The insidious policy of blanket exclusions for registered sex offenders

Abstract reprinted with permission by author

By Catherine L. Carpenter . . . Saying something is true does not make it so. And saying it louder does not make it truer. But such is the legislative posture behind modern day sex offense registration laws that punish those who commit sex crimes because of entrenched myths that overstate the laws’ positive impact on public safety and exaggerate recidivism rates of offenders. And it is not only registration schemes themselves that have been scaffold-ed by these myths, but numerous ancillary laws that exclude benefits to offenders strictly because they have committed sex offenses.

Sadly, this sticky, but false, narrative has provided the animus that galvanized implementation of registration and notification regimes. And in its most recent chapter, the narrative has been formalized into blanket exclusions – or what this article calls “all except for” provisions – that have inserted into a myriad of criminal justice reform efforts without much notoriety.

The effect? Registrants and their families have been prohibited from broad-based and important ameliorative changes to the carceral state, many to which they should be entitled, and to which they are denied only because of their status as registrants. Indeed, within comprehensive legislation covering numerous crime and sentencing reforms, these ubiquitous blanket exclusions have the markings of boilerplate language that have been introduced even where the new legislation has no rational relationship to the protection of the public’s safety or the prior sex offense conviction.

This article examines the moral panic and false data used to buttress blanket exclusion provisions – their inflated importance obvious. It concludes that these measures, which are un-tethered to public safety concerns, and only supported by governmental and community animus, violate fourteenth amendment protections.

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    • #76227 Reply
      Christopher Pelloski
      Christopher Pelloski

      An outstanding Law Review piece. I hope someone adds this as a supporting document to their comment to the Department of Justice regarding the new Adam Walsh Act amended regulations, which is still open for comments (due 10/13/2020 at 11:59 pm -0400). I already submitted mine and would have included this piece if I had it before!

    • #76229 Reply

      I work in reentry in Louisiana. Everyday I am helping clients, who benefited from our state’s 2017 criminal justice reform laws, reenter society and make the most of their second chance at life. The majority of our clients were convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. Because of changes to to our laws, many of our clients were able to get a parole hearing and a portion of them were indeed granted parole. These men and women are good people who made a terrible choice many many years ago and have since rehabilitated themselves, seen the error or their ways and are desperate to give back to the world. I’m proud to say they are all doing so in impressive ways. Yet, I am reminded daily that there is a difference between my clients and myself. They do not have “murderer” on their drivers licence but mine says “sex offender.” They can engage in social media and become a part of virtual society, I can’t. They are often featured in the media as symbols of redemption and society’s ability to forgive, I have only been featured as a mug shot meant to shame and malign me. When natural disasters loom the community opens it arms to offer shelter in their own homes while I would be excluded from shelters of last resort. I see men and women who were convicted of murdering a teenager go on to enjoy all life has to offer and live the American dream. A dream that is denied me because I made the horrible choice to have sex with a teenager. I am happy for and proud of our clients and I believe they have earned the right to be happy and contribute to society. But I often feel like I should be ashamed of wanting the same for myself. These are not thoughts I share with my clients. When my organization shows up at the capitol during the legislative session to push for more reform I know that people like me are purposefully excluded from any change we might see. I stopped sharing my feelings of exclusion with my fellow reform advocates once I realized they viewed “sex offenders” as serious weak spot in negotiations. I walk around feeling like a living irony. After years of having it beat into my head that “people like me” are even lower than the lowest and don’t deserve a second chance…. a part of me starts to believe that…..and the part of me that does still have hope knows I shouldn’t tell people I do. The only feeling that society wants me to have about myself is shame but they are much more generous with every other type of person who is formerly incarcerated.

    • #76232 Reply
      Sandy Rozek
      Sandy Rozek

      Chris, that is a wonderful idea. I took the liberty of doing exactly that.

    • #76233 Reply

      Yo Flossy: Look. The System is designed to Destroy Us, because that is how Federal and State Legislatures intend for it to do. I’ve said it once and I’ll continue saying it over and again. They want to SANCTION MURDER on Us. One of many ways to do so is to deny Us basic Human Rights to Shelter, Food, Clothing and etc…and yes I said that too. Shelter, Food and Clothing, because it’s already happening in other places around the country. I cannot say for absolute certainty that it is, but I can pretty well assume that it is. I mean, after all, Legislators ‘Assume’ We’ll act Out in certain ways, so what they say is ‘Law’. I on the other hand-though I’m not supposed to, can’t do that. Well, I just did! Everyone else that committed all kinds of crimes can have their Second Chance, but WE CAN’T?? That is nothing short of ‘a Nazi Regime’ Practice!!
      That’s right. Nazi Regime!!! That is what these legislators at the federal and State Levels are along with Prosecutors and Judges that go along with all that Crap…Nazis! I’ll call them all that to their faces too, and don’t care if they like it or not!!!!!

    • #76234 Reply

      The whole law and system for SO’s smacks of double jeapordy. It’s a life long punishment not given at sentencing but a second punishment that is inflicted. I give them enough credit to know that what they are doing is punishment not protection. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if someone had bad intentions this farse of a measure would not even be much of an inconvienence. When you couple that fact with the fact that there are so many red dots in many places you can’t tell them apart, it adds to the idea that, AGAIN, this does nothing. Sure if you had ONLY knew about that one extra red dot… In general people should just simply know to exercise caution but the humilation and exclusion is a violation of the constitution and of civil liberties.
      Flossy I’m sorry to hear that you are now agreeing with the label and have low self esteem because of it. Pretty soon you won’t be good enough to eat at the same establishment. It’s not protection it’s hate. I don’t for a minute have an esteem problem what we have is a LIBERTY problem. We have a regime problem and I will not be sad the day that the Chinese bust down the gates nor will i lift a finger. That’s how i feel. That possibility is very real, maybe not the Chinese situation but a regime change situation. It’s our responsibility as american citizens to overthrow tyrants and is exactly what this country is now.
      I leave your with:
      “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God” (proposed by Franklin for the motto of the Great Seal of the United States)
      ~Benjamin Franklin
      But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
      The Declaration of Independence [1776]

    • #76241 Reply
      Christopher Pelloski
      Christopher E. Pelloski

      @Sandy: Excellent!

    • #76240 Reply
      A Mistake They Made

      What if we started a Defamation of character class action law suit against the doctor that made the magazine article that caused the supreme court to be misled by false statistics. Not with the hope of winning but with the satisfaction that it will be more widely publicized. Every court that is forced to admit the stats were wrong cannot then use these stats against us anymore. Take it all the way to the supreme court.

    • #76244 Reply
      Tim in WI

      Those under felony indictment are made king for a time. A problem exists is that lawyers have usurped the process itself. By upholding Alaska V Doe the Rehnquist guaranteed more work for lawyer, more importantly precisely because of the relative disposition between database and the offenders specific liberty created by the promulgation of same act.Naturally common people people question the congressional authority and practice of employment of ex post “language” in statute. Simply put, It is the use of the language that counts as prescribed prima fascia evidence of congressional wrong doing.

      The potential ” legitimate civil uses” of the machine infrastructure outweighed the sovereignty of the(indentured)individual. No particular identification of the true problem was made in either of the 03 cases. That being the human right to live un-indentured! IMO s.o. registration is the reconstitution of human slavery as a civil cause rather distinguished from the ratified 13. Only the notion of property has changed and not the nature of the plantations. Naturally you must plant the seeds of fear 1st, before you can harvest the commodity for markets. You must also presume that a net positive result potential is created.

    • #76252 Reply

      Flossy, don’t let shame be forced upon you. Shame is simply self-contempt. There are those who hold everyone associated with registration as shameful people. The act was shameful, but a repentant and recovered person is not. Self-contempt plays into the hands of those who hate without reason. Authentic self tells us that we can love ourselves once more and love, and be loved. Charlie

    • #76253 Reply

      a product of the courts failure to enforce article 1 sections 9 and 10 coupled with decades long errosion of habeas corpus.

    • #76254 Reply

      I am so new to this.. my son was arrested for child porn possession and our lives have never been the same since. I am horrified at how they blanket all sex offenses. My son downloaded and looked but he never had contact with anyone and never would have. The sex registry is a nightmare and all the things imposed on the offender are ridiculous. You have no rights, you are treated like trash. No one cares what causes this and they do not care about helping the person to get rehabilitated they want to humiliate you so that you cannot live. I don’t think most people want to live when they can’t find a job, attend church without permission, pick up your children from school or go to their school or any activities, it is not human to be treated that way. There is redemption through God only and no one seems to care that the children that are affected are the children of the offender , no one cares they are ripping them apart. I am so angry. I am a Christian who raised my children in church , it is heartbreaking. How can I help in your future . How can I help ! I really need help in getting a way to helpmate.

    • #76258 Reply

      A. MEN. , Charlie.

      If others will not redeem us..even after our repentance period has been made known to all mankind… STILL KNOW, THAT GOD ALMIGHTY, DOES.

      HE. DOES.
      HE. DOES.

      HE. …DOES.

      Proof? Someone, or some people, in your life, post-crime, and post-repentance, is still deciding to love you.

      Take a moment to count all of them.
      …Each day if you have to.

      Let THAT…marinate your heart and soul, for a while, instead of the other, that has been plaguing you for so long.

      Birds still sing beautiful songs to you, when you walk through their midst.

      Strangers still smile.

      Dogs still lick your nose.

      (Cats still stick up their nose!)

      …And ice cream is still sweet.

      HE. DOES!

      Blessings, my fellow Men and Women walking the same path as I.

      DONT. GIVE. UP. !

    • #76271 Reply
      TS Rohnevarg

      First and Foremost: STOP using, or even tolerating the use of, the term sex ‘offender,’ which is repugnant in its every application in both law and language.

      OFFENDER: Noun, formed from the verb “OFFEND,” adding “er.” “To offend” is a present tense verb; A present tense verb is a verb in “a tense expressing an action that is currently going on or habitually performed, or a state that currently or generally exists.”’ Adding “er” to a verb forms a noun with the meaning “a person or thing that does something”; “Does” is the third person conjugation of the present tense verb “to do.”

      THEREFORE, an ‘offender’ defines one who is PRESENTLY offending or generally offends, i.e., an habitual characterization, someone who can be generally characterized as offending. For example: builder, farmer, baker… The construction applies equally to terms such as ‘sex’ offender. To assert that one is a ‘sex offendER’ is, unless provably true, bald slander asserting that such individual habitual is in the practice of committing ‘sex offensES.’

      Accordingly, to define one who was previously convicted of a so-called ‘sex offense’ as a sex ‘offender,’ is to assert, falsely, that this individual is presently committing such crime or habitually commits such crimes. To falsely accuse someone of criminal conduct is per se DEFAMATION and, depending on your state, civil or criminal charges of defamation should be pressed against any such individual or agency falsely asserting such conduct. (Happily, we in New Hampshire have criminal provision to prosecute defamation [NH RSA §644:11]. You would be well-advised to review the criminal or civil remedies available to you to hold this defamatory conduct accountable.)

    • #76272 Reply

      Thank you, Support our constitution
      I needed the encouraging words you wrote so much. I am a Christian, my son has surrendered his life to the Lord but continues to be discouraged as his
      sentence gets closer. I (we) are trying to hold onto that very fact but facing the registry in the future is overwhelming thinking about it. Job opportunities, SO on your Drivers license, cannot go or do anything with your children, having problems with where to live with your family
      WHen the registry is public is not punishment it is humiliation that last for the rest of your life seems a bit overwhelming and cruel and unusual punishment. So thank you for reminding me there is still good and many blessings left. I would like to hear from some people who have been able to find a job and go on with your life
      successfully. I can’t bear the hopelessness I see on my sons face everyday of his life.

    • #76273 Reply


      I’m sorry to hear about your son. It is difficult when your natural desire to protect your children from life’s worst possibilities is rebuffed by a system designed to prevent former offenders from being restored.

      First, recognize that (aside from a spouse) your role as a mother is critical in giving your son a foundation of support on which he can lean when the battle wearies him. Whether your son is 14 or 40, being there for him will help his recovery so much more than you can imagine.

      Second, if you are able and willing, seek out a state and community that will give your son the best environment to rebuild. If you can relocate in order to provide better support, it will help so much. Check with organizations like NARSOL to find out which states can offer the most freedom for your son’s particular situation (this may take time, as each state’s laws can provide a more conducive recovery environment for persons with certain convictions than others).

      Third, when your son’s support needs are met, you may want to take the experience you’ve gained and channel it into registrant community support and advocacy. If you are highly motivated and able to advocate independently, you can engage your local, state, and national elected officials with why the registry is damaging to communities and individuals, impacting their constituencies far beyond the individuals consigned to the registry themselves. You can engage local public media when they put out false, misleading, or fear-mongering reporting targeting registrants (e.g. Halloween restrictions, which have historical basis for their existence, but are great FREE PR for officials looking to get re-elected in November). As you gain confidence, you can engage your social circle directly through compelling posts in your personal social media and through your interpersonal interactions. Registrants particularly have no voice in social media, so having a confident voice speaking truth to the lies will give perhaps some pause to reflect on their attitudes toward people which they likely harbor mistrust and malice. If you win some to reason, encourage them to advocate if you sense their willingness to do so. The more voices we have advocating, the more likely we will be heard.

      Be blessed!

    • #76285 Reply

      James thank you so much . I appreciate
      You telling me how to get involved. I am just a mother but I do have a voice and I will get involved in being an advocate not just for my son but for all going through
      the injustice of the registry. Thank you for your encouragement and advice, it is much appreciated. My son is grown with a family of his own who has stood beside him through it all as well as our entire family.
      Thank you for taking the time to respond
      to my (and my son’s brokenness).

    • #76286 Reply

      more and more pains and penalties … to keep us earning less and less at the bottom to support the millionaires at the top.

    • #76291 Reply

      Linda I am also a mother of a son on the registry. He is intellectually and developmentally disabled. He’s like a child of ten. He was put on the registry after being taken advantage and told to do something. He also never had contact with anyone. It is a horrible nightmare for the whole family as he does not understand what is happening and we must live the registry ourselves since we are his caretakers. We have lived in humiliation and shame for 8 years now. My son is no longer able to receive the services he is entitled to for his disabilities. We have to KEEP FIGHTING FOR CHANGE. There are thousands of people on the registry who do not deserve to be there in that situation. I am not officially on the registry but I am on it because I have to live all the rules and restrictions for my son. It has destroyed all our lives.

    • #76292 Reply
      Bill Hall

      @Linda. I have been able to find work and housing, thought it was not easy. And I am at the “lowest” level, meaning I am not even on the registry site for Arizona. But, as part of conditions of parole, I have had to disclose that I am a “sex offender” to any potential employer and/or landlord. As you can imagine, that doesn’t go over real well in either situation, and I have a hard time with that being an actual condition of parole. Anyway, I almost had a good job, interviewed well, and let them know about my incarceration; and they were ready to hire me. Once they talked to my PO, though, and he found out I had not disclosed the sex offense, he told me that not only was I not getting hired, but that he could have arrested me for that. Thank God he didn’t, but talk about ridiculous!
      Fast forward a few months, and I finally found a company that would hire me. I have been there over a year now, and though it’s not what I want to be doing, I am actively seeking work in the field that I want to be in. As for the housing, I disclosed to a potential landlord, and after having given them a $500 deposit because I thought that was the only place I would find, I found another place, but that guy kept my deposit. When I texted and called and tried to get my money back, he left a threatening voicemail on my phone. I went to the police a few days later and played it for an officer, but he said that he understood that “my feelings were hurt”, but that it wasn’t harassment, and I couldn’t file a complaint. Pretty much what I expected, which is why I didn’t go to them right away.
      I eventually did find housing, but it’s in a bad part of town, and pretty crappy, but it’s a place to live.

    • #76294 Reply

      in a civil context, being required to appear in person and provide [data] is a significant enough hardship on a subpoenaed citizen to entitle the citizen to remuneration. without witness fees paid in advance there is no duty to appear as that would not be very civil.

      Restitution Now!

    • #76304 Reply

      need to hook proponents of SORNA up to those machines to see what makes them [tick] before allowing them to vote on laws that inflict burdens in order to protect the public from perverts.

    • #76318 Reply
      Bob B

      I just heard a statistic from 2 people on the news related to some raid Georgia that “there is a child abduction every 40 seconds in the USA”.
      Are there any facts that support that extremely high number?
      Surely they are adding every individual report even when that person just went to grandmas house after school. I don’t know if that’s how the reach such outrageous numbers.
      As a fourth grader in the sixties, I went to a friends off the bus instead of going straight home and yes, my (single) mother freaked out and I heard her calling my name because I was just down the road.
      In the undeniable panic that is pushed by the media and legislators today, surely all law inforcement would be contacted and “emergency” banners would be scrolling across TV screens. Would that count as 4 abductions for being 30 min late from school? I don’t understand…

    • #76350 Reply

      Carol thank you for sharing with me. You are right it destroys the whole family when someone you love is on the registry.. my son is not yet but will be and I cannot believe the cruelty of the laws. Everyone deserves a second chance to prove themselves but they group all of the sex crimes together and have such harsh restrictiond on them they are set up to fail. I am going to get involved in fighting for the registry to be abolished, it serves no purpose but to further humiliate you even when you’ve paid for what you did. There is
      no registry for people who are murderers…but with these laws they
      enforce on you they set you up to fail . My heart is broken but we all have to stand up and fight the registry. It ruins everyone’s life. Thank you Bill for your encouragement , I keep praying my son will come back and be able to find work. His self esteem is very low. Thank you all for sharing.

    • #76370 Reply

      I wanted to put a warning out on here. There is a group on facebook that is posting offender profiles from the registries in Michigan. So far they have posted over 5000 persons. They are making no distinction between Offender or Predator. They are blanket labeling any Sex Offender as pedos. They are actively contacting employers and trying to get businesses shut down. And I believe there goal is vigilante justice.

      This is not a complete link as I do not want to break any rules, but this needs attention.
      Group name after main facebook link. /emoffenders/

      The group is titled: Exposing Michigan Offenders.

      This could increase assaults against offenders, and the group owner is blanket banning / blocking any person who tries to protect an offender.

    • #76410 Reply
      H n H

      Thomas, this should be frontpage news, but…. Maybe not. I was recently shunned in a rather cold unusual and blunt manner by a neighbor. I must say, the registry is doing its job of creating hate. Just perfect for our times, not enough hatred already.

    • #76556 Reply

      Welcome to the Brave New World, all of your votes have helped create this lovely state of things, and when the Police are truly defunded, not many of you will be safe from the inevitable sex offender death gangs that will form consequence-free and go about killing anyone on the public hit-list. Brace yourselves, it’s coming.

    • #76894 Reply
      Dennis Moore

      My question is…how is this NOT a violation of the fifth amendment double jeopardy law?
      In the that 17th century, criminals were taken to the town square, and the people were told what the criminals did. Thus began the Scarlet Letter punishment. It was done away with in the 19th century deemed as “cruel and unusual punishment”.
      As per Cornell University Law, one of the top 5 ivy league schools of law in the nation, states that “criminal shaming and humiliation is a form of punishment” so being put on the registry 10 years AFTER I served my S.I.S. and 5 years probation, how is this NOT a second punishment for the same offense? Plus, why am I being punished? For failure to register. Why do I have to register? Because I took a guilty plea. What was the guilty plea for? My original offense…so I am being punished AGAIN, for my original offense.
      17th century: Take them to the town square, tell the public what they did.
      21st century: Put them on the internet, tell the public what they did.
      There is NO difference!!! It IS a PUNISHMENT!!!
      ANY judge that doesn’t see this 5th amendment violation is a disgrace to that black robe they wear, which is supposed to stand for JUSTICE. They can twist it any way they want, but the fact IS, they have BLATANTLY violated our 5th amendment rights. They say drugs and alcohol play a part is sexual abuse…where are the lists of people (dangerous alcoholics) with DUI’s (over 60% recidivism rate) or the list of (dangerous drug dealers) that have caused thousands of deaths of children due to drug overdose. What’s next? Are they going to start rounding up all the women that had abortions that were over 8 weeks old and charge them with murder retroactively? They have our DNA, our fingerprints, and all the information they need.
      Giving the public a false sense of security with the registry does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. If we don’t abolish the registry, in time, EVERYONE will be on some kind of registry airing their dirty laundry. So why are there no other lists? Because their rights are protected by the constitution.
      Why is there no list of career criminals? Because their rights are protected by the constitution. Why is computer information blurred on cop shows? Their rights are protected by the constitution.
      A week from today I have to start serving a 60 day (shock time) 2 days a week in jail for 30 weeks for “failure to register” when i have done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING wrong in over 30 years. I have been at my job for over 2 years now and when they posted my picture all over the local TV station, I was shunned by people I work with. Now they won’t even talk to me or just turn and walk the other way when they see me coming.
      I don’t deserve this treatment in any way, shape, or form. All SORA and SORNA are doing is seeking revenge and retribution for the deaths of children that I had NOTHING to do with!!
      The registry is hateful, cruel, unwarranted, unjustified, and unconstitutional.
      Maybe we should start digging into these holier than thow hypocrites past and start telling the public about their torrid pasts? EVERYONE has skeletons in their closet.
      I’m ashamed to say I live in these “United States” where only the most evil people are in power.

    • #77540 Reply

      You have to get tough. I don’t just mean physically but mentally as well. You have to get smart because that’s what it’s going to take to play chess with these bozos.

      This IS a game. The ones who built this system figured out how to exploit democracy and an ignorant public. They figured out how to play ANY angle to justify their sex offense hell. They played the world against itself and they capitalized on RSOs being the weakest possible position for ANYONE trying to stand-up and defend themselves.

      Do not bend an inch to their system. You’re not alone but do yourself a favor and get REALLY smart. Because their chess game is one where they can change and rewrite the rules. They DO NOT play a fair game, so likewise neither should anyone who’s dealing with this system. They need to be smacked around tbh, so when the mob comes you damn well better fight. It’s the only response now that will suffice this late in the game.

      Get tough, get REALLY smart, and fight back. Don’t give up. And don’t get tired. Complacency is how things got to where they’re at. Nobody cared that this “silent killer” was building up in the shadows as we all went about our lives. Yes, that’s what we all wanted.

      Quiet, peace, no troubles. But life will never be the same I’m afraid. Once you’ve been made aware if you’re an honest and good person there’s just no way to go back to your old life. I know that’s how it is with me. Sure, I can try to forget. But there’s no way I can live peacefully knowing what’s happening is only going to get worse. I fight for a family member who needs the help. I fight for the people who can’t fight, and who are woefully unprepared and ill-equiped for this treacherous game. I fight because people do not understand the infiltration that’s happening as we speak.

      As I already said, “they” figured out how to exploit “democracy”…

    • #78041 Reply

      The best strategy we can employ when challenging the numerous registry schemes is to stop focusing on sensationalized, overblown recidivism statistics and start challenging the disabilities and restraints that are imposed in the modern-day iterations of the sex offender registry. The Alaska registry was upheld in Smith v. Doe was NOT upheld because of high recidivism rates, but because that first-generation registry law did not contain the byzantine code of life-crippling disabilities and restraints. That first registry was just verifying info on a registry card that was signed and mailed back in. The Internet was nowhere near as ubiquitous back then as it is now. I don’t know if the first registry was even public to start with or if it was limited to law enforcement only. There was no in-person reporting other than maybe reporting in for initial registration. There were no residency, work, or presence restrictions. There were no statutory bans on Internet access for P.F.R.s. (Think Packingham v. North Carolina that was overturned by SCOTUS). We need to focus on the restrictions and how those are unconstitutional.

      Until we can get the courts to recognize that the current iterations of the registry no longer bear any resemblance to the registry the Supreme Court contemplated in Smith v. Doe, we’re not going to make any significant headway in blowing huge chunks of the registry away.

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