Saturday, August 25, 2007

Paying to register? Stupid idea

Some sheriffs consider sex offender fee

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Some Indiana counties are looking to charge convicted sex offenders an annual fee to register their addresses as required under state law.

Supporters of the fees say they would provide police agencies with much-needed money, while critics say they might be unconstitutional and could discourage some offenders from registering.
The sheriffs in St. Joseph County, which includes South Bend, and Bartholomew County, which includes Columbus, said the fees -- $50 each year and $5 for an address change -- would only cover a portion of the costs their departments face to process the registrations and track offenders.

"The cost has to come from somewhere," St. Joseph County Sheriff Frank Canarecci said. "I would classify it as a user fee. I think those who use government services should pay."
Susan Hancock, executive director of St. Joseph County Community Corrections, said she worried such a fee would hurt the registry's purpose of informing the public of sex offenders' whereabouts

"My concern is that there may be an unintended consequence and that some of these guys say, 'Oh gosh, I don't have the $50, so I just won't register,"' she said. "We do have the reality that some of these individuals do not have the money to pay for a meal, let alone pay a fee."
The $50 and $5 charges are the maximum allowed under Indiana law.


Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana, said he questioned whether such fees were constitutional as the $5 fee for changing one's address would essentially penalize people for moving.

This one comes from time to time, and has not withstood whatever tests it has come against.

A good thing, in my humble opinion, because such "fees" will be highly counter-productive. First off, enacted ex post facto they're a trigger to the dutifully registered convicted sex offender that life will get worse for him no matter what he does.

Second, they impose an economic burden that can invite backlash. Perhaps, instead of taking waste materials like old furniture or old computers to the local dump/recycling center (where charges are imposed), such materials get deliberately dumped roadside. (Worse, such backlash in itself will further isolate the would-be ex-offender from a feeling of being a member of society, not a contribution to rehabilitation.)

Third, this invites resistance -- especially where it applies lifelong. Can't afford it anymore? Take the easy way out. The quality of the provisions are quite poor but you get lifelong "three hots and a cot, free health-care, etc." -- and you can get it by saying "I can't afford it" and give up your "home" under that bridge.

I'm just waiting until some enterprising politician thinks he he can "drive out the sex offenders" by raising the registration fee to a few thousand dollars per quarter. If the initial "fee" assessment stands, it is going to happen, be assured of that! You have to look no further the Georgia and Iowa on residency zones to see that. (And how much they want to but cannot, back off on those laws.)


Blogger JR said...

In Louisiana, we already have to pay to register. $60 to the city and $60 to the parish (county).
We also have to have SEX OFFENDER in bright orange on our driver's license. Try getting a job with that.

5:19 PM  

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