Hawaii’s homeless registrants

By Michael McKay . . . Hawaii is one of 20 U.S. states that does not currently have residency restrictions of any kind for people on the sexual offense registry. That, however, may be about to change.

Legislators in Hawaii are considering a bill that would make it illegal for any person on the sexual offense registry to reside within 1000 feet of any school, child care facility, playground, or park.  Despite how popular such legislation might be with the public, the truth of the matter is this change would be an ill-conceived solution in search of a problem which simply doesn’t exist, all in response to a news media’s effort to fan public hysteria on the matter.

An article by Hawaii News Now claimed that their reporters had scoured the state’s sexual offense registry and found 28 transient or homeless registrants listing public parks as their address. The resulting uproar from the public and politicians alike resulted in calls to “do something” about the so-called “problem.” But let’s look at just how much of a problem it really is and, if it is a problem, whether this pending legislation would do anything to fix it.

First, consider the fact that, compared to the other 49 states, Hawaii has the one of the lowest crime rates per capita overall and an extremely low rate of sexual assaults. Refer to the chart, below, excerpted from “Crime in Hawaii, Uniform Crime Reports, 2016.”  The number of rape cases has remained relatively level for over a decade, despite federal requirements enacted in 2011 and adopted by Hawaii in 2014 which greatly expanded the way Hawaii tracks and reports rapes and sexual assaults by modifying the language, expanding the definition, and including males for the first time as potential victims. Prior to 2014, Hawaii’s rape law only allowed for female victims.

The statistics cited above are expressed as rate per 100,000 population. Compared to a national average of 46.2, Hawaii’s rate per 100K was 22.2 – less than half the national average. Add the fact that 71.6% of all sexual assaults occur in a residence and that between 80 and 90% of all sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, and it becomes fairly obvious that the “predator lurking in the park” is largely an urban myth.

In fact, despite the news media claims that 28 of Hawaii’s registrants were living in parks, the truth of the matter is, homeless registrants are required to give law enforcement an address, and it is relatively common for homeless registrants to designate a park as their domicile even if they are not actually staying there on a regular basis. Rampant tourism makes municipal parks a lousy place to panhandle, and the islands are all completely ringed by gorgeous and inviting beaches, any one of which would make a great place to camp. Giving the police a park as an address makes a lot of sense for a homeless registrant, but actually staying there all the time doesn’t.

Hawaii has one of the lowest rates of registered citizens per capita in the country, with just 3,049 registrants in a state with a population of 1.5 million. That’s 214 per 100K population. Compare that to Wisconsin, which has 435 per 100K, Michigan with 440 per 100K, or Oregon with 688 per 100K. Even more interesting is the fact that Wisconsin, Oregon, and Michigan have all had some level of residency restrictions for registrants in place for some time. While this is neither the time nor place to make the causality argument, it could easily be hypothesized that those residency requirements are a major contributing factor as to why their rates are so high.

No one is saying that having homeless registrants sleeping in parks is a good thing. It is obviously not. But here’s where we should apply some common sense to this issue. Sleeping in parks is already illegal for everyone in Hawaii, unless you have a permit to stay in approved campgrounds. The police routinely sweep and dismantle makeshift encampments at Pu‘uhonua O Waianae, Kakaako Gateway Park, Waterfront Park, Kewalo Basin, and a site near the International Airport to relocate homeless people to shelters and other areas. The problem is, many homeless shelters refuse to accept anyone who is on the sexual offense registry.

Where will those people go? Hawaii is a very small, densely populated state. Draw 1000 foot circles around every park, playground, child care facility, and school and forbid registrants from entering into those “safety zones,” and you will effectively be driving them into the sea. Or back to prison. Could it be that this has been the hidden agenda all along?

Making homelessness illegal doesn’t make it go away; it simply moves it around to create the illusion that something is being done. Forcing registrants to go underground will simply ensure that law enforcement loses track of them, which would be an unintended consequence that few have considered.

Bottom line:  Hawaii doesn’t have a “homeless registrant” problem, it has an overwhelming and critically underfunded homelessness problem.  Hawaii has the highest rate of homelessness (21.1 per 100K) in the nation, roughly three times higher than the national average of 7.4 per 100K.

When Hawaii takes steps to fix thatwithout excluding registrants from the solution – they’ll be on the right path.

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Michael McKay

Michael McKay is NARSOL's Director of Marketing and a frequent contributor of articles to the NARSOL website. He is the published author of several non-fiction books, contributing editor & board member at LifeTimes Magazine, the executive editor of The Registry Report, and founding host of Registry Report Radio on BlogTalkRadio.

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    • #51484 Reply
      Tim on Wisconsin

      Cultural influence of standards.
      Hawaii is a test group. An isolated control group.
      SORNA imposed tyrants’ morality upon the whole & ex post.
      Duh. They’re posting Kids! If not they’re forced to maintain the database machine. Which will indeed impact future liberty. AHHHHHGGGG!
      PLAIN UGLY. FTR cannot come quick enough. Residency restriction is affirmative disability. Enforced via electronic means. Face recognition is gonna get real UGLY. So if I take I90 south, cam picks me out in car, face rec. Kicks in, auto tacked to Indiana border, lest I may stop.

      Anywhoooo! It’s -30 ° here. Hawaii please take me in. Ok I’ll sleep in a park.

    • #51497 Reply

      Does someone send this to the newspaper in Hawaii in response to their article? Or to the members of the legislature in Hawaii? I am thinking if the time is taken to write it and post it here is someone kind enough to send it along to the folks who need to be enlightened? For what tiny bit of good it may do. I feel the more they get letters and the more the legislature gets letters showing the opposite opinion might, hopefully, maybe, praying….have at teeny tiny impact. I know we as individuals have to do our part too.

      • #51502 Reply
        Sandy Rozek
        Sandy Rozek

        Yes, information is being sent to relevant people in Hawaii. Additionally, NARSOL people have been interviewed by a journalist who is doing a major story on the issue.

        Thank you, Michelle.

        • #51548 Reply

          This is one reason why I love NARSOL so much Sandy 🙂 Thank You!

      • #51504 Reply

        I personally wrote to the editorial board of the paper. Started doing that since replying here and other sites like it doesn’t get the info to those that need to see it, reporters included.

        • #51515 Reply
          Sandy Rozek
          Sandy Rozek

          Thank you, Dustin. We wish more people responded to articles with factual information. We routinely send informative letters with links to pertinent articles and studies to journalists, editors, publishers, and legislators, always with an invitation to further dialogue on the issues. We will occasionally receive a reply, but only occasionally. If these entities heard from a significant number of people, always with a respectful tone and a sharing of facts, maybe it would be more than occasionally.

    • #51531 Reply
      Edward Nightingale

      As stated, theoretically, the potential for FTR to be the basis for residency restrictrictions is pausible. I even think the whole registry itself is a way of increasing the odds that Registered Citizens will go back to prison.

      What better way to do so with laws that are catch 22. It’s a way of looking tough on crime without the guilt/whatever of sending someone to prison without, again theoretically, violating the constitution. We all are aware that the registry already violates the constitution, but that’s getting off the point.

      • #51643 Reply

        No doubt.

    • #51528 Reply

      General people act as if those on the Registry come from outside the United States or beyond the earth. Meanwhile, the registry itself is growing every single day. A low level felony can bar a person from getting a decent enough job or an apartment, and being on the Registry is far far far worse. People are calloused towards the condemned until they themselves are condemned or their loved ones. But then it has already been so much unlivable being on the Registry with all kinds of restrictions and rules and regulations; there’s really no freedom. People are digging a bigger hole, and if statistics speak any truth then many will find themselves in the same big hole. Sad thing is we all expect mercy when we are down, but the society is busy pointing fingers at the fallen. May peace and kindness be on all.

    • #51558 Reply

      Is there one state in the whole country where politicians try scare tactics and use scapegoats for electability and the general public responds with apathy? I would like to where that is so I can move there…

    • #51556 Reply

      This elected official who is pushing for this seems to forget his Hawaiian history of the locals there who were Japanese-American specifically when WWII was ongoing and how they were taken away from their residences to put into internment camps, even one in HI itself, Honouliuli. Maybe he needs to err on the side of sanity and commonsense. If he did not learn from history, then how can he expect to make a good judgement for the future?

    • #51605 Reply
      Tim on Wisconsin

      You know of those great historical people’s petitions includes the annexation of The republic of Hawaii in 1897. The native Hawaiians had leadership and cultural norms but was naturally overcome by big business agendas. This is so similar to the use of ex post law overcome by big data agendas. American culture had ratified its abandonment, but forces financial successfully twisted that cultural norm. Registration in SOR is in a peculiar sense an antitrust law of sorts.

    • #51903 Reply
      An MD

      I looked into the bill, which can be found on the Hawaii State Legislature website.

      I wrote a letter combining research and personal experiences that I am in the process of sending to every House legislator in Hawaii. There is also the opportunity to submit testimony online when they schedule a hearing.

      I urge everyone to do so – with the caveat that any evidence you submit will be publicly visible online via PDF in the “testimony” box.

      Personally, I am in a high-profile career so I am concerned about using my name to testify on such a sensitive topic, but I may just use my title (MD) and explain my reason for testifying anonymously. I am also emailing legislators with my actual name.

    • #52948 Reply
      An MD

      Good news, guys. I’ve been following this piece of legislation (Hawaii House Bill 283) and it hasn’t met the deadline it needs to in order to be considered further, at least this legislative session. It got referred to a committee but never came up on their agenda. The way it works is if it hasn’t been considered by the first of the two committees it’s referred to by a certain date, it’s dead; if it hasn’t made it out of the committees in the originating house by another date, it’s also dead. At least for this year’s legislative session. I don’t want to flatter myself and say I had a hand in this thing dying, though. It probably just died because they were too busy with other things, and because *most* bills die.

      Now, the caveat is Hawaii’s legislative sessions run on two year cycles, so any bills they did not get to this year (which is a lot) get automatically reintroduced next year. And of course the rep who introduced it originally could just keep reintroducing it in subsequent years too – if he cares enough. So two things can happen. Either the issue will become less of an issue as everyone forgets about the article highlighting the *gasp* homeless RSO’s registered to a park (likely because they can’t lie down or sit on city streets on Oahu per the sit-lie law), or the rep who introduced this bill will use the year to curry favor for his bill. I guess we’ll see in a year, eh?

      I wonder if I should email the newspaper that started this business with a version of my letter and (nicely) point out their inaccurate, fearmongering reporting, but I don’t want to encourage them to write more articles about this thing.

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