California Proposition 83: Sex Offenders (“Jessica’s Law”) is an example of a terrible law that will pass because of good framing (who on earth is in favor of sex offenders?). I don’t believe that i can stop it from passing, but i want to beg anyone who can listen to please please please Vote NO on 83. Please continue on to read why; it’s really important.
On the outset, the law seems like a good thing. It would increase the length and severity of penalties for specified sex offenses, eliminate early releases, and extend parole. Here’s where things get tricky.. It would also require GPS devices for registered sex offenders (per Meghan’s Law) for the rest of their lives. It would also limit sex offenders from living within 2000 feet of any school or park. Again, these might not seem so bad, but here are some reasons for which they are:
- Not all sex offenders are child molesters. Included on the list of registered sex offenders are: adults who rape adults (including domestic rape), people who commit sodomy (often used to go after gay men), people who engage in oral sex (including consensual oral sex and oral sex while in jail), and people who commit statutory rape. While rape is horrific, this punishment does nothing to prevent it from happening, but it punishes many in the process.
- Schwarzenegger recently signed laws that expand the penalty for child rape and calls for the electronic tracking of high-risk sex offenders (i.e. child rapists) while on parole. The new laws even ban sex offenders from loitering around schools and parks which is much more effective than banning them from living close to a school. In other words, the meat of this bill has been signed in and the bill only expands it for all sex offenders over all time (even if they have done nothing wrong in 20 years). (see OC Register)
- All of San Francisco is within 2000 feet of a school or park; most of Los Angeles is. This means that sex offenders cannot live in major metropolitan regions. This exports the problem to rural regions where there are less resources to handle cases. This also means that offenders will have a much harder time getting jobs and homes which means they are likely to commit violent acts again (remember: rape is not about sex; it’s about power). Syphoning perverts to suburban and rural regions (where most children live) does not do anything to help children. (see: CALCASA)
- Residency restrictions do nothing to stop the 80-90% of cases where children are raped in their own homes. Furthermore, it reduces the likelihood that they will be reported. (see CJCJ)
- The vast majority of rapists are known to their victims; this reduces the likelihood that domestic rape will be reported.
- 86% of sex offenders are never reported; this will make sure that even more go unreported. (see: CALCASA)
- Very few child molesters pick their victims from schools/parks and of those who do, it is almost never what they do the second time. Furthermore, keeping them from living near parks/schools has never actually stopped those that do.
- A very common tactic of predators is that they marry single mothers to go after their children. This does absolutely nothing to stop this (nor would banning marriage).
- This will cost the State upwards of $100M a year; this money could be better spent on prosecuting sick fucks who are found out (only a small fraction are actually prosecuted due to lack of funds).
- GPS companies are rallying for it – they will make millions.
- GPS does not work in BART. It does not work in parking garages. It doesn’t even work reliably in malls. There are other location-based technologies that could do the same job with more accuracy and reliability (such as mobile phone positioning), but Prop 83 only specifies GPS. (Tx Liz)
- Those who want to get out of these devices will have an easy time – they can pound them, cut them, destroy them. They cost $3500 a piece and must be replaced every 6 months because they break so easily.
- Many towns have laws regarding sex offenders that make sense for their towns; this overrides them in a one-size-fits all way that is not helpful for anyone and it takes agency away from local neighborhoods to deal with risks in their area.
This law does not make people safer; it only makes them feel safer.
I’m all in favor of doing things to stop crimes against children, but let’s use our money and efforts to do something that will actually prevent crimes rather than something that will make us feel like something is being done. Let’s make sure we prosecute these men (and jail them for a long long time); let’s make sure we educate young people to come forward. Let’s separate high risk (likely to repeat) sex offenders from one-time sex offenders.
Don’t get me wrong – i’m not in favor of child molesters and i’m all too familiar with the experience of rape. I’ve spent a good chunk of my life trying to stop violence against women and girls; i want to see real action, not politics when it comes to this issue. This is a terrible terrible terrible law that will not prevent crimes, but will cost the State money that could be used to really address this problem. The problem is that it’s passing 7:1. Please, if there’s any chance in hell of stopping this, please help me do so.
For a fantastic panel discussion on Prop 83, please listen to NPR’s The Forum.
Many organizations are opposed to Prop 83, including the California Coalition on Sex Offending, Progressive Christians Uniting, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, various queer organizations, the ACLU, the Criminal Legal Justice Foundation, the Santa Cruz Commission to Prevent Violence Against Women, the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA). Check out CALCASA’s blog