(Oneida, NY – May 2012) This week, the Assembly passed A9229-2011, a bill that now heads to the Senate. Co-sponsored by Assemblyman Brindisi and Senator Griffo, it is in direct response to the rape and murder of Linda Turner by registered sex offender Robert Blainey. It requires that registrants take updated photographs every 90 days, as opposed to the current requirements depending on the registrant’s assigned risk level.
Blainey absconded while on parole. When found, his appearance was drastically different than the photograph police had issued to the public. Many wondered if a more accurate photo might have yielded his capture before he had the chance to take a woman’s life.
A9229-2011 certainly sounds like a good idea. Without close examination, however, New York risks finding itself in an unpleasant situation that could have been easily avoided, but not quickly overcome.
Historically, sex offender legislation has been based on particularly heinous, high-profile cases that incite public fury and political grandstanding. When reacting to something deplorable, we often support anything that sounds like it will do something to avenge the innocent and send a message to the “bad guys.”
Unfortunately, our emotionally fueled laws have yet to achieve any results. According to empirical research, the public registry has had no impact whatsoever on sex crime rates. Recidivism rates (3.5 percent in 2007) for registered sex are still as surprisingly low as before SORA. Offense rates for first-time offenders continue to correlate with overall, general arrest rates. Despite the never-ending passage of “tough” legislation, innocent people continue to be victimized. Why?
Ninety-six percent of sex crimes in New York are committed by people who have no prior conviction for one and, therefore, are not on the registry. Laws that exclusively target registered offenders might speak to the desire for revenge, but that’s about it. Unwillingness to tackle the uncomfortable reality that most victims are assaulted by family members or trusted acquaintances behind closed doors doesn’t prevent sex crimes.
We should absolutely encourage healthy recovery for victims and just punishment for perpetrators, but shouldn’t we also support laws that place just as much importance on preventing these crimes in the first place?
Oneida County has one of the highest concentrations of registered sex offenders in New York state. There is one person who handles the sex offender photography and record maintenance.
Increasing the workload for this person three-fold would result in significant delays and increased margin of error – the very issues that A9229-2011 is trying to reduce. Counties and local municipalities all over the state would experience the same problems. There’s only one way to solve them: more staff and more money.
Let’s ask Senator Griffo to reconsider his support of this bill and tell him to allocate resources toward more effective solutions.
Shana Rowan, USA Families Advocating an Intelligent Registry, Oneida