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Megan's Law: Not the best approach?

4-2-2012 California:

Public defender argues against database

Frances Floyd said she was a young girl when her life was “turned upside down.”

The year was 1981. Floyd and her brother, James Jones, were babysitting their relatives at their mother’s home on Crabtree Avenue in Porterville.

That evening, Floyd said, she and her brother walked into one of the bedrooms to see a relative having sex with the two nieces. The relative was a 9-year-old boy at the time. The nieces were 6 and 7.

That’s when Floyd’s life was changed forever.

She said a phone call was made to the local police department, but the caller accused Jones — not the boy — of having sex with the two young girls.

Jones was sentenced to 8 years, 9 months in jail. He was found dead, hanging by a rope, two years ago in his Visalia home. His death was ruled a suicide by detectives. He was 38.

The boy was never charged.

“My life turned upside down,” Floyd said of the ensuing days and years after her brother was sentenced to jail. “I started drinking heavily. I got into drugs. I eventually ended up in foster homes because I kept running away.

“My brother and I were very close.”

Floyd said she believes her brother was a victim of a defective system. She said the judge who sentenced Jones even admitted to wanting “to make an example out of him.”

Jones, who was a young teenager at the time of the alleged incident, was released from jail on his 21st birthday. Upon being released, he had to register as a sex offender everywhere he went for the rest of his life, Floyd said.

“Everything just went downhill,” she said. “The whole family went downhill.”

Today, there are 130 people living in Porterville and East Porterville who are required by law to register as sex offenders. Their crimes range from annoying or molesting a child younger than 18, to committing lewd or lascivious acts with a child younger than 14, to rape.

Because of Megan’s Law, which was enacted in 1996, anyone and everyone — except for the accused themselves — can access detailed information pertaining to the alleged offenders.

In most cases, a mug shot, their residential address, alleged offense, date of birth and more are all available for public viewing.

Tulare County Chief Public Defender Michael Sheltzer said “lumping together” all sex offenders, from rapists to those who urinated in public and everyone in between, into a single database is unfair and does nothing to prevent the most serious offenders from reoffending.

In fact, Sheltzer said, all the one-size-fits-all database does is drive the real criminals to commit more crimes.

“The single-most factor that determines if a sex offender will reoffend is whether he is living with his family and has a support system. The one thing the registry does is take them away from that,” he said. “What you end up doing is setting him up to commit some sort of crime. He has to live somehow.”

Sheltzer went on to say Megan’s Law “costs a lot of money, gives people a false sense of security and harasses convicted criminals who have already served their time.”

Instead of “ostracizing” alleged sex offenders by exposing them online, efforts need to be focused on monitoring them and getting them the resources they need, Sheltzer said.

“I don’t know exactly what the purpose (of Megan’s Law) is other than to have a scarlet letter for offenders,” he said. “If it’s supposed to have a positive impact on the citizenry and public safety, the statistics show that it doesn’t.”

To this day, Floyd, now 36 and living in Washington state, still believes in her brother’s innocence.

She said Jones, after his release from jail, babysat her four children numerous times.

“My second daughter called him ‘Daddy’ because he was the only male figure in her life for a long time,” Floyd said. “She followed him everywhere.”

Floyd said her brother was even given custody of his two youngest daughters after he and his girlfriend separated.

“If he was going to harm any child, why would [the judge] give him custody of his own daughters?” she said. “If he was going to harm any child, why would I allow him to babysit my children?”

But Jones can’t answer those questions. He’s gone, and his loved ones can’t bring him back.

They can only grieve and mourn and replay the events of that fateful night in Porterville three decades ago.

“I still talk to [my brother’s] two youngest daughters. When they get upset about their dad, they want to call me,” Floyd said. “I had to tell them, ‘Daddy is looking down on you.’” ..Source.. by Alex K.W. Schultz

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