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Passport “identifiers” will not accomplish intended purpose

By Guy Hamilton-Smith . . .

On October 30th, the State Department announced that passports of people who are required to register as sex offenders because of an offense involving a minor will be marked with a “unique identifier” that will read:

The bearer was convicted of a sex offense against a minor, and is a covered sex offender pursuant to 22 United States Code Section 212b(c)(l).

The law which occasions this requirement, International Megan’s Law (IML), was enacted in 2016 under President Obama. In addition to the identifier requirement, IML allows for existing passports of those on the registry to be revoked, and imposes criminal penalties on them for failure to provide the government with advance notice of international travel plans.

While U.S. law already provided for destination countries to be put on notice regarding the travel plans of those on the sex offender registry, IML ratchets things up by requiring the person to carry the government’s “identifier” with them wherever they go abroad.

Ostensibly, the rationale underlying IML and policies like it, such as its namesake, Megan’s Law — the legal and pseudo-colloquial term for the sex offender registry — is this: those on the registry have a high rate of reoffending; therefore, their international movements ought to be tracked and destination counties put on notice when those on the registry travel abroad. Indeed, in the text of the pre-amble to IML, it is stated that “known child-sex offenders are traveling internationally,” implying a connection between those on the sex offender registry and sex tourism, even though this connection is unsupported by evidence.

Like most legislation of this kind, IML received little serious debate and was quickly signed into law.

While IML and similar laws are packaged as a way to prevent sexual violence and exploitation, they do little to nothing to meet those objectives because they make assumptions about sexual offending that are incorrect.

For instance, people who have been convicted of sexual offenses generally have one of the lowest rates of re-offense out of any class of criminal. Dozens of studies have consistently confirmed this finding, including research from the U.S. Department of Justice. Along similar lines, a 2008 time-series analysis of 170,000 unique sex offenses found that 95.9% of the time, the perpetrator was a first-time offender.

In other words, nearly all reported sexual offending is being perpetrated by people who are not on a registry.

In light of the evidence, the argument that IML and other sex offense policies misdirect resources and attention from actual causes and obfuscate actual solutions is compelling. Experts such as John Hopkins professor and Director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse Elizabeth Letourneau have argued that, instead of focusing our attention and resources on sex offenders and criminal justice, we ought to focus on education and prevention efforts.

Read the rest of the piece at In Justice Today.

This topic contains 9 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Mother of a sex offender 2 weeks ago.

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  • #26815 Reply

    Jonny everyman

    I obtained a passport before this went into effect to avoid the identifier. Sounds like that was all for naught.

  • #26845 Reply

    Maestro

    I got my passport prior to this new law also and it will expire in the summer of 2018. I also come off my state’s registry in the summer of 2018. If I were to get my passport updated AFTER I’m off my state’s registry, will I still get the unique stamp put on it?

  • #26872 Reply

    Frederic Britt

    My case ended in 1984. Victim as my 14 year old stepdaughter. No other offenses since. Live in California. Want to leave the country and live with my ife in Switzerland. Can I get off these ex offender lists.

  • #27015 Reply

    Mother of a sex offender

    Our cruise line just cancelled my son’s reservation for our Christmas cruise because he’s on the registry in Illinois…we are so disgusted with the way they’re treating our kids … It’s almost as if they were never children themselves… does anyone know a good criminal attorney in Illinois we can hire? Thanks. We always pray that one day we can all get together and do something about this ridiculous registry.

    • #27028 Reply

      Jonny everyman

      There are some cruise lines that allow sex offenders, just have to do your homework. I believe I read Holland America does not.

      If you are looking for an attorney, avvo.com is always a good place to start with its ratings and review system.

    • #27634 Reply

      Joseph

      You don’t need a criminal attorney for this, you need a litigator or a good constitutional attorney. I can’t believe that the ACLU hasn’t already jumped in on this.
      I want to take this opportunity to warn everybody that this whole thing is one great big gotcha. I heard about how the authorities will hold you and grill you when you return to this country, and my first thought was that I’m an American citizen on American soil and so they can just f#*k themselves. But, here’s the “gotcha” – the information you must give to comply with IML is as close to impossible to comply with as it can be. It’s designed that way so that if you don’t cooperate upon reentry, you’ll be toted off to Federal holding and charged with failure to comply with IML requirements. What I’m talking about is any change of plans after you depart will be a violation of Federal law. You’ll be damn lucky if you make it through customs and get home the same day you return from abroad.

  • #27416 Reply

    Made a mistake

    My crime Was a tier 1 federal offense. After 15 years I’m not required to register anymore. Does that affect the IML passport problem at all? So in May of 2019 I will be off the registration. Will I get my regular passport status back?

    • #27718 Reply

      Kendal

      I am not a lawyer, and do not play one on TV, however, from what I read on Cong Smith’s website “Now, U.S. passports of convicted pedophiles who are on a state’s public sex offender registry will be stamped with the identifier: “The bearer was convicted of a sex offense against a minor and is a covered sex offender pursuant to 22 United States Code Section 212 (c)(I).””. That would indicate that the only way you get the stamp is if you are on the registry. If you are not registered, then you don’t get the stamp. Or at least that is the way I read it

      • #27835 Reply

        John D

        I’ve read it both ways. I get off the registry in April, I’m only on it because of a stupid parole stipulation any way but none the less if we still don’t have clarity by then I will let ya know how it shakes out for me. I am most definitely getting out of here before the gas chambers go up.

      • #27872 Reply

        Maestro

        ““Now, U.S. passports of convicted pedophiles who are on a state’s public sex offender registry will be stamped with the identifier”

        And right there is them putting their own feet right down their own throats: Pedophiles.
        Bring a dictionary to a legislative meeting and read the description of “pedophile/pedophilia”, many of us who have had rendezvous with POST PUBESCENT teenagers do NOT qualify as pedophiles.
        I feel they should be challenged based on their wording and that COULD screw up their whole intent.

        Think about it. Remember that the legal system takes wording into MAJOR consideration.

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