The Latest Scarlett Letter for People Convicted of Sexual Offenses
Date:  02-09-2016

Obama signs bill that identifies those convicted of a sex crime via marking their passports
On February 9, 2016 The Marshall Project reported that President Obama signed into law a measure that would allow an identifying mark or code to appear on the passports of those convicted of a sex crime.

From the Marshall Project:

“Legislation requiring the State Department to identify registered sex offenders with a special mark on their passports received final passage in the House of Representatives on Monday night and went to President Obama’s desk. The White House has not indicated whether President Obama plans to sign the bill.

Called “International Megan’s Law” by its sponsors, the bill provides that offenders’ passports contain a “unique identifier” — as yet unspecified. Critics call it a scarlet letter. “Who is going to have a unique identifier added to their passport next? Is it going to be Muslims? Is it going to be gays?” asks Janice Bellucci, a civil rights attorney who has fought against sex offender registries.

Supporters say the bill will help prevent sex trafficking, since sex offenders “hop on planes and go to places for a week or two and abuse little children,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., told NJ.com. Multiple requests for comment made to Smith’s office were not returned.

In drafting the bill, Smith and others drew upon a 2010 GAO report that found that about 4,500 of the more than 16 million U.S. passports issued each year go to registered sex offenders. The report included a selected list of registered sex offenders who received passports in 2008, with detailed descriptions of their crimes.

In a rebuttal printed as an appendix in the report, the State Department noted that there was no evidence anyone on that list had traveled in order to commit a sex crime, and that it already has the authority to deny passports to people convicted of sex tourism involving minors and those whose probation or parole terms forbid them from traveling

“We think the report is very misleading,” the State Department wrote. “Starting with the title, ‘Passports Issued to Thousands of Registered Sex Offenders,’ we are concerned that it conveys more ‘shock value’ than factual accuracy.”

Multiple studies have shown that sex offender registries do not prevent sex crimes and in fact can increase crime, by driving people on the registry away from legal employment, housing, and positive social networks." Read more