The sexual offense registry — how did we get here?

By J . . . It started with a tragic event: the horrific actions against and slaying of Megan Kanka in 1994 by Jesse Timmendequas, a convicted sexual offender no longer on supervision. Prior to this year, most sexual offenders were only required to do some kind of self-reporting to a local jurisdiction or some other supervising authority.  In the aftermath, the claims if the Kanka family had known the history of their neighbor, they would have protected their daughter from him proved compelling and ultimately led to one of the most contentious, litigated, and often damaging legal protection schemes every conceived.

However, there is more to the story.

Megan Kanka wasn’t the only child whose circumstances helped create the perfect storm that led to the creation of a sexual offense registry. Prior to Megan, in 1989, eleven-year-old Jacob Wetterling was taken by a stranger while bicycling and was murdered. Although his body would not be discovered nor his killer identified for twenty-seven years, his kidnapping and disappearance led to the Wetterling Act, which required each state to create a registry, and was instrumental in what was to follow.

In 1994 a New Jersey representative named Paul Kramer sponsored a multi-part bill that would later become the New Jersey Megan’s Law bill. This was then moved to the national level in 1996, a time when Newt Gingrich presided over the House and Trent Lott was majority leader in the senate.

Politicians had already discovered by the mid ‘90s that a tough on crime approach was the surest path to getting and staying elected.

Fast forward to 2006 and the disappearance and subsequent murder of Adam Walsh, a crime that was never officially labeled a sexual crime, a crime confessed to by a man with no history of sexual offending. Adam’s father John Walsh, however, hitched his coattails to the sex offender wagon, devoting his resource to getting SORNA and the Walsh Act passed and building a successful television career for himself in the process. This completed the set of complex laws that essentially solidifies the registries of all states, placing any state that does not adopt them under sanctions and creating the illusion that there is a federal sexual offense registry.

And what has this led to? We now have QAnon, a group devoted to hunting pedophiles. They were formed on a website called 4chan and spread rapidly across the country, hunting local “pedophiles” using, among other devices, the sexual offense registry.

What does QAnon have in common with those who are responsible for creating the registry? Like them, they operate from a conservative, “law-and-order” platform, which resonates positively with a great many in our country. A basic tenet of this, one that is heard from one and all, is the need to help and protect children.

But does the registry do that?

The answer is an emphatic NO. In fact, no major study (and there have been thousands) has ever confirmed that the registry has made a notable elimination of any hazards to young persons from the actions of anyone who has a prior conviction for a sexual crime.

With or without the registry, it is completely dependent on the individual whether reoffenses occur or not. The registry is nothing more than an address book of people who have been marked as undesirable to hire, undesirable to live near, and unfit to remain in public.

No empirical evidence exists to show that the registry justifies the money invested, the time spent, or the privacy violation and enhanced danger it brings about.

Why do we continue to allow the existence of something that costs so much money, violates so many people’s rights, and doesn’t even do what it claims to do?

The easy answer? Because the money runs too deep. What has come to be the “sex offender industry” has become so entrenched, with so many people at so many levels benefitting from its existence, that dismantling it will be very difficult.

The answer to that is to keep hammering away with lawsuits, studies, and education.

Just keep hammering away.

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J was a "kid in the system," put on the registry as a juvenile. Now in his mid-30s, he works primarily anonymously online with advocates to shed light on the obvious facts of the registry and to encourage those with power to use it to do the same.

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    • #84161 Reply

      CJB

      “J”

      IT IS REPORTED THAT THE ENTIRE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IS VALUED AT OVER $238 BILLION; INCLUSIVE OF DIRECT AND INDIRECT COSTS;

      IT IS ALSO REPORTED THAT THE SEXUAL OFFENDER IS $28 BILLION OF THE AFOREMENTIONED

      STILL TRYING TO GET THE REAL FACTS FROM THE DOJ…WHICH, AS YOU KNOW, WILL BE HARD TO FULLY OBTAIN WITHOUT THE ‘REQUEST FOR INFORMATION FILING’..

      BUT THIS IS WHAT A RETIRED DOJ OFFICIAL HAS TOLD ME….

    • #84160 Reply

      CJB

      ‘J’…

      YOU ARE SO ON POINT….BEEN SAYING THE SAME THINGS FOR YEARS

      YOU GOT IT..

      THANKS FOR SHARING!

    • #84157 Reply

      Perry P.

      I keep saying this over and again: In addition to MONEY, this is also about the idea of ‘SANCTIONED MURDER’, and no one can tell me any different…especially with QAnon’s involvement. I bet you though; if any of THEM, or THEIR FAMILY, got some kind of sex Offense Conviction, they’ll move Heaven and Earth to get the most Softest Prosecutor, Judge and even Jury possible to ensure their loved one doesn’t get sentenced to a long period of time or get attacked by other Inmates Jails and Prisons LIKE MANY OF US HAVE. Moreover; it continues AFTER a Sentenced is served, with the Community Notification Laws that serve no other purpose than to ensure we get attacked and or killed. We all know this is the damn truth anyway. So also do ‘The Elected Elite Law & Order’ Politicians. Talk about Outright Corruption? This is it for sure!!
      Nuff Said!

    • #84183 Reply

      J

      Thank you all so much for your comments. I will be working more with NARSOL to do a few additional articles that can shed light all the way back to the 1930s. It is a tragic and often fascinating history of how the government handles sexual situations. Did you know for instance that lesbianism was not only a crime but was thought to be cured by boiling the woman in question? There was even a sexual offender registry thought to be one of the first in book in the bay area. Basically, the book was a list of what the police called the cities “undesirables” and where they currently lived. Three guesses whose houses they busted into when a crime happened.
      Ill take you all on a journey it is a very twisted one. Including a secret underground sexual offender jail in Pennsylvania that is raking in money and at one time was housing homeless sexual offenders. I have inside stories from that. The men there were treated horrifically and it was in the last 8 years.
      Keep your eyes and your hearts open folks. There is more to come.
      Please tell your friends to stop by NARSOL often because you never know when I will drop the next exciting one.
      All the love to you all.

    • #84195 Reply

      mut

      yes, money money money. and everyone fairly paid for their less than outstanding civil services except those upon whos involuntary backs they built the new [cotton] industry.

    • #84191 Reply

      Linda Rivers

      my autistic son who was on the spectrum got caught up in the system at 16 years old. He made a mistake. He was asked to show his penis by an older boy and being developmentally delayed did not have the insight or judgement not to do so. A neighbor called police and he was arrested.He was grossly overcharged by small town police in 1997. This was just when Meagans Law came out. It was good politics for some to hang their hat on. My son was then held until 18 years old and offered a plea he did not understand. This plea put him on the sex offender list for life. Not for a violent crime,not for raping anyone but for pulling down his pants . I am sure with the developmental age of 9-13 he did not even think about what he was doing. also he was heavily medicated. While in custody and charged as an adult believe it or not. He was denied his medications by the jail and raped in the adult pod. We could not fight his taking the plea as the court determined he was competent.His lawyer was a complete failure. I believe a better lawyer would have helped but we had to rely on a public defender who never brought up his conditions or went to trial. Long story made short, after years of abuse and needless incarcerations for technical failure. After years of harassment by police and having posters put up around his home. My son
      committed suicide 2 years ago. He was 39 years old. His name is Uriah Rivers. He was a delight to all that knew him. He built bird houses. He rescued animals. He was loved by his family friends and neighbors. In his memory we are donating and reaching out to organizations who tirelessly fight the unjust justice system. We sponsor NARSOL in his memory

      • #84216 Reply

        Jeremy from Indiana

        (Awaiting moderation)

    • #84228 Reply

      free

      My “therapist” wanted me to admit to a crime I did not plead guilty too. I said no, they revoked my probation. I even took a voice recorder into sessions. “My” lawyer listened to about 5 minutes of recording and said there was nothing there

      When all participants of a “system” are feeding from the same nose-bag, free from competition — and are allowed (by your neighbors and friends — hopefully not you) to
      • Make the laws,
      • Enforce the laws,
      • Prosecute the laws,
      • Hire the prosecutors,
      • License the “defense” attorneys,
      • Pay the “judges”,
      • Build the jails,
      • Contract jails out to private entities,
      • Employ and pay the wardens,
      • Employ and pay the guards,
      • Employ and pay the parole officers,
      One can’t honestly call it a “justice” system. It’s a system of abject tyranny. .

    • #84226 Reply

      free

      These laws would not have saved any of these kids. They would not have saved Megan, Jacob, or Adam. I cannot say for sure about Megan or Jacob, but Adam’s abduction was total parental neglect. If it happened today the mother would be so charged. I would imagine all these parents are angry, with themselves.

      Lots of officers off the street to tend to the registry, be it sitting at a desk to register them or out going door-to-door doing checks.

    • #84209 Reply

      mut

      a callous indifference to fundamental human rights

    • #84253 Reply

      T & S

      Lets call it what it really is…

      Adam Wash, while his death is sad, John Walsh made a killing off the death of his child, and even went into the oval office with Pres Clinton. But Wait a minute, Adam’s mother went to Sears, and dumped the kid at the atari game console area, that happen to have older kids there. The older kids began to make a fuss, a 17 year old “security guard” kicked the kids out of the Sears store, including Adam. The guard refused to allow Adam to find his mother, who was busy shopping for a lamp, and did buy one. Then, hour(s) later, did she look for Adam and could not find him. So, who is to blame, the mother who dumped her kid at the game consoles without any supervision, the jerk security guard who forced the child out of the store – not allowing him to find mommy — or who ever it was that saw this poor child, and did those horrible acts? The chain of events were easy to break, more careful mother, a smarter security guard, or hey, lets blame the person who did the crime. My mom would never let me stay at the atari area years before this, at Sears because she was not a careless woman.

      Megan’s law:
      So Megan’s mother, made a nice dinner, and allowed Megan to go outside after dinner (about 7pm), and mommy went to take a long nap. Megan was allowed to be out at night, alone! Nobody watching her, nobody caring for her safety. A person saw this child alone at night, nobody watching and used a trick to get her to leave the area around her house. Hour(s) later, mommy wakes up, and where’s megan?

      My parents wouldn’t allow me outside alone until I was 16 years old, and able to defend myself.

      A reoccurring theme, negligent parents – some would call bad, and something bad happens to their child, and suddenly the president of usa wants them (yes, megan’s parents also) in his oval office to sign in new laws to fix the result of bad parents.

      So these parents, what happen to them? Cash – fame but did any go to prison for child abuse?

      • #84260 Reply

        J

        You would be fascinated to know that both Megans mother and Jacobs mother, in later years when the registry was accelerating, would beg lawmakers to please stop with what they were creating. That this was not what they wanted. In fact, Jacobs mother actually started anti registry protesting at one point. She gave a statement to the media that “the registry was expanded over the years when legislative panic over sexual predators was high but scientific research on re offending was low. The list has grown and become so punitive that experts argue in some cases it could be counteracting the original goal — to keep children safe.”
        I will be doing my first article for early next week chronicling the tragic case of Jacob Wetterling and how it unfolded into movement that is the 3 headed monster it is now.

    • #84267 Reply

      Christopher Brown

      (Awaiting moderation)

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