Sunday, September 12, 2010

California enacts harsher sex offender laws

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Sex Offenders: A Flawed Law
In more ways than you know
[source: To Find A Predator]

It’s a rule of thumb that laws that are enacted in the wake of the murder of children, especially laws that bear the young victim(s)’s name(s), tend to be bad ideas that only serve to increase the risk of innocent people being wrongly accused and convicted – and subsequently punished – for crimes they did not commit, whilst tightening the leash on everyone else at the same time, including non-violent offenders. This phenomenon was certainly epitomized by the 1994 passage of “Megan’s Law”, which was passed and named for a 7-year-old girl who was raped and murdered in New Jersey and essentially gave birth to the modern sex offender system, and all of the many problems that have arisen from it since.

As of last Thursday, September 09, California Gov. Schwarzenegger signed into law new legislation aimed at further toughening laws against sex offenders, with penalties that include restricted parole guidelines, lifelong surveillance of certain sex offenders, and lifetime imprisonment without parole for the rape of minors – all to (you guessed it) “protect our children”.

The governor put his signature to Assembly Bill 1844, known as "Chelsea's Law," during a ceremony at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park.

"Because of Chelsea, everyone has joined together to solve this serious problem in our state," Schwarzenegger said. "Because of Chelsea, California's children will be safer. Because of Chelsea, this never has to happen again."

The bill, authored by Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, requires a life sentence without the possibility of parole for forcible sex acts against minors. It also tightens sex offense parole guidelines and requires lifelong tracking of certain sex offenders.

Fletcher said Chelsea's Law -- which goes into effect immediately -- puts California at the forefront in dealing with violent sex offenders.

"We are about to see signed into law a sweeping piece of legislation that will better protect our children, who are the most vulnerable, the most innocent, the most precious," Fletcher said. "Today is a very good day for them."

The legislation creates a "true one-strike life without the possibility of parole charge" for violent sex offenders who prey on children, he said.

"Because, if you don't believe you can rehabilitate someone that violently sex offends a child, you should not let them out, and today California will adopt this," he said.

Fletcher thanked members of the state Senate and Assembly, who unanimously approved the legislation.

Schwarzenegger and Fletcher were joined at the ceremony by Chelsea's parents.

Brent King said Chelsea's Law will fix California's "broken system" and ensure that the "worst of the worst violent child predators" are locked up for life.

Yes, yes, we get it, you’re happy the law passed. Enough self-congratulation already.

Personally, I’m not entirely sure where I stand regarding my opinion of this law, mostly because details are so sketchy about it. I did some Googling but other reports only repeat what’s already stated here with precious few additional details. Just how tough, exactly, will these new guidelines be? What is the criteria for judging who gets lifetime without parole and who doesn’t? Are there age limits? Is intent and possible recidivism taken into consideration? And especially, how does this new law affect risks of false convictions, and what are the measures, if any, taken to prevent such injustices?

All we’re hearing about this law right now is that it’s the bestest law evar!, which is hardly a solid foundation on which to base one’s opinion. I do find it sensible to lock away the truly dangerous sex offenders, those who will happily rape and murder over and over again as long as they’re loose, but the fact that these harsher restrictions will also put the squeeze on the many (if not majority of) sex offenders who don’t actually deserve to be on that list is a major cause for concern.

(via @todayspolitics)