Marion County Journal Record
PO Drawer 1477
Hamilton AL 35570
September 14, 2011
I am writing in response to your front page article titled, “New State Laws Govern Sex Offenders,” dated September 14, 2011.
The Laws are not needed to "prevent" anything from happening. After all it is a proven fact NO LAW PREVENTS CRIME!!! Yet this new law supposes that it can prevent crime while enforcing stricter standards on individuals who have successfully completed their sentences and the state is trying to find lame excuses to lock up these individuals.
This new law is tantamount to the legislature passing a new law that would restrict travel to anyone who has ever had a speeding ticket and require that they wear a GPS to monitor their speed while driving. The reason would be that convicted speeders are more likely to engage in future speeding so we have to monitor them. There would be a public outcry! The difference here is that we are dealing with former sex offenders and therefore it is OK. Well, it isn’t.
This new law passed here in Alabama brings Alabama into compliance with the Adam Walsh Act (AWA), which is short for “The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.” The controversial federal sex offender law intended to standardize sex offender laws across the country. The AWA is an attempt to pass minimum national standards and continuity in sex offender legislation. Every state must substantially comply with the SORNA (public registry) provisions of the AWA by July 2009 or take a 10% cut in Federal law enforcement grants. That deadline was extended twice, first to July 2010 then 2011. As of the July 27, 2011 deadline, 14 states, 9 Native American tribes, and 1 US Territory have become "substantially" compliant with the AWA.
The state felt pressured to pass a quick law due to the threat of losing 10% of Byrne/ JAG funds if they failed to comply. Our state government is using “Predator Panic” to keep the flow of federal money to the state, create jobs and to make the politicians look good in the eye of the general public so they can get re-elected. It is all about the money. That, and trying to find lame excuses to lock up people who have successfully completed their sentences… keep them in the system so that the state can continue to receive funding for their programs.
Alabama did not learn from Ohio's bad example. Alabama needed only look at recent history with Ohio's battle over the AWA (known in Ohio as SB 10) to see why the law was such a bad idea. Ohio’s law has twice been declared unconstitutional, which opponents had warned would happen. Thousands of sex offenders have been or will be reclassified — two times. The funding the state stood to lose if it did not conform — typically hundreds of thousands of dollars a year — has been offset by millions spent complying with the law and defending against thousands of lawsuits. (read the full article at http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2011/07/31/ohio-sex-offender-registry-a-mess.html )
To make matters worse for the state, the new law does not allocate state funding for enforcement. Combine this fact with the fact that this law will definitely increase the prison population for petty violations; the State of Alabama will be in the same situation as Ohio, spending millions while only recouping hundred of thousands of dollars.
I would also like to mention that the Times Daily in Florence published an article on Sunday August 21, 2011 titled, “Professors warn about new sex offenders law” (read the full article at http://reformalabama.blogspot.com/2011/08/times-daily-professors-warn-about-new.html ). The article states that the effect is that the threat of going back to prison for committing new offenses may seem less objectionable than living on the outside under very restrictive rules. Some of these requirements, particularly the ones that involve informing the public about the identity and whereabouts of sex offenders, are so costly to offenders that they become more, rather than less, likely to commit more offenses.
This new law is a lose/lose situation. The new law violates Due Process Rights, Violates the U.S. Constitution Ex-Post-Facto clauses, and it is unnecessarily punitive to the individual while placing an undue burden on the former sex offender to comply. And in a time when states are experiencing a financial crisis, this new law will cost the state much more money than it will lose… money we don’t have… Money that could be used for education instead of prisons.
Richard Jackson, Jr.