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Just Say No to Meth Registries

What sort of criminal offender merits the special distinction of being placed on a public registry? Only the most dangerous, or is it the most demonized? Registries of sex offenders began appearing a few years ago as part of the hysterical response to not an increase in sex crimes, but an increase in publicity about them, driven in part by information technologies that allow the whole country to almost instantaneously watch the latest local outrage with fascinated horror. Who besides baby-rapers is so heinous as to merit inclusion on a registry? Why, that would be tweakers, because we know that meth is nothing but poison and its users dangerous drug fiends deserving no less than the 21st Century version of public shaming that registries are. Beginning with Tennessee, states confronting methamphetamine use and production have begun treating meth cooks like sex offenders. Minnesota, Illinois, and Montana now have registries, too, and bills are pending in six other states, but it doesn’t look like the idea is going to fly in California. The Tri-Valley Herald was on the beat with its "Officials Decry Meth Registry, and staff writer Roman Gokhman deserves some kudos for teasing out the implications of meth registries and talking to officials who recognize them for the feel-good measures they are. The following quotes are taken from the article: "There's more effective ways to combat methamphetamine than public registries," said state Sen. Liz Figeroa, D-Fremont. "You need to go out and educate people. You have to encourage treatments." Figeroa said that taxpayers' money should be used to fight the supply and demand of meth and increase jail sentences, not tell people about former meth manufacturers. "You can't win a war on drugs without getting rid of the demand," she said. Livermore Police Chief Steve Krull said he has not done any research about the registries in other states, but that anything that could result in fewer meth crimes and labs should be looked at. But if the point behind the registry is simply to inform people about their neighbors, "I'm not sure what benefit that would be," Krull said. Critics said the registries serve no real purpose and violate civil rights by punishing a person twice for the same crime. "They served their time and are presumably not a danger to society," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national advocate against the country's "war on drugs." "The big drawback is that it makes it difficult for former meth offenders to get their lives back in order," Piper said. He said that money should be spent on treatment and that California is a national example of dealing with meth because of Proposition 36, which offers non-violent offenders a chance at treatment instead of jail time. San Ramon Police Chief Scott Holder agreed. "Why a meth registry?" he asked. "Why not a heroin registry? Why not an alcohol registry?" "That's taking government too far," he said.
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The real truth

San Ramon Police Chief Scott Holder agreed. "Why a meth registry?" he asked. "Why not a heroin registry? Why not an alcohol registry?" "That's taking government too far," he said.

And a sex offender registry isn't?

How do those people do their time and get on with their lives?

Just another elected official vote getter!

Just Say No to Meth Registries

The original intent of sex offender registry and community notification laws were designed for law enforcement to track the most violent and predatory offenders. Jerry Burke Inman, John Evander Couey, or Joseph Edward Duncan III were intentionally absconding from the system at the time of their most recent crimes. The conditions of their release did not matter to them. They wanted to offend and should be incarcerated for the rest of their lives, end of story.

The public needs to be more concerned about absconders, not low risk offenders who are working hard to comply with their court and therapy guidelines. Many have paid their debt to society, and are on the Sex Offender Registry by law. Others are young men, guilty only of consensual sex with their teen-age girlfriends. If the registries were working, why are we seeing an 8% increase each year in the number of registrants?

Politicians want you to believe in the stranger danger myth. According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, American Psychological Association, the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, and other experts; children are abused by a family member or someone trusted by the family around 90 percent of the time. Let’s replace myths with facts.

According to the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, most sex offenders live in an area due to its proximity to their family or therapy provider. “Chasing them away from therapist and family support network is not in the best interest of public safety.”

What has not been publicly discussed is the impact of registration on low risk registrants and specifically their families. How can anyone look into the eyes of a former offender’s child and tell them that they deserve to be homeless, harassed, stigmatized, and humiliated?

Whose children are worthy? Only those of others, or do the children of registrants even count? According to our legislators, they do not. What about due process protection for them, are we OK with making them second-class citizens just because of who their father or brother is?

At the end of the day, proximity laws create disenfranchised citizens and families. In lieu of fostering fear for election year sound bites, legislators should step up to this societal challenge. They should strive to dispel the myths and establish an environment for policy and subsequent legislation to succeed, creating a safe society for everyone’s children. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong.

Meth Registries

Why is it okay to have a sex offender registry and not a meth registry? Is the sex offender the only one who should not be allowed to get back their life after serving their time? Is a sex offender the only one who should have to pay more than once for the same crime?

borden's picture

DRCNet position

Just a brief note to clarify our position: DRCNet as a single-issue organization concerned with drug policy is not able to take a position either for or against sex offender registries. So when we opine against meth offender registries alone, that is not a reflection of support for other kinds of criminal offender registries.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Honestly, they need one of

Honestly, they need one of these in California's Antelope Valley . They recently did a study on how many meth addicts were released and committed violent crimes. It's unbelievable and scary - I can't say I want to live next door to a meth addict.

Meth Registries

I guess then the American public should brace itself for at one time or another being placed on a registry of some sort. At the rate we are going we will have registries for every kind of offence known to man. Don't get me wrong I am not a bleeding heart liberal who feels that there should be no consequences for criminal activity, however where do we draw the line? The offenders who are labeled have already paid their debt to society. If we feel like it is not enough well then we need to go after the law and policy makers, not the offenders. We perpetuate further criminal activity by our need to label limiting their ability to obtain employement and improve in other life areas. Maybe if we stopped punishing and started looking at the real root of the problem, the bandaid fixes we are so accustomed to would not be necessary any longer.

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