New Mississippi sexual offense legislation will do more harm than good

Based on comments by our wonderful readers, I have edited this piece by adding an additional paragraph. S.

By Sandy . . . The Mississippi Legislature July 1 passed a bill that may be well-intentioned but is ill-conceived and potentially destructive.

Senate Bill 2009 stipulates:

. . . . it is unlawful for a person required to register as a sex offender under Section 45-33-25 to do or commit any of the following actions with respect to the victim of the offense triggering the duty to register under this chapter:

          (a)  Threaten, visit, assault, molest, abuse, injure, or otherwise interfere with the victim;

          (b)  Follow the victim, including at the victim’s workplace;

          (c)  Harass the victim;

          (d)  Contact the victim by telephone, written communication, or electronic means;

          (e)  Enter or remain present at the victim’s residence, school, or place of employment when the victim is present.

Certainly no victim, nor anyone else for that matter, should be allowed to be subject to threats, assault, molestation, injury, or harassment.

But visit, contact, or live/be in the same location with?

This legislation lumps together actions that are illegal and should never occur under any circumstances with actions that are legal and, even for former victims and their abusers, can be appropriate.

This legislation is “umbrella” legislation, affecting all who wear the label “sex offender” without regard for individual circumstances. This legislation imposes a consequence that extends beyond the punishment phase, many for life. This legislation will destroy families that have overcome the past, reconciled, and are living in safe and peaceful relationships today. This legislation may well prove to be unconstitutional.

In every state in the union are men who are on the registry for consensual sex with an underage partner, and some of these men and their “victims” married and are raising families. Under this law, it is now illegal for them to live together or be anywhere at the same time until such time as the wives are financially able to hire an attorney — or knowledgeable enough to attempt legal proceedings without one — , petition the courts for the right to live with their husbands, and be granted such permission.

This legislation ignores two of the most valuable tools in sexual offender treatment and rehabilitation available today, family reunification therapy and restorative justice, two initiatives that, for those who choose them, hold out more hope for healing of victims and perpetrators alike than do incarceration and traditional therapy. For those unfamiliar with, or skeptical of, the power of restorative justice and family reunification therapy, you will benefit from reading the series, “I’m a child rapist,” at narsol.org.

The bill does include a caveat stating that if “. . . the victim or the parent, guardian or conservator of the victim, enters an order allowing contact with the victim . . .” that the court may – MAY — enter that order if – IF — the court feels there are reasonable grounds.

But isn’t this backwards? If the parties and the families involved, be it a situation between parent and child, between siblings, or involving other relatives, have opted for reunification, have committed to it, have worked hard at it, have forgiven and wish to restore the normal familial relationships, why should the blessing of a court be needed?

Indeed, many families who have long ago forgiven, healed, recovered, and have been living together or enjoying being together in a family setting will, due to this legislation, now be ripped apart unless they petition the court for permission to do what they have been safely and successfully doing for possibly years.

The vast, vast majority of former offenders will not reoffend, and unless connected by a familial relationship, are highly unlikely to seek contact with former victims.

Would it not have made more sense had the statute been written so that those feeling threatened and NOT wishing to have contact with a former abuser seek a protection or distance order?

Sense and sexual offense legislation – seldom seen together.

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Sandy Rozek

Sandy is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.

  • This topic has 11 replies, 1 voice, and was last updated 2 months ago by AvatarPerry.
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    • #74772 Reply
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      Jamba

      These kinds of laws just continue to prove these people are BUFFOONS .

    • #74775 Reply
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      Donna

      I am sure these people have nothing better to do. What a joke, an embarassment to them all the way.

    • #74777 Reply
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      Ken

      Thank you, Sandy. As someone who is directly affected by this legislation, let me state emphatically that it is indeed already destructive. It puts an impenetrable barrier between myself and my son. He would call me several times every day, and now we’re cut off from all communications. He is devastated. I am devastated.

      What about a person who has done time for statutory rape, and now is married to his “victim”? I’m sure there are more than a few in that situation in Mississippi. This would require them to separate until she can afford to get a lawyer and petition the court, and the judge deem that there is no longer any danger.

      This is ill-conceived legislation and done in total disregard for due process, blocks reconciliation, and tramples constitutional rights. Welcome to Mississippi, the hospitality state.

    • #74782 Reply
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      nobody in particular

      Essentially, every addition to the already staggering amount of restrictions imposed on registrants is just a further effort to reach one inevitable conclusion: that those convicted, or just accused of a “sex” crime, are literaly no longer wanted *anywhere* within society, even around their own children, spouses, or families. Condition “(e)” is particularly troubling, as it basically states that a registrant can’t shop, or do any other normal, nonthreatening activity in an arbitrary location, so long as their victim is merely *present* there. It’s easy to see where this is going, because the next step would be to say that no registrant can be at a location where *any* victim is so much as walking around, and the justification, of course, would be the same “public safety” line that has been fed to the masses from the start. I cannot express enough how sorry I am for the devestation this will have on families, the community, and yes, especially the victims themselves. It seems that rather than healing and restoration, policymakers would rather just continue to rub salt into old wounds, purely for their own personal gain.

    • #74781 Reply
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      Dustin

      What inspired this piece of idiocy? Can whoever wrote it provide anything more than an anecdote to show the supposed need for this law? Or is it just another election year reelection ploy to show “we care about the children”? I suspect the latter.

      Honestly, is there one single legislative body in this country that can let one session pass without adding new registry laws? They were absurd for 3 or 4 years after Smith v. Doe (likely because lawmakers saw it as a blank check to impose as many punishments as they could dream up and call it “civil”). Now they’re getting just plain asinine.

    • #74780 Reply
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      Warlock

      Since some men end up marrying their victims once out of prison, wouldn’t this be unconstitutional? Why wouldn’t they be allowed to contact their wife? If you have to register and you married your victim, is your wife allowed to contact you? Don’t these people ever think before passing these laws?

    • #74803 Reply
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      SHAWN

      So who is going to enforce these laws? If B.L.M. gets their way there will be no cops. I can’t wait until.they send a social worker to my door to plead with me to register.

    • #74856 Reply
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      Ray Roberts

      In Maine the victim can do what they want, such do any the things listed, the victim can follow his offender into a store and do what ever he wants, if the offender defends him self the offender is at fault, The victim can do whatever he wants except kill the offender.

    • #74858 Reply
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      Ray Roberts

      In Maine the victim can do what ever they want to his offender. If the victim makes contact to the offender, the offender is wrong. The victim has life time rights.

    • #74921 Reply
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      G. Thomas Laws

      Here we go again. Another FEEL GOOD LAW. The politicians think that adding more restrictions to citizens group labeled as “Sex Offender” will make the public safer. Show me the proof.
      A sex offender is less likely to recommit a sex crime than most other law breakers, yet are punished more. Here most sex offenders are known to the family where most of the healing begins. Wake up American law makers. There are better ways to score points and get elected.

    • #74932 Reply
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      Perry

      Jim Crow all over again.
      Done.

    • #75912 Reply
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      mut

      this is what happens when movie stars and women get involved in politics.
      no offense.

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