In 1994 the Jacob Wetterling Act established the first national sex offender registry law, and Indiana’s “Zachary’s Law” placed their state registry online.
In 1996 “Megan’s Law” was passed at the federal level, forcing states to maintain publicly accessible registries and allowing all levels of community notification.
In 1997 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld civil commitment in Kansas v. Hendricks, and a year later, Delaware passed the first law requiring registrants to carry a special ID card.
In 2005 strict mandatory minimum laws were created with the Jessica Lunsford Act followed by the Adam Walsh Act in 2006. (1)
These laws are the result of horrific acts of violence often resulting in murder and with actual or assumed sexual motivation against youth. They were driven in equal parts by grieving parents wanting justice, politicians who, for reasons both altruistic and self-serving, were willing to take up the cause, and a media fired by the sensationalism inherent in the issue.
The cases that drove the laws are rare anomalies; with instant telecommunications and every story being repeated beyond counting, the impression is easily given and received that these heinous incidents happen every day. They don’t. They represent the tiniest fraction of all sexual offenses, but the transition is easily made in the public’s mind: sex offender = violent, predatory pedophile and potential murderer.
And an industry was born—a multi-million if not billion dollar industry—containing but not limited to these branches; the only ordering attempted is alphabetical.
- Apps for cell phones/messages to emails– manufacture; sales; supply; monitor
- Electronic license plates
- Expert witnesses
- Federal marshal grants/other federal grants
- GPS –manufacture; supply; monitor
- Manufacturers and sales of polygraph equipment
- Medical care for the incarcerated
- Non-government companies who post registry information and charge to remove it
- Parents of victims–publicity; financial
- Politicians-getting/staying elected
- Polygraphers—give exams as part of probation requirements; under state contracts
- Private civil commitment facilities/management/treatment
- Private monitoring and tracking companies
- Private prisons/staffing for/management of
- Registry management companies
- Screening systems in schools, libraries–manufacture; sales; install; monitor
- Security systems/alert systems—manufacture; sales; install; monitor
- Telephone/email services: inmates to outside world; family to inmates
- Treatment providers, usually with “locked-in” state contracts
- Webinar “instructors”
And now come private probation companies.
According to an article by Nicole Flatow, Think Progress, March 25, 2014, the Georgia legislature has passed a bill which gives private probation companies, already being sanctioned and investigated for abuses and misconduct, even more power to operate, power that has critics recalling the days of debtors’ prison due to their ability to have someone jailed for failure to pay the probation fees.
As Flatow points out in her article, “Private probation firms are a growing industry that, like private prisons, stand to profit from criminalizing more conduct, and have an incentive to lobby for policies that send more individuals to probation and/or jail.” (2)
Sex offenders are easy targets; who will come to their aid? Anyone who does so is accused of being a pedophile or a rape apologist. Any politician who does so is sounding the death knell for his career.
This is more than a sex offender issue. This is a civil rights issue. This is a constitutional issue. This is the slippery slope. This doesn’t just affect those on the registry.
Who will next fall prey?
(1) Source for timeline: Oncefallen.com: Timeline of Sex Offender History