Guy Hamilton Smith: MI AG Dana Nessel “Argues the truth about SORA”

Used with permission

By Guy Hamilton-Smith . . . Michigan’s Attorney General has entered the cultural and legal conflagration of how we reckon with sexual violence in our society with a remarkable (and compelling) argument: Michigan’s sex offender registries are not effective at stopping sexual violence.

It’s a remarkable argument. Safety and accountability have been the ostensible watchwords in our ongoing collective discussion of sexual violence, but strong (and understandable) emotion has tended to override those concerns and diverted discourse into negative-feedback loops of ever more brutal consequences for anyone who would even be perceived to stand in the way of that punitive impulse. Just ask Aaron Perksy.

For politicians, then, few bets have been as safe as wanting to punish sex criminals harsher than the last person who spoke. Statehouse legislation proposing new and harsher restrictions for the nearly million people now on America’s sex offense registries have been as perennial as the grass in a nationwide race-to-the-bottom, regardless of whether or not those proposals were grounded in any sort of evidence. Court decisions have favored a brand of results-oriented intellectual dishonesty to conclude that registration is non-punitive and designed to enhance public safety (though with some notable exceptions), even as they turn people into permanent nomadic pariahs wholly incapable of redemption.

And so, it is indeed remarkable that Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel made the argument that sex offender registries are exquisite punishments that undermine safety in important ways. The cases the briefs filed in People v. Betts, and People v. Snyder involve state constitutional challenges to Michigan’s sex offense registry in the context of a pair of people who were convicted of sex offenses in the mid-90’s, well before modern registration schemes were born.

The AG’s briefs make the case that Michigan’s SORA scheme is punishment, and therefore can’t be applied retroactively. That alone, that an AG would be making the argument that these laws are punishment, is remarkable enough. But these arguments go much, much further than that.

Nessel’s arguments forcefully and passionately highlight how modern registries are objectively bad public safety policy.

Modern social science research has shown that SORA’s extensive burdens are excessive in relation to SORA’s purported public safety goals. There are two salient points: 1) research refutes common assumptions about recidivism rates that supposedly justify SORA’s extreme burdens; and 2) regardless of what one believes about recidivism rates, registries are not good tools to protect the public.

Read Guy’s complete piece here at Simple Justice.

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    • #52143 Reply

      I’m…I’m speechless here. I have the two amicus briefs she filed on this issue and they read like what a NARSOL attorney would write!!! I love this. I just wonder how the courts will react to her amicus brief!! This lady just refuted every argument ever used by any court to uphold these draconian byzantine codes we are forced to languish under.

      Judges won’t be able to ignore this brief since the 6th Circuit has long-since branded the retroactive application of the registry and its newest restrictions as punitive. I would love to be a fly on the wall when the Solicitor General and the judge who will preside over this class action lawsuit reads those briefs. How would they even begin to argue back against a prosecutor who is saying this stuff??

      I want NARSOL admin to respond to this query of mine. What think ye?

    • #53376 Reply

      In 1945, George W. Bush married Barbara Pierce. She was 16 years old and he was 21. That is considered a sex offender on today’s law so George W. Bush could and should have been put on Sex Offender Registry, if he was still alive he could and should have been made to register as Sex Offender and they have made everyone who committed a sex offence before megans law have been made to retroactively register

    • #54207 Reply

      Hey Everyone,
      Just curious, I know that the Federal acts of SORNA of 2006 and 2011 were ruled unconstitutional. However, what about the state laws that were enacted AFTER my arrest date. I was arrested in 2001. Since then Michigan has enacted several laws AFTER my arrest that can be found on the legislative summary on the Michigan Sex Offender registry list such as:
      Michigan SOR Public Act 542 of 2002
      Michigan SOR Public Act 237 of 2004
      Michigan SOR Public Act 238 of 2004
      Michigan SOR Public Act 127 of 2005
      Michigan SOR Public Act 121 of 2005
      Michigan SOR Public Act 132 of 2005…..
      Isn’t that a violation of the ex post facto laws of the Michigan Constitution? NOT the Federal and can I sue in State Court to get these state laws to not apply to me? Can NARSOL or the ACLU of Michigan weigh in?
      Thanks T.G

    • #54718 Reply

      Once again a major update followed by almost complete silence. It’s not a good trend.

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