They Say It Isn’t Punishment

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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.

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7 Thoughts to “They Say It Isn’t Punishment”

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  1. Paul

    You know what this is called, don’t you? Orwellian doublespeak! Remember 1984? They used the word “love” when they meant “hate”. They used the word “freedom” when they meant slavery. And so, they use the word “civil” instead of “punishment.” It’s really no different. Remember that 1984 was a cautionary tale regarding Stalin and Fascism.

  2. Paul

    Sorry. Stalin and Communism. Although at their core, the two aren’t that much different.

  3. Nh Registrant

    Oh, it DEFINITELY is a punishment. When you are ostracized and banned for even living in public housing, it’s more than some civil thing.

    When you look at it from outside the box, you can see what the prime motivators are for the existence of the UNCONSTITUTIONAL Registry:

    MONEY and POLITICAL POWER.

    Those are the only reasons that the Registry, and the accompanying even harsher laws being passed, exists. Do these politicians and “public servants” care about protecting vulnerable children? NO. They don’t care one iota about keeping children safe. If they did, they wouldn’t:

    – Keep voting for more and more cuts to Public Assistance – which primarily benefits and feeds children.

    – Keep shipping jobs overseas by passing these horrible trade “deals” which take jobs away from parents of young children.

    – Keep slicing up families with their attack dogs: DCYF and CPS while stuffing the children like sardines into foster homes and forgetting about them.

    – Keep the Registry public which DIRECTLY HARMS and ENDANGERS the children of Registrants.

    – Keep fighting for longer prison and jail sentences which keep parents away from their children.

    So, you see, Politicians, Police, DOC people don’t give a hoot about protecting children. They care about their paychecks and whatever makes those paychecks larger. They outright LIE to the public about the data concerning sex crimes and inflate the numbers to suit their financial and career agendas.

    If they GENUINELY cared about children, there would be NO registry and there would be common sense legislation. No child would go hungry or be homeless either. And the family unit would be the MOST important thing in the world.

    But, sadly, that is NOT the case anymore in this country.

    1. Paul

      I would add one more point to this excellent comment: Children are routinely put on the registry. It is beyond hypocritical to say in the same breath that one cares about children and simultaneously espouse the belief that children should be disenfranchised for the rest of their lives. And yet we see it all the time. The hypocrisy surrounding this issue is simply stratospheric.

  4. Tyrus Young

    In September, 2013, the US Supreme Court ruled against ICE for the detention of aliens in excess of six months without proper determination and ordered those held beyond six months to be released. One of the side issues raised and discussed by the jurists was that about 2,900 sex offenders would be released and that could pose a danger to society. The majority held that the rights of the individual trumped those of the community.

    This is a clear indication that the 2003 ruling should be overturned as the needs of the community have been held as subservient to those of the individual. In the case of ex post facto situations there should be absolutely NO question that subsequent laws should not be applied.

    Any legislator who genuinely believes that forbidding Americans from sponsoring adults for immigration (per the AWA) or requiring a passport branding the holder for a past wrong (the Intl. Megan’s Law) are not punishments needs a better education. They are buying in to the unfounded hysteria of a limited number of horrendous acts perpetrated by a very small minority.

    Too many congressional members feel it is Un-American to try to control illegal entrants with spotty records out of the country. Yet, they had no problem creating an atmosphere that allowed USCIS to essentially deport my wife of nine years. Not for something that she did… but because 20 years ago, a person under age 18 (but past the age of consent) involved me in a he said-she said situation. Obama claims it is wrong for us to break up families just because a few of them broke our laws on entering the country. But forcing my wife and I to either leave the country or live in separate countries is not punishment?

    Under the new International Meaghan’s Law, there is the threat that my passport will be confiscated and re-issued with a Bold Announcement that I am a
    Sex Offender. Excuse me, 20 years ago I committed an offense that was a sex related offense against someone. I fulfilled all my probationary requirements including 5 years of invasive behavioral counseling. Saying I am a Sex Offender states that it is a current situation. No such proof exists. Statistically per the DOJ, I am highly unlikely to commit another offense, therefore making a statement that I am something that implies a current status is an outright misrepresentation by the US Government. Considering that most developed countries have access to the DOJ database, isn’t labeling a passport no more than seeking to punish holders through continued embarrassment? Wouldn’t it be just as crass to label victims passports as being Sex Victims?

  5. Was released from prison 1993 no one ask me to sign up for sex offender, even got my gun right back from the Dept. of Corrections, 16 years after completing parole they hit me with sex offender.

    They gave me an arraignment, but instead, took me off the court docket and instead of my arraignment on the same day the DA’s office call me to the their office then sent me over to the sheriff’s office to sign up for sex offender without any court proceeding.

    Sex offender was put on my driver’s license and my pic. on the sex offender web site, I refused to sign up because of no hearing, they arrested me again on Dec.1st well I mite get a hearing this time, but I’m not sure. I do know that under SORNA which Louisiana has implemented they cannot charge me under the final guidelines of SORNA in which they state under case law up dates the final guidelines which state the 4 categories, THIS MAY HELP SOMEONE ELSE OUT THERE, GO TO SMART: Office of sex offenders Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending,, Registering, and Tracking. You will find the Law for Retroactive sex offenders who they can’t charge.

    Gary in Louisiana

  6. Think we should all take civil actions suits against the officials who make these laws that are against the Supreme Law of our Nation, the U.S. Constitution.