Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Love is complicated. Megan's Law database is simple.
February 4, 2005 12:52 PM   Subscribe

In California, a registered sex offender uses the Megan's Law database as a source for potential dates. He searched for men in the database, and then sent several men a letter looking for sex or friendship, explaining how they could look up his profile in the same system. Turns out that it is illegal for a registered sex offender to access the database of registered sex offenders. (first FPP for me)
posted by stevil (64 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Being the first respondant, I hope I'm not forever damned by chuckling slightly at this.
Nice link, thanks.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 12:53 PM on February 4, 2005


[Stan] That's some pretty f***ed up shit right there!
posted by pmbuko at 1:06 PM on February 4, 2005


Hmmm... they could call it "Pedophile-ster?"

(Ducks as tomatoes and rotten cabbage are thrown)
posted by hifiparasol at 1:08 PM on February 4, 2005


hifi: Sex Offendster.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 1:12 PM on February 4, 2005


No one cares that it's your first FPP. Weird link, though.
posted by knave at 1:16 PM on February 4, 2005


Is this ANOTHER satire? Why would a sex offender be forbidden to use a publicly-accessible database, especially one on sex offenders? "Keep him from conspiring" my ass, they have half-way houses where ex-cons can meet in person.
posted by davy at 1:22 PM on February 4, 2005


just curious, but how do you enforce this?

Registered offenders are not allowed to access the site, in part to prevent them from conspiring with other convicts.
posted by Stynxno at 1:23 PM on February 4, 2005


just curious, but how do you enforce this?

You don't, and you can't. It's an add-on for the prosecutor when the offender breaks a different law.
posted by vevaphon at 1:27 PM on February 4, 2005


Am I the only one who finds this completely backwards and wrong?

He was trying to find an *adult* date!!!

ADULT. Not a kid.

And, in the process, potentially helping someone ELSE also not pray on children.

Is this not what rehabilitation is about?

But, instead, we punish him for at least trying to do right. Ok, yeah, his methods could've been better, but his plan makes sense to me, from a certain point of view.
posted by InnocentBystander at 1:29 PM on February 4, 2005


Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwww.
posted by jokeefe at 1:29 PM on February 4, 2005


Hmm. What was going through his mind? I don't know you or what you look like, but you seem like the kind of person who would be really callous and dangerous. Let's talk about how we've really hurt people, and then have sex!

I would have never thought of making the database off limits to sex offenders, but maybe it's not such a bad idea.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 1:32 PM on February 4, 2005


It sounds like a bunch of horse manure to me. It's a public database. That means that the bad guys, the good guys, and the accused guys get to see it. EVERYBODY gets to see it. That's what public means.

One slippery slope of selectively public documents is that the wrongfully accused are discouraged or prohibited from examining information that could help prove their innocence. Either the database is public or it is not. If it is public, EVERYBODY should get to access it.
posted by Possum at 1:33 PM on February 4, 2005


This is a stupid idea on a number of levels.

Here's a fun scenario:

You just turned 20 and had sex with your 16 year old girlfriend. Her parents had you prosecuted. You registered as a sex offender.

You're now 30. You had a kid of your own two years ago. You're moving to a new neighborhood and you'd like to make sure there are no molesters living nearby.

TOUGH LUCK.
posted by u.n. owen at 1:34 PM on February 4, 2005


Sex Offendster

Ha! dougunderscorenelso wins.
posted by jokeefe at 1:34 PM on February 4, 2005


Additionally, I don't think a person's OWN page should ever be off limits to them. What if the information was wrong? In a database of that size, it's hard to believe no mistakes are ever made as to severity of crime/location/et cetera. If you can't look it up, how can you tell that you're not being vilified for things other than what you actually did?
posted by u.n. owen at 1:35 PM on February 4, 2005


Actually, I can think of a lot of reasons why you wouldn't want offenders to look in the database. For one, it could be used to get away with future crimes. Say that offender A wants to kidnap a child. He might throw police off the track by kidnapping said child from the neighborhood of offender B, who he looked up on the database. Also, it opens up the avenue of offenders blackmailing each other: A could call B anonymously and threaten to shout far and wide that B is an offender.

In general, I can see a lot of possibilities for abuse, and I really can't argue with this rule. However, I do think that someone should have told him that he couldn't do this.
posted by unreason at 1:37 PM on February 4, 2005


This is nasty, wrong and the guy should have no trouble getting "dates" back in the pokey.
posted by fenriq at 1:40 PM on February 4, 2005


Sex Offendster

Better than mine.

Bystander: Good point.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:45 PM on February 4, 2005


Wait, so if a sex offender wants to defend him/herself from other sex offenders (because the first one is now behaving like a good citizen) he/she can't access the database ? That's a nonsense.
posted by elpapacito at 1:45 PM on February 4, 2005


I can anticipate that this is going to end up on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit sometime in the next season or two. Probably the photoshopped-motel-room thread will have a similar fate.
posted by matildaben at 1:47 PM on February 4, 2005


Really, they should just be shot in the back of the head. It'd save all this grief about whether or not they can be rehabilitated, whether the neighbours should be allowed to know of their past, whether they're allowed to marry and have kids of their own, and whether they're allowed to view a database. Simple, really.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:53 PM on February 4, 2005


I heard about this on the news the other day. Ick.

I've checked out the database. One of my sisters has always gone on about how city-life is scary & dangerous so she chooses to live on a farm in the boonies... so it was very interesting to see that according to that website, there are 10x as many sex offenders living around her than around anywhere I've ever lived. Hmmmmm.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:57 PM on February 4, 2005


I doubt he was looking for a date. He was most likely starting a pedophile ring.
posted by disgruntled at 1:59 PM on February 4, 2005


Yeah, all sex offenders automatically forfeit their rights after committing their unspeakable acts. [first link via this post.]
posted by cloeburner at 2:04 PM on February 4, 2005


Say that offender A wants to kidnap a child. He might throw police off the track by kidnapping said child from the neighborhood of offender B, who he looked up on the database.

And why does this depend on Offender B, again?

He could just as easily "throw them off track" by looking at a map.

This is a stupid, stupid law.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:10 PM on February 4, 2005


disgruntled probably has it closest to right. He was very probably looking to find like minded folks to trade secrets with.
posted by fenriq at 2:14 PM on February 4, 2005


"You're now 30. You had a kid of your own two years ago. You're moving to a new neighborhood and you'd like to make sure there are no molesters living nearby."

Well, your wife could look. But I take your point. By creating a category without gradations, we are saying that people with questionable judgement are the same as rapists.

Does anyone know if the status of sex offender can be expunged after a period of time?
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 2:16 PM on February 4, 2005


..or he was lonely and afraid to start relationships with new people who wouldn't understand the issues he had in the past.
posted by dirtylittlemonkey at 2:17 PM on February 4, 2005


I don't know, it seems perfectly logical that he would want to find someone who he didn't have to risk scaring away by revealing that he was on a sex offender list.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:24 PM on February 4, 2005


unreason wrote:
Say that offender A wants to kidnap a child. He might throw police off the track by kidnapping said child from the neighborhood of offender B, who he looked up on the database. Also, it opens up the avenue of offenders blackmailing each other: A could call B anonymously and threaten to shout far and wide that B is an offender.
why is this something that only other registered sex offenders should be prohibited from? This is a consequence of having a public database like this in the first place. What if "offender A" isn't a sex offender at all, but just a common blackmailer or kidnapper? What if they aren't even a kidnapper or blackmailer yet, but just looking for an easy way to start out?

Why do people need access to this database anyway? If there really is a legitimate need, is that same need irrelevant for registered sex offenders?
posted by dkg at 2:28 PM on February 4, 2005


Am I "hot" or not?
posted by eriko at 2:29 PM on February 4, 2005


Am I Perv Or Not?
posted by fandango_matt at 2:37 PM on February 4, 2005


The reason for these databases is so that communities can be aware of dangerous sex offenders. All sex offenses are not created equal. For example, the previous hypothetical of a man having sex with his 16 y.o. girlfriend would probably be just a level I offender and not be placed in the internet database. For example, I know a guy who is a level I offender. He has to register, but is not in the online database due to the nature of his offense, which was quite similar to the hypothetical. On the other hand, just yesterday I received a notification that a level III sex offender had moved within one mile of my home. Yes, I do want to know where he's living and what he looks like.

From the California Attorney General's Megan's Law Site:

Not every registered sex offender will appear on this Internet web site. As explained on the Summary of the Law page, approximately 25% of registered sex offenders are excluded from public disclosure by law. Whether public disclosure is permitted is based on the type of sex crime for which the person is required to register.

The Sex Offender Tracking Program is responsible for determining if any sex offender registrant who applies for exclusion from the Internet web site qualifies for exclusion. Registrants whose only registrable sex offenses are for the following offenses may apply for exclusion: (1) sexual battery by restraint (Penal Code § 243.4, subd. (a)); (2) misdemeanor child molestation (Penal Code § 647.6, or former section 647a); or (3) lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 (Penal Code section 288) or continuous sexual abuse of a child (Penal Code § 288.5), but only if the person convicted of section 288 or 288.5 successfully completed probation that was granted pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.066, subdivision (c). Click here for a copy of the exclusion form, which must be submitted to DOJ and approved before exclusion will be granted. Registered sex offenders who are granted exclusion from the Internet web site must still register as sex offenders.

posted by Juicylicious at 2:55 PM on February 4, 2005


I like tot or not?
posted by eyeballkid at 3:00 PM on February 4, 2005


This would be funny if it wasn't. No wait, this is funny, nevermind.
posted by Bag Man at 3:09 PM on February 4, 2005


Also, it opens up the avenue of offenders blackmailing each other: A could call B anonymously and threaten to shout far and wide that B is an offender.

Did you miss that their names are on the public sex offenders list?

A taste for child molestation is pseudo-hereditary, like money and nobility: you get it from the guy that molested you when you were a kid, just like he got it from whoever did it to him. I sometimes wonder how far back these chains go. Do the lines of this awful inheritance go back to the Revolution? The middle ages? The Roman empire, when this sort of behavior was considered normal and healthy? How many of these invisible lines of social formation are running through the culture?

Thank God I never wandered within grabbing distance of one of them.
posted by hob at 3:09 PM on February 4, 2005


the whole topic is pretty much hysterical bullshit. most child sex offenders are familial relatives.
posted by quonsar at 3:13 PM on February 4, 2005


For example, the previous hypothetical of a man having sex with his 16 y.o. girlfriend would probably be just a level I offender and not be placed in the internet database. For example, I know a guy who is a level I offender. He has to register, but is not in the online database due to the nature of his offense, which was quite similar to the hypothetical.

This will vary from state to state. In Texas, everyone's in the database regardless, I think, because there's this guy across the street from me who was arrested and convicted for having sex with a 16 year old who he thought was 17, (which would have been legal) and he's in a database of sex offenders.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:21 PM on February 4, 2005


Am I the only one who finds this completely backwards and wrong?

He was trying to find an *adult* date!!!


Yeah, I agree. This is kind of screwed up, if it's true. Unfortunately, it's hard to know how true it is - the guy could be just looking for potential partners for future crimes, as others have pointed out.

Really, they should just be shot in the back of the head. It'd save all this grief about whether or not they can be rehabilitated, whether the neighbours should be allowed to know of their past, whether they're allowed to marry and have kids of their own, and whether they're allowed to view a database. Simple, really.

Capital idea! And while we're at it, why not extend this concept to all other crimes, from homicide to reckless driving?

the whole topic is pretty much hysterical bullshit. most child sex offenders are familial relatives.

I never thought I'd be in agreement with quonsar, but here we are.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:22 PM on February 4, 2005


quonsar's absolutely right. the list is an abomination. not allowing members of the list access to see their own information is only the icing on the shit.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:23 PM on February 4, 2005


the whole topic is pretty much hysterical bullshit. most child sex offenders are familial relatives.

Oh really?

In 1995, 354,670 women were the victims of a rape or sexual assault. (NationalCrime Victimization Survey. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, 1996.)

Approximately 28% of victims are raped by husbands or boyfriends, 35% by acquaintances, and 5% by other relatives. (Violence against Women, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Justice, 1994)


Even if you consider a boyfriend to be "family," that still leaves 67% of rapists who are not family.
posted by Juicylicious at 3:26 PM on February 4, 2005


"Here, you have an offender trying to abuse other offenders, which is kind of a strange twist."

Why is it assumed that this is abusive behavior? He didn't use the database to rape them, he sent letters in hopes of finding a fuck-buddy. Either this is abuse in the sense that he is invading their privacy--a problem with the registry itself--or, they are assuming that this person is incapable of non-abusive sexual relations.

Using this database to find partners makes a perverse kind of sense; after all, these are people who are least likely to be repulsed by the stigma of being a registered sex offender.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 3:29 PM on February 4, 2005


And what the hell does it matter whether the perpetrator was related to the victim or not? It doesn't change the fact that s/he is a sex offender. It doesn't make them any less dangerous. The reason that a sex offender may prey upon a relative is due to easy access. If they don't have a relative who do you think they're going to prey upon? Me? You? Your daughter? Your mother?
posted by Juicylicious at 3:29 PM on February 4, 2005


Juicylicious: he said child sex offenders.

I'd assume that when someone's post is only one sentence long, it wouldn't be too much of a burden to read it in its entirety before responding. Guess I'm wrong.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 3:34 PM on February 4, 2005


Thank you for your condescension, it does so much to make the MeFi experience so fulfilling.

However, it doesn't change the fact that preying upon relatives is due to the easy access to the victim. Just because their may not be a familial victim doesn't mean that the perpetrator will not commit sex offenses.
posted by Juicylicious at 3:38 PM on February 4, 2005


If the offender is no longer a threat, then there is no need for registration. If the offender is a threat, then there is no reason it should be walking around free, registration or no. I cannot see how registration could be a good thing. How about a 2 strike rule. First offense, normal sentencing. Second offence, we use five fresh fish's suggestion, and execute them.

And I'm not talking about the 19 year old that sleeps with his 16 year old girl friend. I trust a judge to see the difference between statutory rape and things like this: "Campbell has an extensive background in molesting pre-pubescent children, beginning when he was 8 years old. Campbell has admitted to molesting numerous children, ranging in ages as young as 1 year old to 11 years old, both male and female."
posted by Bort at 3:38 PM on February 4, 2005


And what the hell does it matter whether the perpetrator was related to the victim or not? It doesn't change the fact that s/he is a sex offender. It doesn't make them any less dangerous.

Actually, it does make them less dangerous. When assessing the risk a sex offender poses to the community, the nature of the relationship between the offender and the victim is very important. It might be easy to think of all sex offenders as constantly preying on every child they meet, but like any person, there are complex dynamics to even sex offender's relationships.

In short, offenders who prey on strangers are more likely to continue to offend strangers, and are less likely to respond to therapy. Incest offenders respond much more readily to therapy, and are much less likely to offend a stranger.

And also, quonsar was exactly right, Juicy. The term sex offenses encompasses a lot more than simply rape. Not to mention the fact that, as [expletive deleted] pointed out, you're listing statistics for adults, not children.
posted by Doug at 4:07 PM on February 4, 2005


Regarding shooting 2d offenders: a long standing interpretation of the 8th Amendment (no cruel and unusual punishment) is that punishment must be 'proportional', or, like Gilbert and Sullivan said: "my object all sublime I shall achieve in time: to make the punishment fit the crime." This severely limits our ability to redefine crimes as warranting drastically more severe sentences without the new laws being overturned on constitutional grounds. (I referred to this before here.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 4:23 PM on February 4, 2005


Offendster.com
posted by breath at 4:40 PM on February 4, 2005


"Approximately 28% of victims are raped by husbands or boyfriends, 35% by acquaintances, and 5% by other relatives. (Violence against Women, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Justice, 1994)

Even if you consider a boyfriend to be 'family,' that still leaves 67% of rapists who are not family."


But with regard to rape, stranger rape is the exception, not the rule. And aquaintance rape is likely more underreported than is stranger rape.

I'm not going to deny the horror of stranger rape. But the public's and individual women's attention to stranger rape compared to that paid to aquaintance rape is a sign of hysteria. It diverts attention and resources from the bigger problem and gives women a false sense of security.

And this is true for the wider sex offender population and things like these lists. So you feel that your children are safer because you know that someone four blocks away is an abuser but you're not paying attention to uncle Reggie when he takes your kids for a walk.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:00 PM on February 4, 2005


Thank you for your condescension, it does so much to make the MeFi experience so fulfilling.

If you don't like it, don't make an ass out of yourself by letting your personal crusade obscure your grasp on the topic of conversation at hand.

The reason that a sex offender may prey upon a relative is due to easy access. If they don't have a relative who do you think they're going to prey upon? Me? You? Your daughter? Your mother?

How about this: if they don't have easy access to someone, they'll simply do nothing. You think that ever happens? Or should I lock up my mom?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:27 PM on February 4, 2005


"The reason that a sex offender may prey upon a relative is due to easy access. If they don't have a relative who do you think they're going to prey upon? Me? You? Your daughter? Your mother?"

It's a big jump from having a long-term relationship with a child that gradually becomes sexual (which is how this works) and molesting a strange child or, even more radical, kidnapping them and molesting them.

Your idea that every family/aquaintance abuser would be a stranger abuser otherwise is just wrong.

These lists and things like them provide people with a false sense of security, and that's bad. It's bad that almost every American woman is nervous about walking outside after dark when the reality is that they're far more likely to raped by their coworker or friend.

If you are a survivor of stranger rape or were a child sexually abused by a stranger, I can understand why you'd have very strong feelings about this. But the overwhelming majority of rapes and abuse are not like those. They happen in one's home, by people one knows. The continued obsession with mysterious and threatening strangers is more a kind of transferrence of fear than it is a solution to a problem.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:42 PM on February 4, 2005


So, the databases are populated with public info, right? Is there anything to stop a non-offender from scraping the sites and republishing it?

I worked with a guy who registered prostitots.com. in 2000.
posted by NortonDC at 6:25 PM on February 4, 2005


Glad to see so many of you are secure in your assimption that sex offender = child molester.

I see the misinformation process is working as planned.
posted by HTuttle at 1:36 AM on February 5, 2005


I'm guessing that the police have a fairly good idea of what the guy was probably up to by looking at similarities among the five people he contacted. If the five shared certain physical characteristics, he was probably looking for a date; if their crimes were similar to his, maybe he wanted to get together to discuss the good old days (wappa, wappa). But on the other hand, if the five all happened to live in high-income neighborhoods, there's a good chance he was circling in for some kind of scam.
posted by taz at 2:25 AM on February 5, 2005


taz, according to the police he was trying to "abuse" the five he contacted:

"Here, you have an offender trying to abuse other offenders, which is kind of a strange twist."

I really can't make any sense of this sentence. Perhaps sodomy is considered "abuse" in the eyes of Bill Ahern? Maybe, as you suggest, there is some sort of scam involved, but the use of the word "abuse" in that context seems deliberately misleading.
posted by modofo at 4:14 AM on February 5, 2005


A taste for child molestation is pseudo-hereditary, like money and nobility: you get it from the guy that molested you when you were a kid, just like he got it from whoever did it to him. posted by hob at 11:09 PM GMT on February 4


I'm pretty sure that this is inaccurate. Have you any sources to cite? The implications are twofold: 1) If you have been abused, you will abuse; 2) If you abuse, you were abused.

Can you maybe word this better - otherwise you are apparently condemning many victims of abuse to prejudice on top of their painful experiences.

I'm surprised this wasn't challenged already in this thread, seeing the names attached to the commenters here already.
posted by dash_slot- at 7:44 AM on February 5, 2005


felons are often prohibited from associating with other felons as a condition of probation ... this is really nothing new ... part of being convicted of crimes is that you forfeit some of your rights, sometimes permanently
posted by pyramid termite at 9:47 AM on February 5, 2005


Regarding the assertions that most child sexual abuse is by abusers known to the child, according to this page, it's 95%.

And regarding child sexual abuse perpetuating itself by abused children becoming abusers, the usual wisdom is that while most abused children do not become abusers, but most abusers were abused. But when I tried to research this, I had a hard time finding stats that back that up. This GAO summary of 25 studies says a "substantial percentage" (but ultimately a minority) of abusers were abused. It surprised me.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:14 AM on February 5, 2005


You're right, dashie.

modofo, I guess I didn't attach too much information to the term "abuse", because I'm always intrigued by how "copspeak" (also, I guess, "courtspeak") has its own peculiar taxonomical lingo, wherein everything is referred to by its group identification... The patrol officer doesn't say "get out of the car", s/he says "step out of the vehicle", and it's not "drop the gun/knife/etc.", it's "drop the weapon". Murderers and shoplifters are both "perpetrators", and so on. So I guess that word didn't specifically strike me as giving away much information.

Or... maybe Ahem (and what a great name!) just has a poetic soul, and couldn't resist the symmetry of the phrase "abusing the abusers".

Also, just generally as far as the database is concerned, we ought to keep in mind that not all the people on the list are child molesters or paedophiles. (Esp. you, fff - p u t... t h e  w e a p o n... d o w n.)
posted by taz at 11:21 AM on February 5, 2005


miss lynnster: so it was very interesting to see that according to that website, there are 10x as many sex offenders living around her than around anywhere I've ever lived. Hmmmmm.

Not as wierd as you'd think. Registered offenders are often restricted from living and or working within a certian distance of schools, playgrounds or other areas frequented by children.

If you start looking around you'll see almost no locations in urban areas that aren't within at least one of these prohibited zones. It's also why you'll see clusters of offenders all living on the same block (often in the same building). That location may be the only address in a 20-40 block radius that isn't to close to a prohibited location. Elementary schools especially are usually planned so that children can walk to school.
posted by Mitheral at 1:21 PM on February 5, 2005


Sigh. I shouldn't have expected the entirety of MeFi to cluefully recognize over-the-top satire when they see it.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:50 PM on February 5, 2005


Yep, totally missed that. So shoot me.

^ Joke.
posted by taz at 12:44 AM on February 6, 2005


Sadly, five, I didn't either. Which says more, I think, about the state of some Americans than it does the national level of satire-awareness.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 2:38 PM on February 8, 2005


« Older The Faint + Viral Marketing + Indie Label Cash!...  |  Bear... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments