for all sex offenders on parole or probation."

Every time I hear the term containment model, my first thought is the containment unit used by the Ghostbusters. Since we are on the subject of science fiction, let's talk about polygraph testing. The polygraph was invented by the same guy who created the Wonder Woman character and her infamous "Lasso of Truth". The polygraph is not an actual lie detector; it merely detects changes in bodily functions such as heart rate. It is still up to the polygrapher to interpret these bodily changes. The polygraph relies on deception, and the polygraph is inadmissible in a court of law. But we all know that sex offenders are always the exclusion to the law, so Chelsea's Law promotes this junk science as part of the containment model.

The containment model has recently come under fire in Colorado as ineffective and expensive.

The containment model should not be confused with the treatment model, because the containment model does not offer actual treatment for the offender; it is nothing more than an overpriced monitoring system where treatment of the offender is not a priority.

(4) "Implementation of a Dynamic Risk assessment model to improve evaluation of sex offender’s potential for new sexual violence."

The reason I did not spend much time discussing psychological evaluations until now is because this point merely repeats part three. It is true that most actuarial tests like the Static-99 rely primarily if not exclusively on static (i.e., unchanging) factors such as age of offense or characteristics of the victim. A small number of tests, including a revision of the Static-99, are attempting to point out dynamic (life-changing) factors for recidivism. 

Unfortunately, researchers are ignoring a huge dynamic factor. The stress of living under the myriad of sex offender laws, including many of the provisions included in Chelsea's Law, are primary factors in sex offender recidivism. I am willing to bet that those factors are not added to any actuarial test. However, they are serious factors that must be addressed. Those forced to register experience a number of acts of discrimination, ostracism, and even vigilante violence. There are a number of laws that push registrants into a degraded class. That is one dynamic factor that the state can change by repealing most punitive sex offender legislation.

(5) "Authorization for various upgrades to the Megan’s Law website so as to include more useful and informative data to law enforcement and the public on the actual risk of sex offenders in our communities."

I can't imagine what more you could possibly add to the public registry to make it more understandable to the ignorant public. The public has already proven itself unable to differentiate between a drunken mooner, a Romeo and Juliet offender, and a multiple rapist. It does not help that legal definitions like molestation or violence can equally apply to consensual acts between two people close in age but not close enough by legal standards. Since many states do not have statutory definitions, what we would consider a statutory offense is simply called rape or sexual assault.

Even in the early days of the registry, studies were already finding that community notification meetings actually serve to heighten public fear rather than appease it. In one Wisconsin survey, where community notification meetings are held consistently in the community, two thirds of respondents left a meetings more concerned for their safety and before. The public simply cannot digest the truth. The registry was never intended to be public in the first place, so if we are to insist on having a registry, it should return to its original purpose, a private list for law-enforcement only.

(6) "Funding for victims’ services and outreach, as well as resource-development for SAFE (Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement) teams in rural, regional areas."

Since most of the money would goes toward law enforcement in big-name victim industry advocates (like the Kings), the actual victim services can forget about collecting a big payday for their cause. Unfortunately the few organizations that collect a large amount of funding will abuse this privilege by wasting it on maintaining states a perpetual victimhood rather than healing for those who are actually victimized.

What is it with all these acronyms? The real purpose of this so-called "SAFE" team is to further harassment ostracize offenders by constantly verifying their address unnecessarily. Millions of dollars are being wasted to have over a dozen law enforcement agencies, state, local, and federal authorities, knocking on doors just to get some guy to sign a sheet of paper. 

(7) "Changes in the state MDO (Mentally Disordered Offender) evaluation process to ensure that offenders deemed by at least two psychologists to be too dangerous to be released are properly detained."

This provision sounds sensible at first, until you consider there are few individuals in this country that have any degree of certification to evaluate those convicted of sexual offenses.The Kansas v. Hendricks 1997 SCOTUS decision greatly lowered the standards and the burden of proof by which one could be considered a "sexually violent predator" (SVP) and a prime candidate for civil commitment. The whole issue of civil commitment in general has been very controversial, especially in Minnesota, where not one individual has been released as a graduate of the MN-MSOP. We have a tendency to err on the side of caution, and in doing so we cast too broad of a net. 

You can be sure that I will take this fight to the Ohio State legislation, and if it passes, I will be fighting it in court. Named laws are terrible laws because they bypass any ounce of reason or evidence of effectiveness. As far as I am concerned, the Kings can pack up their silly law and take it back to the state of California where it belongs. Actually, the state of California needs to grow a brain and repeal this law. This law has been a waste of resources already, and it is time that we stop the trend of naming laws after rare high-profile cases to justify blanket provisions that destroy the constitutional rights and opportunities for redemption for a large number of individuals that had nothing to do with Chelsea's murder.

1 comment:

  1. Anyone who posts criticism should not do so anonymously. Besides, if you dislike my writing style, then don't read it. I happen to be the best damn writer on this issue, and I won't allow some anonymous prick hurl insults when it is obvious that person is illiterate.

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