You can be put on the sex offender registry for urinating in public, having consensual sex as a teenager or even for “sexting.” And in California, once you are on the list, you are on it for life.
The registry has become the medieval stocks of the 21st century and, as attorney Janice Bellucci says, once someone is on the registry, "he is treated like a leper".
There are violent sexual predators who should be on the registry for life, but 95% of those on the registry never commit another sex offense, according to the California Department of Corrections.
Reason.tv spoke to a registrant ruined by the registry. His crime: having sex with his teenage girlfriend.
“It was actually illegal for me to be anywhere near her for three years,” he says, “but she waited for me. And I waited, too.”
They are still married today, 10 years after he was convicted.
Harsher laws for registrants continue to be passed while proposed reforms to the registry have struggled to gain ground.
California Assemblymember Tom Ammiano introduced a bill for a tiered registry in January, but it was defeated thanks to opponent's scare tactics.
"There have always been stories, especially this summer, about child predators in the area," says Mission Viejo Councilwoman Cathy Schlicht, who introduced a bill banning sex offenders from public parks and beaches.
Bellucci is going to keep fighting for reform. “We’re not thinking from a logical and rational place,” she says, “instead we are acting from fear."
Produced by Tracy Oppenheimer. Shot by Paul Detrick, Zach Weissmueller and Sharif Matar.
Approximately 7.30 minutes.
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