Late in 2002, [name withheld] of Hazleton pleaded guilty to molesting a 7-year-old girl and was sentenced to serve one year in prison and register as a sex offender for 10 years.
- And anything beyond this is an unconstitutional ex post facto law.
His 10 years on the registry would have expired on May 15, but a little more than a year ago the law changed.
Now [name withheld] must register as a sex offender for life.
- And that is unconstitutional additional punishment! Imagine, if they can do this, then they can change any law and re-punish you for something you did years ago.
"What I can't understand is how can they do this? If you are already under Megan's Law, how can they add to that? That's very upsetting," [name withheld] said.
- Because they claim it's regulatory and not punishment, which we all know is a load of BS!
The U.S. Constitution bans ex post facto laws - those that take effect after the fact.
- And so does the states constitution (section 17).
However, in challenges to the sex offender registry under Megan's Law, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that the registry is a regulatory law, not a criminal law, so the ex post facto rule doesn't apply.
An update to Megan's Law in Pennsylvania that Gov. Tom Corbett signed on Dec. 20, 2011, changes the registration requirement from 10 years to life for some crimes, including indecent assault of a person less than 13 years of age, to which [name withheld] pleaded guilty. The law now requires offenders to register for 15 years, 25 years or life depending on how their crime is categorized.
Some offenders who completed their time on the registry before the law changed must re-register.
Others who never had to register when their cases were adjudicated must go on the registry. An Altoona attorney told his local newspaper, the Mirror, in December 2012 that at least three people who accepted pleas keeping them off the register want to negotiate new deals or challenge the new law that requires them to register.
The attorney, Thomas M. Dickey, did not return a telephone call asking for an update on those cases.
"I'm looking for a sexual offender to challenge this as ex post facto," Shelly Clevenger, assistant professor at Illinois State University, said.
Clevenger is studying the retroactive law in Illinois, where sexual offenders face additional restrictions.
"We have some strange laws. Sexual offenders can't go to a public park, be on a walking trail, operate a food vehicle. The state is starting to legislate what offenders can and cannot do," she said.
Does the law work?
In her dissertation for a doctorate in criminology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in May 2012, Clevenger studied the effectiveness of Megan's Law in Pennsylvania. The law takes its name from Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old girl who was sexually abused and murdered in New Jersey in 1994.
"Overall, the results of the current study, coupled with results from previous studies which have examined the effectiveness of Megan's Law, indicate that the legislation has not been effective in reducing and/or preventing rape, sex offenses and/or the murder of children," Clevenger wrote in her dissertation.
Since Megan's Law took effect in 1996 in Pennsylvania, the incidences of rape, other sex crimes and murder of a person younger than 13 decreased in urban areas, Clevenger's study found. But in suburban and rural areas, rape and sexual offenses increased, according to her study.
Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law in Stony Brook, N.Y., said case statistics alone don't measure the effectiveness of the law. Creating a registry for sex offenders made people more aware of sex crimes. That might have caused people to report abuse instead of keeping secrets, Ahearn said.
Instances where the registry prevented a crime don't show up on statistics, but parents who consulted the registry have prevented children from playing where an offender lived, she said.
"There's plenty of anecdotal evidence," Ahearn said.
When Clevenger conducted research for her doctorate, she wasn't expecting crime rates to move in different directions in urban and rural areas. When thinking about the results, she noticed that the drop in urban crimes coincided with a national trend. She reasoned that Megan's Law might have enticed offenders to move from urban areas to suburbs and rural areas.
"That was the best theory I could come up with," Clevenger said.
Assorted laws in municipalities around the nation set distances from schools, playgrounds or other public places where sex offenders may not live.
Clevenger said residence rules and competition for rental housing in cities might have led some sex offenders to move from urban areas to suburban or rural areas.
Life on the registry
In Hazleton, [name withheld] said he cannot go to events at the Wiltsie Center at the Historic Castle, such as the George Thorogood concert on March 10 that he would like to attend.
"We can't even go to church," he said, citing a city law.
[name withheld] hasn't had a job since his release from prison, and he said that's common for people on the registry.
"Very few of us are able to work. Employers won't hire. They don't want their businesses on the registry," [name withheld] said.
He receives disability payments.
"I've been trying to get off disability and find a job. I'm never going to be able to. Nobody's going to hire me," [name withheld] said.
His criminal record includes a conviction for arson in 1999. Two years ago, workers at the office of state Rep. Tarah Toohil said [name withheld] harassed them. In 2005, [name withheld] was charged with failing to report a change of address to the registry.
Megan's Law requires offenders to report address changes within 48 hours. Under current law, if [name withheld] misses that deadline, he can be charged with a felony and sentenced to prison for up to 10 years.
- So if it's regulatory and not punishment, then why would he be sentenced to 10 years in prison, more than what his actual crime received (1 year)? Sounds like additional punishment to us.
Four times a year, he must report to a police station to update his information on the registry. Police take a new photo of him, note his address, emails, workplace and whether he is enrolled in a school or college or owns a vehicle or boat.
"If I go on vacation, I have to register in that state and tell Pennsylvania police that I'm going there. So I don't go nowhere," [name withheld] said.
No one has ever harmed him because he is on the registry. A note on the website for the registry says anyone who intimidates or harasses a person on the registry can be prosecuted or be liable in a civil lawsuit.
- Doesn't mean it doesn't happen, it does, all the time, as seen here.
Still, [name withheld] remains fearful.
"You don't know what vigilante is out there. I don't trust nobody. All my trust is gone," he said.
Parents have different fears when trying to protect their children.
The registry provides a starting point by listing people who are potential threats because of their past actions.
- It only lists some people, ex-sex offenders, not all criminals who have or may harm children, like murderers, gang members, drug dealers, DUI offenders, kidnappers, etc.
"There are pedophiles on the registry and people on the registry that you should look out for," Clevenger said.
But she said the registry can breed a false sense of security. Parents should realize that not every offender is on the registry, nor are offenders likely to be strangers, Clevenger said.
The case of Jerry Sandusky underscores that sexual offenders can avoid detection for years while remaining off the registry. Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State University, is serving a prison sentence of 30 to 60 years for abusing at least 10 boys during a 20-year span.
The registry started to prevent strangers from abducting children, as happened to Megan Kanka. Her death outraged the nation, but the circumstances of her case are relatively rare.
Most children are abused by someone whom they know, Clevenger and Ahearn said.
"The fact that most crime(s) of this nature (are) not committed by a stranger, but by an intimate, who likely does not appear on the registry, suggests that this legislation was passed without any attention to the facts and realities of sex offenses," Clevenger wrote in her dissertation.
- Of course they ignored the facts. If you go back and review the history, and the many recidivism studies, you will see the law doesn't jive with the facts.
Ahearn said Parents for Megan's Law recommends several strategies to reduce child sexual abuse. Her group staffs a 24-hour hotline. Members lead education programs for parents and children from preschool to high school. The group counsels victims.
- And now, in New York, they are also being contracted to MONITOR ex-sex offenders!
"When the victim is provided services, they are more likely to participate in the criminal justice system and less likely to be revictimized," Ahearn, the director, said.
- Do you have facts to back this statement up? Or you just assume we will believe you? Like domestically abused men/women who move from bad relationship to another, We're sure your statement is not exactly true, it's just an assumption on your part.
She said the group also supports police. Through a new program with Suffolk County, Long Island, N.Y., the group will hire retired police to verify addresses of people on the registry.
Ahearn favors having offenders stay on the registry for life and believes they also should have individual monitoring plans. People who comply with the registry requirements have a lower rate of repeating crimes, she said.
- Ex-sex offenders in general have low recidivism rates, and there is no study or evidence to back up her assumption.
Local laws that keep offenders from living in sight of children reduce temptation to commit further crimes, Ahearn said. The local laws, she said, will vary among communities because of population densities, but shouldn't be so restrictive that courts will overturn them.
- Again, her opinion doesn't make it a fact. Show us a study to prove that Ms. Ahearn! She's also making the usual blanket statement making it appear as if all ex-sex offenders are out drooling over children, which is false. Many have not touched a child in any way, yet she makes it appear as if all are child molesters.
"You want to avoid a registered sex offender having his backyard against the backyard of a day care or a school," Ahearn said.
- What if the ex-sex offenders crime didn't involve a child?
She referred to sex offenders as pied pipers who befriend children and parents while setting the stage to abuse a child.
- You see, she thinks all ex-sex offenders are child molesters. That would be like saying all humans are murderers because a couple are. It's the same logic!
"Most child sexual abuse happens with somebody in an existing, trusted relationship," Ahearn said. "That doesn't mean the relationship is known by parents."
- What about the ex-sex offenders who had nothing to do with children but their crime was against an adult? Stop assuming all ex-sex offenders are child molesting, pedophile, predators who are lurking behind every corner just waiting to jump on your child, that is absurd!