The state of Arizona has instituted a program to deny certain convicted felons who have served a portion – or all of their sentences – the right to privacy and to conduct their lives in a normal manner free from illegal intrusion by law enforcement. Arizona’s program for dealing with sexual offenders is probably the nation’s most intrusive to date. It is, simply put, a system of sentencing to lifetime probation anyone convicted of a sexual offense, especially against children. There is, as the term “lifetime” implies, no release from its curriculum of scrutiny and its invasive agenda.
This is only the beginning according to an article in the July 7th issue of U.S. News and World Report.. In the article entitled, “Tracking Sexual Impulses” the author, Mike Tharp, claims that “law enforcement officials say programs like the one in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, will become the norm as states try to manage the estimated 150,000 sex offenders now living in communities.” In that Arizona county alone there are almost 1,100 convicted sex offenders “sentenced” to lifetime probation. This law includes those accused of the most heinous of sexual crimes against children to, as the U.S. News article puts it quoting a former prosecutor in the county’s sex crime unit, “…someone skinny-dipping in his own swimming pool who was accidentally seen by two 12-year-olds. In the county’s eyes, they’re all perverts.” All are then legally subject to lifelong government control.
Sexual crimes against anyone, especially children, are among the most shameful that any society can tolerate, but when they are used to shift the focus of public opinion away from even more fundamental issues, there should be alarm bells going off that would awaken us.
The Arizona law provides for placing even first time sexual offenders on lifetime probation and empowers the courts to impose this sentence of probation “up to and including life and that the court believes is appropriate for the ends of justice.” The statute appears to satisfy, but actually circumvents, the double jeopardy clause of the constitution’s fifth amendment — and possibly the eighth amendment’s restriction against cruel and unusual punishment — by imposing the lifetime probation on counts other than the one on which the offender was originally tried. By dividing any offense or series of offenses into multiple counts, the law is able to apply a virtual life sentence to an offender after having served his sentence on the original count.
Under terms of probation the subject is required to submit to regular lie detector tests (the use of which, a Maricopa County attorney informed The WINDS, is inadmissible in Arizona courts) during which he is asked questions as to the content of any sexual fantasies in which he may have indulged that would include females under the age of eighteen. In addition the person must listen to a tape recording that includes some explicit language describing a fictitious encounter with a young girl. During this procedure he must endure the indignity of a penile plethysmograph test in which a sensor is attached to his genitalia to measure his degree of arousal. Failure of either of these tests would constitute a violation of the person’s probation and could send him back to prison. Upon release from incarceration from that offense the individual would then be subject to another sentence of lifetime probation.. This manner of control over the former offender would, as the name of the program implies, continue throughout his natural life.
The justification for what even U.S. News calls “an intrusive program” comes from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), a division of the U.S. Justice Department that serves as their “primary research and development agency.” According to the NIJ, and most other published studies concerning sex offenders, especially whose targets are children, their sexual deviancy is no more curable at present than is “epilepsy or high blood pressure.” They claim that, as are those chronic disorders, it is only manageable.
The Arizona program appears to be the first among potentially many expressions of a recent controversial Supreme Court decision. In a current WINDS article, “U.S. to Use Psychiatric Prisons for Offenders”, the high court’s decision was discussed that allows a “…state to confine sex offenders in mental hospitals indefinitely, even after they have finished serving their entire prison sentence, and even if they are not mentally ill.” In that decision (Kansas vs. Hendricks), Justice Thomas, writing the majority opinion, stated, “The [Kansas] Act does not establish criminal proceedings, and involuntary confinement under it is not punishment.” (emphasis supplied). One would have to ask whether or not this is a distinction without a difference. Does the fact that the law puts a different label on the cage, calling it “commitment” rather than “punishment”, realistically change the effect on the individual contained in it?
Now there is “Megan’s Law”. Signed into federal law in May of ’96 by President Clinton, this legislation provides for the perpetual tracking of convicted sex offenders for the rest of their lives. In their cases having served out their sentences, or paid their debt to society, no longer means that they are free to live normally. They must register themselves with local law enforcement anywhere they travel. California’s version of Megan’s Law has resulted in the police notifying neighbors of the presence of convicted sex offenders. They pass out fliers alerting the local community of the offender’s presence, including addresses and photographs. This law has caused several incidents including one where, according to the July 7th edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, “100 residents of [Santa Rosa’s] Roseland neighborhood, demonstrated outside a gray duplex where Russell Charles Markvardsen has rented an apartment for the past five weeks. They also collected signatures in a campaign to persuade Markvardsen’s landlord and police that a neighborhood full of children is not safe with a convicted molester on the streets.” In another incident, added to the picketing of the subject’s house, were anonymous phone calls to the person’s landlady who claims she didn’t know who he was when she rented the room to him. She has since asked that he leave. These people are released from prison but apparently no one wants to allow them to live anywhere.
Read the full story here: http://www.apfn.org/THEWINDS/1997/07/lifetime_tracking.html