By John “Bay” Haralson, Guest Blogger . . .
In a 2003 Alaskan case, the highest court in the land heard arguments pertaining to states’ rights to retroactively list sex offenders on a public registry. At issue was the violation of constitutional protection against ex post facto, (punishment after the fact) and public safety. In a split ruling the high court deemed that registering is a regulation necessary to protect the public and thus not punishment. This ruling gave the green light for states to retroactively list individuals even if they successfully completed their sentences decades before the implementation of the registration laws.
Even though the Internet has exponentially increased the punitive effect on the registry, and the public safety value of the registry remains doubtful, the Supreme Court has not yet taken another look at any ex post facto implications. This issue has been challenged in some state courts with success. But the state of Texas (as well as other states) still lists offenders retroactively for convictions decades ago (1970).
By One Human Being
I admitted my guilt and received my sentence. I was truly sorry for what I did. But they made me register anyway even though it was not part of my sentence. They passed a law and now I must register for life. I say it is a violation of my rights against ex post facto. But the highest court in the land says being on the registry is not punishment. It’s for the safety and protection of everybody else.
That doesn’t take away the humiliation and shame I feel everywhere I turn. I cannot remove this stain no matter how hard I scrub. I feel like I don’t even belong on this planet anymore. Hopeless. I’m banished from living in most communities. I’m kicked out of public housing and left homeless. But they say it isn’t punishment. It is for the safety and protection of everyone else.
I live in constant fear for my family, especially my children. They have been harassed and threatened. They feel the same humiliation and shame I feel for something they didn’t even do. My children don’t understand why they are being ostracized. They battle depression and suicidal thoughts. And they say it isn’t punishment. The laws are necessary for the protection of all the children in the community.
Being on the registry makes targets of my family and me. I read with horror the stories of individuals who are beaten and stabbed and shot and killed in violent acts of vigilantism. The vigilantes pick their targets from the public registry. Sometimes they target innocent people by mistake. But they say it isn’t punishment. It’s for the protection of all!
I can’t live where I’d like to live, work where I’d like to work, or even worship where I’d like to worship. I’m denied government benefits, restricted where I can and cannot travel, and detained against my will by law enforcement. I’m even denied shelter during severe storms. But this isn’t to punish anyone. No, not at all. It’s all for the safety of the public.
I have to register or face serious felony charges. I must put signs in my yard warning all of my presence. I must adhere to laws and regulations no other citizen (good standing or not) is forced to adhere to. It is a living nightmare, but even nightmares end. This has no sign of ending. I will never outlive my past. But they say it isn’t punishment.