Reason.tv: How Sex Offender Registries Fail Us

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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  • Socialistic Individual Sparky||

    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."

    Welcome to the United States of America, 21st century edition.

  • ||

    As opposed to what other Nation, when? I mean, no we are not living in the best of all imaginable world, but let's have some sense of proportion, eh?

    That said, yes, this needs fixing. And it's beginning to look like the only way to do so is going to be to sneak in a provision that puts EVERYBODY on the goddamned Regestry.

  • DerrickComedy||

  • ||

    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."

    Acting from fear...a good three-word description of our political process.

  • The Christmas Atheist||

    Yeah, a more rational approach would be to select offenses that make people too dangerous to ever again live in society, then make the penalties so when sentenced these convicts are never released again.

    I would like to propose the first of the offenses on this list to be writing tax codes.

  • Fat Albert Jr.||

    "HE PLAYED ON OUR FEARS!"

  • Ice Nine||

    Who's the tranny?

  • ||

    I think it's Sean Penn from his new movie.

  • ||

  • The Christmas Atheist||

    I think it's Sean Penn from his new movie.

    Argh. And I thought he was ugly as a man.

  • ||

    He is playing a man.

  • Ice Nine||

    I think it's the "Cash Cab" guy.

  • ||

    You said it before I could! LOL

  • sarcasmic||

    It's only a matter of time before these laws are expanded to include other "dangerous" people.

  • Zeb||

    Some state (Maine maybe?) was tossing around the idea of a meth registry a while ago. I think that in that case someone actually realized how stupid of an idea that was. Basically a directory of people to talk to if you want to make some meth.

  • Matrix||

    You mean legislators shot down a bill because it was too stupid, even for them?

    I think I'm having a heart attack...

  • Reality||

    Did you miss the proposal to create a registry for abortionists?

    here: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bill.....HB3808.pdf

  • Joe||

    Think about how many of us could be sex offenders under the laws. When I was young, my dad would tell us to pee in the woods when we were out golfing. I'm sure I've forgotten to close my windows while changing so that every angle was inaccessible. Some of my high school friends would be statutory rapists. On spring break I could have gotten a few ladies reported for indecent exposure, though I'd most likely be laughed off by the pigs (if it was a guy, on the other hand...). Most of us are just lucky enough to not have our lives ruined for it.

  • The Christmas Atheist||

    Most of us are just lucky enough to not have our lives ruined for it.

    When I turned 18 there was no "3 year difference" rule where I lived. 18 plus a day with 18 minus a day equaled illegal. I was lucky the girl I was dating at the time had a major oral fixation but was otherwise able to keep her mouth shut.

  • Joe||

    Shit, that's ridiculous. In my state it was two years. Haven't we always been told that girls are two years ahead of boys in maturity?

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I was walking home from a bar a couple of months ago, and had to piss. I pissed behind a dumpster in an alley, but the whole time I was stressing getting picked up for just this reason. No cop is going to give you slack for pissing in an alley, anymore. Instead, you'll be arrested, charged with indecent exposure, and put on a sex-offender registry. Scary shit.

  • Zeb||

    The fact that completely non-sexual behavior can get you on the list might be the most disgusting thing about it. But there are enough awful things about it that it is hard to say. The fact that so many people think that it is OK to destroy innocent people's lives in order to be extra mean to vaguely defined "sex offenders" is rather depressing. I say lock up child molesters and violent rapists for ever and everyone else serves their time and gets on with life.

  • anon||

    The fact that so many people think that it is OK to destroy innocent people's lives in order to be extra mean to vaguely defined "sex offenders" is rather depressing.

    Seriously. I've pissed so many times in public I can't count them. I'm sure every male has. Maybe they're just trying to make all men sex offenders?

  • ||

    "Maybe they're just trying to make all men sex offenders?"

    Look anon, you take all the fun out of this if you win the thread too early on.

  • anon||

    Well, it does make those rape charges stick easier.

    "Your honor, he raped me. I know I said I wanted to have sex with him initially, but I mean look, he's a sex offender."

  • ||

    I know I said I wanted to have sex with him initially

    In Canada, she can change her mind at any time, doesn't have to tell him that she changed her mind and it becomes rape.

    http://scc.lexum.org/en/2011/2.....scc28.html

    Conversely, the only question for the actus reus is whether the complainant was subjectively consenting in her mind. The complainant is not required to express her lack of consent or her revocation of consent for the actus reus to be established.

  • TEH PATRIACHY OMG!!!!!11!!!!1!||

    "Maybe they're just trying to make all men sex offenders?"

    But all men are

  • Phat Indian||

    Weak sauce rectal!

  • Karburetor Kristen||

    Fuckin hell, even I've pissed in public, which is not easy when you're a) drunk, b) a chick and c) in one of the more popular nighttime neighborhoods in DC (in times of yore, that is).

    And from what I know of Cop Week here in DC, close to 100% of the fuckers should be on the registry just for public pissing alone.

  • sarcasmic||

    We all know that a perk of enforcing the law is being able to ignore it.

  • Alan||

    +1

  • Loki||

    you'll be arrested, charged with indecent exposure...

    Question: Can you really be charged with indecent exposure if the only other person who saw you was the cop who arrested you?

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I don't know. Have Dunphy look at your penis, and tell us what happens. ;-)

  • sarcasmic||

    There are standard lines that are trained to police put into reports, depending on what happened, regardless of if they are the truth.
    So if you're charged with indecent exposure the report will likely contain a line like "in plain view of passers by", even he followed you into an unlit alley needed his flashlight to see your covered backside as you pissed between a dumpster and the wall.

    Cops are well trained at using lies to get convictions. It's what they do.

  • sarcasmic||

    I garbled that first sentence nicely.

  • wareagle||

    the system does not work. For anyone. Society is not served by these registries. Putting offenders in general population prisons pretty well ensures bad outcomes.

    Someone who molests children is never going to stop. Having him be on a list is meaningless. Who's going to hire that person? Who wants that sort of neighbor? Either chemically castrate them or institutionalize them.

  • Joe||

    My favorite part was when she talked about "sex offenders" living in their home prisons, with a smile on her face. I hope the janitors wiped her chair down after the interview. I mean, who says only courts can put people away? They'll make the law, and apply it too!

  • Reality||

    "Someone who molests children is never going to stop."

    See, that's JUST the kind of hysterical nonsense the idiots are always spewing. Over 95% -- that's 95 people out of every hundred -- of those on the registries never commit another offense.

    These people have already been punished. Jail, fines, probation -- whatever the judge thought was appropriate.

    Let them try to be normal citizens again. If they commit another crime, fine, prosecute them for that.

    If they don't ~ and the stats show they generally won't ~ leave them the heck alone.

    Dammit, wareagle, now I have to go wash your stupid off again.

  • anon||

    But... But... TEH CHILDRUNZ!!!!11111one

  • DEG||

    anon,


    Maybe they're just trying to make all men sex offenders?

    I don't have a mind reading device so I can't know for certain, but I would not be surprised if you are correct.

  • ||

    I dont have a mind reading device either, but I did have a retired judge tell me that most DAs would like to have everyone in the system for one reason or another. So, yeah, I think anon is correct.

  • Zeb||

    I honestly don't think that there is a "they" in this case. There are too many factors involved. I think it is mostly a combination of the undue panic about the threats strangers pose to people's children, combined with legislators who have an incentive to look tough on crime, but no incentive to remove or fix laws that end up having negative effects. With the level of nuance that goes on in political campaigns, it is hard to make the case that wanting to change the registry law doesn't mean that you want everyone's kids to get raped. So nobody does anything about it.

  • Joe||

    One of the frustrating things about sex offender registry laws is that, in most areas of life, sex is a private thing, more so than other actions. Yet for sex crimes, it's the opposite - while a criminal background check at least has you pay for a report, sex offender registries are open to all at no charge. You get less privacy for an "offense" that's more private.

    I suppose the next step is a public registry for people that were charged with a sex crime, but weren't convicted. Just because the judge let them off doesn't mean the SUV-driving-while-cell-phone-talking-thus-more-life-endangering moms will.

  • Reality||

    Already done at multiple levels.

    "Adjudication withheld", the legal mechanism for keeping a conviction off your record while seeing to it the prosecution gets a win, is treated exactly the same as a conviction by sex offender laws, and gets you right onto the registry, generally, for life.

    Accusation of any sex offense gets you tried in the court of public opinion before the actual verdict anyway, and you will at *least* have to move in order to be treated like everyone else.

    Public shaming is the opium of the Internet age.

  • Loki||

    Wasn't one of the original rationales for a sex offender registry so that people would be able to know if there were violent sexual predators living nearby? If we're putting people on the sex offender registry for things like urinating in public (which is disgusting, granted, but has nothing to do with sex) or having consensual sex as teens, etc., doesn't that pretty much defeat the whole purpose of having the list in the first place?

    Neighbor 1: "Hey, did you know so-and-so down the street is a registered sex offender?"
    Neighbor 2: "So? Who isn't?"

  • Alan||

    Cathy Schlicht says that the Constitutional rights of children are more important than the constitutional rights of sex offenders.

    I agree. It's time to recognize their Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Association, and the Right to Keep to Keep and Bear Arms (among others). I wonder how Cathy Schlicht will feel about that?

  • ||

    I am not going to say anything about this, I will just let it speak for itself.

    http://sexoffenderissues.blogs.....octor.html

  • David||

    It's funny how Bill O'Reilly always lectures the rest of us about sex offenders running amok and advocating harsher sentences for them while engaging in a phone sex with his former subordinate. Does anyone remember that story? Should he be placed on a sex offender list? So he does it and gets away with it by settling out of court while someone like you and I would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. What sanctimonious crap is that?

  • ||

    i like the registry idea. Nice to know what neighborhoods are safe to move to (for the most part, it's not perfectly up-to-date). Also, the reason a person is on the registry is stated; (abduction, rape etc) - I've never seen anyone on their for indecent exposure.

  • David||

    "I've never seen anyone on their for indecent exposure." Sadly, it's very possible to be put on that list just for that. You could be reading GQ magazine at a playground, a perfect chance to become a sex offender. "Nice to know what neighborhoods are safe to move to (for the most part, it's not perfectly up-to-date)" What stops a sex offender from getting in his car and driving to your "safe" neighborhood? Nothing.
    Also, sex offenders didn't just appear out of thin air 10 or 20 years ago, they've always been out there.
    Parents should watch their kids. Kids need to be aware of their surrounding.
    You can't put every sex offender away, it's a never ending war on drugs.

  • Dan Murray||

    While criminal background checks only identify men and women with criminal histories of sexual offenses one-tenth of one percent of the time, The Diana Screen® identifies an estimated 70% of the men and women who should not be placed into positions of trust with children because they present a sexual risk: either because they have already sexually abused a child or they have a very weak understanding of the strict sexual boundaries required between adults and children.
    www.dianascreen.com

  • cholbay2||

    Uhhhh.... so it's okay for a 65 year old to bang a 17 year old, his "teenage girlfriend" ?? and then brainwash her and marry her later? no. This article is bunk. They don't say how old the man was. Which is kind of important. Reason.com is a disgrace to journalism, or even internet blogs.

  • cholbay2||

    Are you people paying attention? The girl was 15 (FIFTEEN) YEARS OLD AND THE MAN WAS BORN IN 1960!!!! NEVER HIRE THAT PEDOPHILE!

  • dumpstercake||

    yes, It did say that the man was born in 1960. However, it did not say when his wife was born. She could have been born in the 60s as well.

    We only know the age of the man, not the woman. We also don't know when this "incident" occurred, nor do we know when he was put on the registry.

  • lolwetodd||

    Watch the video. She was 15 years old and he was about 50. I'm beginning to think that dumpstercake is a pedophile. A stupid pedophile, but definitely a pedophile.

  • lolwetodd||

    dumpstercake wants to one day brainwash a 15 year old girl into marrying him. sicko.

  • ||

    Are you people paying attention? The girl was 15 (FIFTEEN) YEARS OLD AND THE MAN WAS BORN IN 1960!!!! NEVER HIRE THAT PEDOPHILE!

    So he made a mistake 10 to 20 years ago payed the price (went to jail) and is very unlikely to ever do it again seeing as how he is married to her.

    Should he still be on a list? Should the list contain people like him? Should 95% of the list contain people who do not re-offend?

    Also my guess is this happened in the 90s so he was probably in his 30s at the time.

  • cholbay2||

    Judges don't prosecute unless there is a 5+ year age difference. The laws are exactly the way they should be. This was a 50+ year old man, old enough to be her grandfather, and brainwashed her into marrying him. You people are knee-jerk liberal idiots.

  • ||

    Judges don't prosecute unless there is a 5+ year age difference.

    You are a dipshit.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new.....photo.html

  • zamoracarl711||

    just as Jason replied I'm blown away that a person can get paid $9505 in 4 weeks on the internet. have you read this site link makecash16Com

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