By Emily Horowitz . . . Last week, Anthony Weiner was released from federal prison to a Bronx halfway house after serving 21 months for sending sexually-explicit messages to a 15-year-old girl. Next, like approximately 4.5 million others on probation/parole, he’ll spend 3 years on supervised release.
Supervised release is no cakewalk; while on it, one is subject to unannounced visits and random searches, needs approval for travel and housing, and must regularly report to probation (in New York, reporting can take hours, resulting in missed work). Each year, more than 600,000 people leave prison and face a web of re-entry challenges — first probation/parole, which often act like a “tripwire” by creating barriers rather than supports for re-entry, with infractions like late curfews, moving violations, or missed phone calls from officers resulting in penalties or more prison. In Weiner’s case, he’ll also pay a $10,000 fine.
Most significantly, Weiner is also now about to become one of the more than 900,000 Americans on sex offense registries for the rest of his life (only Level 1 offenders in New York are removed after 20 years). We’ve spent decades now adding people to these lists without thinking hard about whether the ostracism it engineers is effective or humane.
So what will this mean for Weiner, and for us?
His address and personal information will always be public, and communities may be notified when he moves in. He’ll have to register in other states if he travels (if he travels to Florida for five days or longer, he’ll also be on their registry for life; many other states have similar rules). While on probation, Weiner may face residency restrictions as well as other regulations regarding contact with children, including his son.
If he moves, he’ll have to notify police there and be on that registry. Other numerous lifetime restrictions in New York include reporting annually to the state sex offender office, notifying them within 10 days of moving, reporting yearly for updated photos, and providing all Internet screen names and email accounts.
When is enough enough?
Set up to prevent young children from “stranger danger,” named after abducted and murdered children (“Megan’s Law” and the “Adam Walsh Act”), sex offender registries were never intended for people like Weiner. They emerged from hysteria, not research, embraced after press reports, now debunked, inflated the numbers of “missing children.”