Friday, December 12, 2008

Why a Registry for Violent Offenders?

As we (Robert Maxwell and I) develop the first draft of the "Victims Protection Act" or "Victims/Survivors Bill" we are mindful of the immense challenge to passing this through Congress. Let me give you a little history first. This will give you an idea where I am going with this.

Two weeks before Tiffany Gates' (my God-sister, god-sister) murder I saw a special biography on Oprah Winfrey. The special highlighted Oprah's success in supporting legislation to create a sex-offender registry. It was called the Oprah Bill and passed through Congress with the signing into law by former president Bill Clinton. It was called the Megan Law or Child Protection Act of 1993. After seeing this, I was excited. I jumped up off of the couch and a light bulb came on in my head. I said, "We need a violent offender registry!" So, I looked it up. There wasn't a violent offender registry. I was shocked. I was surprised. Most of all, I was hurt. I was hurt that so many violent offenders who get out of prison and commit the same crimes or more heinous ones are able to escape the accountability of the society or community only to hurt us. With a registry, at least we can identify them and protect ourselves from future harm. Of course, all violent offenders are not harmful to the community once they are rehabilitated, but we still have to protect ourselves, offenders included.

There are a few reasons why I think a registry should be conducted, administered, whatever. Here we go.

1) Give our community a choice. Let us decide if we want to get in a relationship with someone with violent tendencies. My mother and brother was murdered after she met her killer who was released after 11 1/2 years in prison for murder. Had she known that, she could have protected herself before falling in love with him and him being obsessed with her. He killed our family. He shot her and my 12 years-old brother right in front of me. I know I keep saying it, but I cannot get away from the fact that it happened. Tiffany's killer had violent tendencies too. I know Tiffany would have looked him up in the beginning because my sister, Manyka, was vigilant about looking up people on the sex-offenders registry. She is adamant about protecting her children and she would have done the same thing for Tiffany. So, let's give a choice to our community. Offenders have a choice. They hide their violent past and only reveal it through action. This action is often through violent means. You do not have to tell me. I know first hand and so does my family and friends.

Example: We need to shine the light on violent offenders. You see, entertainers, politicians and people in the lime-light are often seen in the news having been charged with crimes. PDiddy, Martha Stewart and a host of other entertainers' lives are seen through a microscope. If their lives can be viewed through a lense, so should these individuals. Their offenses are permanently etched in the minds of those who watch television or for those inundated by news flashes. Isn't this a registry? It is not a formal registry, but a registry nonetheless. Not only that, you can google or Yahoo! search their names and get information about their indictments and charges. Violent offenders under the radar has to change. Their acts have to be brought to the forefront.

Another thing, when violent offenders offenses are documented and sent out through a media advisory in the community. If I catalogued each one of those cases, I could start a registry. So, why not make it a federal registry?

Accountability to the public is key.

"Accountability to the community encourages accountability within the individual." Kellibrew

We have to feel a sense of self worth and that can happen through building meaningful relationships within the community. It has helped me tremendously to get back on track.

Simple, we need a violent offenders registry.

2) Victims often have to change their behaviour while offenders continue the same pattern of abuse and violence. I support mandatory counseling. Someone said to me the other day that violent offenders do have to go through therapy. Well, some are obviously skipping the therapy and perhaps once they attend therapy sessions they are not rehabilitated. Violent offenders are often released and most recommit crimes. Within the registry, there should be a column that reads, "Mandatory Counseling". The duration or length of their counseling should be evident and public. As a community, we should be aware of the violent offender rebuilding their lives. Victims are often in the public rebuilding their lives. They should be too. What is there to hide? Let's be honest and upfront with each other.

I am accepting other suggestions for this registry. If you have any, make a comment. This is an inclusive process. We need all of the help we can get.

Thanks for reading.

Til later.

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