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New Legislation Could Remove 44 Clarion County Sex Offenders from Megan’s Law List
CLARION CO., Pa. (EYT) — Dozens of sex offenders in our area and thousands more across the state may no longer be required to register with state authorities thanks to pending legislation in Pennsylvania.
Currently, there are more than 22,000 Pennsylvanians listed on the Megan’s Law website at pameganslaw.state.pa.us, including nearly 500 in Clarion, Venango, Forest, and Jefferson counties.
That number could be drastically less if current legislation is passed.
Everything began in July 2017 when the state Supreme Court found the current sex offender registration law unconstitutional.
The court’s ruling was made in the case of Jose M. Muniz, who was convicted of molesting a 12-year-old girl in Cumberland County. Muniz was convicted of indecent assault for improperly touching his girlfriend’s 12-year-old daughter, and whose registration requirement was upgraded under the new law from 10 years to life. The court found applying the law retroactively was unconstitutional. Though the law’s purported goal is public safety, the court declared it was, in fact, a new punishment being applied to an offense after the fact.
Critics of sex offender reporting requirements say they are oppressive, very costly to enforce and do little to reduce repeat offenses.
“The evidence is conclusive. Large-scale, offense-based registries like the ones Pennsylvania has employed over the past two decades not only fail to reduce sexual violence but in fact do just the opposite,” said Aaron Marcus, an assistant defender with the Defender Association of Philadelphia, in the philly.com article.
Critics of registration said that those requirements include low-risk criminals who are unlikely to re-offend and that lifetime registration can prove a barrier to keeping housing and employment — factors linked to re-offending.
Even those in favor of registries are concerned that too many people are being put on the Megan’s Law list.
Republican Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, who was a sponsor of Megan’s Law, was quoted as saying, “We’ve cast a very wide net and are spending resources in punishing people who do not pose a threat to society — and we’re diluting our ability to monitor the dangerous ones. “We need to ask ourselves who are we mad at and who we should be afraid of.”
Nevertheless, many believe maintaining registration is critical to public safety. Without legislative action, state police could lose track of thousands of sex offenders.
According to a February 5, 2018 article on philly.com, Pa. State Police acting Deputy Commissioner Maj. Scott Price said there are 17,544 people whom he expected to be relieved of registration requirements as a result of the Supreme Court decision.
However, if House Bill 1952 is enacted, Maj. Price said it would place about 9,000 to 12,000 of them back on the registry.
On Monday, February 5, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously advanced legislation already passed by the House to replace the invalidated law.
The Senate needs to pass the bill before Governor Tom Wolf can sign it into law, which many believe he will.
Jennifer Storm, the state victim advocate, said that registration notifications are crucial to victims’ piece of mind: “The overwhelming majority of people on this registry should be on there. We owe it to the crime victims. We owe them some sense of safety.”
In Clarion County, there are currently 66 on the Megan’s Law https://www.pameganslaw.state.pa.us/Search/CountySearchResults?selectedCounty=CLARION&chkCountyIncarcerated=true&chkCountyIncarcerated=false&selectedSortBy=LastName list.
About 44 of them, or 66 percent, could come off the list without new legislation.
In Venango County, there are currently 120 on the Megan’s Law list with 95 who could come off without new legislation.
In Forest County, most of the 206 total listed are jailed at the State Correctional Institution in Marienville and three of five who aren’t jailed could come off the list.
In Jefferson County, there are currently 104 on the Megan’s Law with 83 potentially being delisted.
Since Megan’s Law was passed in 1995, state legislators have updated the measure to make it more restrictive – applying it to more offenses and requiring longer registration periods.
The most recent version, written to comply with the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), was passed on December 20, 2012.
It included five times as many offenses as were first listed in Megan’s Law, including nonsexual crimes such as interfering with the custody of a child.
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