Monday, 9 March 2015


Online registries are flourishing in the U.S.  Politicians just can not resist them.  Identify a bad set of behaviors and then legislate an online registry naming the miscreants that have engaged in that kind of behavior.


The movement to create online registries - like compulsory reporting laws - were initially motivated by crimes against children.  Sex registries in the U.S. began in California in 1947 but were not used in a major way until 1994 with passage of the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act - which required states to form a database of offenders convicted of sexually violent offenses or offenses against children. In 1996 following the abduction and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kankain New Jersey, the law  (Megan’s Law) was amended to require law enforcement to make registration data public. 

Like compulsory reporting laws on-line registries have not remained confined to horrendous sex crimes against children.  While they were originally intended to name the worst of the worst,  sex offender registries have gradually broadened to include any type of sexual offence.  For example offenses listed on Pennsylvania’s sex offender registry include “aggravated indecent assault,” “unlawful contact or communication with a minor” and “sexual assault.”  New York’s list is even broader including patronizing a prostitute. 

As a result in 2013, there were nearly 750,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S., including individuals convicted of non-violent crimes such as consensual sex between teenagers, prostitution and public nudity, as well as those who committed their only offenses decades ago. Children as young as 13 have been placed on a registry.

Jill Levenson, an associate professor of psychology at Lynn University in Florida, questions the effectiveness of sex offender registries.  She references Department of Justice figures that conclude that only 13 percent of new sex crimes are committed by known sex offenders, and that such crimes are at least six times more likely to be committed by other types of offenders who do not appear on any sex offender registry.  She notes that studies, that have examined the effect of registry and notification laws for sex offenders on recidivism, “do not show a decrease in repeat sex offenses that can be attributed to sex offender registry or notification.”


There are now a host of registries listing non-sexual offenders.  In fact an organized effort to establish a new registry seems to always succeed.  Typically the New York State Senate voted 57 to 4 on Tuesday for a violent offenders registry.  In Illinois, the murderer’s registry bill passed the House in April by a 97-to-1 vote.   Representative Monique Davis, the lone member of the Illinois House to oppose the law, said that although she favored the state’s sex offender registry, “I just don’t think that a murderer registry is of much value to anyone except those getting paid to set it up.”  She noted that the recidivism rate for murder was very low to begin with and that the state, facing a deficit of more than $4 billion, could not afford the cost of another registry. In fact murderers have among the lowest rates of recidivism. Only about 1.2 percent of convicted murderers go on to commit another murder within three years of their release; roughly 35 percent commit other types of crimes within the same time period.

Activist groups across the U.S. are successfully promoting registries for drunk drivers even though as Maine State Representative Gary Plummer, a Republican, stated they are “prohibitively expensive.”   He said “I haven’t even gotten to the point of considering is it fair to put people on this type of registry, when we don’t have the resources” to do it, he said of the drunken driver bill, adding that he had also opposed proposals for arsonist and animal abuser registries as too costly.


With all these stories about bad tenants, Ontario PC MPP Ernie Hardeman has called on the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to look into creating a registry where bad tenants (and bad landlords) could be listed and seen by the public.  Hardeman said “there must be a way that once you have a record that record becomes public.” And BC landlords now the importance of tenant screening. And even Alberta landlords are making sure they rent to great tenants and avoid the pro bad tenants.


In fact registries are no longer being restricted to crimes against humans.  Suffolk County, on the eastern half of Long Island, has created the nation's first animal abuse registry, requiring people convicted of cruelty to animals to register or face jail time and fines.  The online list is open to the public, so that pet owners or the merely curious can find out whether someone living near them is on it - on the theory that some animal abusers have been known to steal their neighbors' pets.

"We know there is a very strong correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence," said Suffolk County legislator Jon Cooper, the bill's sponsor.  Repeating was essentially is an urban legend he said  "Almost every serial killer starts out by torturing animals, so in a strange sense we could end up protecting the lives of people."

Cathy Mulnard, a founder and co-director of Second Chance Rescue, a Suffolk animal shelter, said about animal abusers "They don't mean to be bad to the animal, but they get overwhelmed and don't know how to ask for help. They may be innocent abusers," She called the legislation "a godsend for the animals."  She added "We take care of our animals and love our animals the way you do your children," she said. "We need to protect every animal that's out there because they don't make the decisions in their life; human beings do."

Suffolk County is also notorious for having imposed such onerous restrictions on sex offenders exceeding those required by New York State law that it was faced with a situation where 40 sex offenders ended up living in two cramped trailers located in isolated locations.

Animal Abuse Registries exemplifies the whole problem with laws created by people with good intentions.  As SCOTT H. GREENFIELD, says on his Simple Justice blog “Animal abuse is wrong, therefore anything that causes misery to animal abusers is good.  And this is how bad law happens.” He observes that animal registries (like other registries) essentially gets the bad guy twice “You mean they were already sentenced for their crime?  You mean they served their sentence, paid their dues, and only afterward do they get this dumped on them, on top of everything else?”  Another erosion of the rule against double jeopardy.


Every time there is publicity about some repugnant act - idling a car in a parking lot, smoking in the vicinity of children, throwing a plastic bottle into a culvert, saying something hateful about a religious belief, some legislator somewhere in the U.S. will be trying to create another registry.  So the country will invariably end up with a significant portion of the population on a bad person registry.   Eventually the various registries will be combined into one BIG REGISTRY. 

In fact, in British Columbia, Canada that has happened.   B.C.’s Court Services Online provides public access to court records including the Provincial Court ticket records and Provincial Court criminal records. Most of the records displayed on this site are traffic offences or criminal code offences. Some offences are even municipal bylaw offences or offences under provincial or federal Acts, such as the Fisheries Act.   B.C’s Online Registry, like other registries, is accessed by all the information systems that are being utilized by government and policing institutions in Canada and the U.S. so invariably a person trying to travel to the U.S. will be stopped from entering the country because of catching a fish that was too small or failing to license the cat.

1 comment:

  1. If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about. I dont want criminals hiding in MY community!