Cops Get Federal Funding On The Backs Of Maine’s Sex Offenders

Posted on February 5, 2011


Author: Stan Moody:

On Friday, February 4, I received a phone call that still has me fuming. It was a wife, mother and school bus driver in a little town in Maine. She was so distraught that she could barely speak.

Her husband, some 25 years ago at age 20, had been convicted of a sex offense, had done jail time, community service and probation. At the time of their marriage, they discussed the issue thoroughly but decided they could work together to build their own version of the American Dream despite the obstacles.

Their dream has turned into a nightmare as the result of quasi “sex registry names for sale” to the Federal government. Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) to states and municipalities will be cut by 10% for failure to comply with Federal sex offender registry laws.

In December, 2009, the Maine Judicial Supreme Court handed down an opinion (State v. Latalien) that Maine law, which required a retroactive registry for all convicted sex offenders going back to 1982, was unconstitutional on several fronts.

The court struck down the automatic lifetime registry for sex offenders, the 90-day in-person update requirement and retroactivity in all but the most dangerous cases.

The damage is already done. The sex offender registry in Maine is the most popular Internet site for Maine State Government. My caller wears her husband’s Scarlet Letter every day in their small community. They used up their savings hiring attorneys. While he has been exempted, his name has not yet been removed from the list.

He will not be able to attend their daughter’s high school graduation.

The Byrne JAG funds in Maine amount to around $3.5 million annually. The Town of Madison is purchasing police radios with the funds. The Town of Winslow recently purchased a new patrol car and security cameras at its offices with JAG funds.

There are 716,750 registered sex offenders in the US, and that number is increasing daily. What began under federal law as 39 original offenses has now blossomed to 189, including urinating in public, streaking, possession of child pornography, sexting, exposure and molestation. False accusations by an angry ex-wife or girlfriend, rape, solicitation and on-line sexual chat have joined the registry requirements.

States are now required to implement Title 1 of the Adam Walsh Act (SORNA – Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act) or lose 10% of its Byrne JAG funds. For Maine, that would mean losing around $350,000 a year.

The State of Maryland will lose some $600,000 in JAG funds for failing to register sex offenders as young as 14 for the rest of their lives. With states facing the biggest budget crisis in their histories, every penny is precious.

Contrary to popular opinion, sex offender recidivism ranks the lowest of all offenses – less than 10% for those with counseling and rehabilitation, as opposed to 2/3 of those re-entering for probation and parole violations and re-offenses. There are documented studies showing that the registry does not protect one child or adult from offense. In fact, the preponderance of sex offenses are by people known by the family, suggesting that family training could be a key factor in reducing sexual violence. That might be a better way to spend the 10% JAG funds.

As with my caller, the collateral damage to families – wives, husbands and children – is beyond repair. The tendency to want to move away from a community only makes the matter worse, as it opens the family to new scrutiny and public hysteria. In Maine, a procedure is now in place to apply for removal of names applied retroactively, but that opens the door to another round of public scrutiny, subjecting families to more shame. Removal of names ostensibly threatens the JAG funds by loosening the legal restraints.

The cop culture that we have created in America by transferring the danger of extreme cases to the average suburban family is not to be blamed for grabbing all the funds it can get. What profession wouldn’t grab all the funds available? At some point, however, the nation with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prisoners has to get a grip on reality.

We cannot legislate danger out of existence by locking up anyone and everyone who poses a threat. Parents need to accept responsibility for the safety of their children by being vigilant and aware that every social situation has the potential to harm a child, including a happy marriage.

Children are harmed not by someone on the sex registry but by someone whom a parent has trusted but not tested and tried.