I have received SO many emails these last couple days from people wanting to express their gratitude and support for posting my video featuring my daughter's reaction to SB653. It has been truly amazing and so very encouraging...
And since I went to Little Rock today to testify against SB653, I know many of you have been anxiously awaiting an update. I am exhausted, but I didn't want to disappoint you, so here I am. :)
My ten year old daughter went with me to the testify, and one of my other two daughters joined us there. The third daughter wanted to be there, but since she has a newborn at home, I told her not to come. It was wonderful to have my family around me.
Carla and her husband were there as well, and we all signed up to speak against SB653.
Many bills were presented, but they never quite got around to SB653. Instead, as we neared the noon hour, the senators decided to discuss this bill instead of presenting it. There were some questions and concerns coming from some of the senators, mostly expressing concern over Romeo & Juliet cases. They felt that R&J's should not be excluded from being eligible to petition to be removed from the registry. The problem, though, lies in determinating the age difference between the young adult and teen and also the age limit of the offender.
Brad Cazort, with ACIC, stated that maybe the age limit should be 20 or 21. I believe it was Senator Hutchinson who said he knew of a man who was 24 who had an underage girlfriend, and even though they are married now, with children, he is still on the registry. He felt that age 24 was not too old.
Now, they didn't ask ME, but if they had, I would have said there should be no age limit at all, that if an adult engages in sexual activity with a willing teenage partner, they should definitely be charged with a crime, but such crime would NOT indicate any sort of "threat to society" and therefore would not need to be on a public sex offender registry, and certainly not for life.
More discussion about the bill ensued, but as the session ended, I left with more questions than I came with. It seems they plan to revise the wording of the bill and present it next Wednesday. Considering their focal point with R&J's, I am not at all sure testifying about how this bill would affect my child would be the way to go. I am not so sure my ten year old should come back with me either.
Here's what I do know: Current Arkansas law says that every registered sex offender has lifetime registration, but that sex offenders CAN petition to be removed after 15 years, so long as they are A) Not level 4 offenders, B) Have been in compliance and C) Have not committed any new crimes.
Where it gets muddy for me is the comparison between this law and the AWA. It would appear that Arkansas is at least making an attempt to become somewhat AWA compliant. I think I heard that we are compliant with maybe 9 conditions out of the 14 or so that the AWA has specified must be met. Only 9 out of 14? That seems to me they're a long ways off yet. What happens if 9 of the conditions are met but the rest are not? Do they get just a small percentage of the Bryne grant money, or none at all?
In an update I just received from Carla with ATAT, she states:
This is the law the way it stands NOW.
Arkansas does not have the Adam Walsh ACT (AWA), in a way this is good, in another way it’s not.
a. Some of the AR laws are more restricted then AWA and some of the AWA are not.
b. AWA add juveniles as young as 5 to the list, AR does not.
c. AWA makes every SO stay on the register for life. AR does not or at least not all of them.
With this new bill SB653, they want to change this.
I will be asking the other state leader for more help on WHY AR want to pass this law, as soon as I know you will. I feel like I am missing a big part of the picture.
Yeah, Carla, I hear ya, I feel like I'm missing a big part of the picture too...
Ya know, between you and me, I don't get why they're getting their panties in a wad over this to begin with. They say themselves that every registered sex offender has lifetime registration and that they can PETITION to be removed. Petitioning to be removed is quite an arduous process. It's not a file-the-petition-and-boom-you're-off kinda thing; it's not an automatic Get Off the Registry Free card. The offender still has to go before a judge, and quite possibly be reassessed, among other hoops that must be jumped through. Basically, an offender has to get all of his ducks in a row before they will even consider letting him off the hook.
As I said yesterday, only some successfully petitioned off, while some have not.
It's pretty clear to me that these petitions are handled on a case-by-case basis. And isn't that a good thing, really? Isn't that the way it should be? Why create a blanket approach that says no one can get off if you did this or did that. How does that really help? Keeping harmless offenders on the registry does no one any good at all. Not the victims, not the communities and certainly not the offenders and their families.
Go on and continue to dilute the registry with harmless offenders, and see what it gets you: A useless registry. Personally, I would want to know about the ones that actually offended with force or violence, or the ones that molested pre-pubescent children. The rest, I don't want to know about because I know they are not likely a threat. The ones that ARE a threat to society are able to hide inside a registry that is saturated with harmless offenders, and those are the ones that are impossible to find on the registry when you go searching.
Yeah, Arkansas lawmakers, your public registry is protecting people, alright, but not the ones you want protected.