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Don't sign Jessica's Law - Political Scam Targets Mentally Ill Prisoners, Families 

Dr. B. Cayenne Bird, American Chronicle, January 31, 2006

Dr. B. Cayenne Bird is an ordained minister and a 37-year veteran op-ed journalist and publisher. She volunteers her time as founder and director of United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect UNION. The UNION is active in prison reform and criminal justice issues. She is a mother and grandmother and focuses on human rights and restorative justice. She is also the host of television series "Cayenne Common Sense" and publishes a daily online newsletter to subscribers.

One of the great benefits of having been one of only a handful of people to actually show up in the legislature on matters of criminal law and public safety is that you know the score and how the game is played.

That's what it is to those in elected office who use prisoners as their political football in a most callous and destructive way. The human toll in these "games" is immeasurable and it's imperative for us as unsuspecting citizens to quash the political hype gone amok before initiatives that destroy people become laws. It irks me how everyone has an opinion even when they don't really know the issues that well. All these belly-achers out there who attend sporting events but never actually show up to the legislative hearings suddenly become experts over perceived 'threats'.

With elections coming, there is a sharper divide between Republicans and Democrats than ever as Conservative politicians posture "tough on crime" and use fear tactics to elevate themselves to get votes. What better cheap shot for them to take than manufacturing scares about child molesters near schools to get everyone's attention and support. 

One of the worst initiatives ever to go forward in California is the one currently underway entitled "Jessica's Law." It is purely political and will do nothing to reduce the incidence of child molestation even though it will cost us millions in resources should it pass.

As a mother and grandmother, I am as concerned with protecting our children as everyone else. But I don't like to see mostly young people destroyed for life over accusations that often stem from divorce and child custody disputes. This hysteria is politically motivated and the Republicans try it every year because punishing is one of their favorite career stepping stones. There are some real child molesters out there who are mostly mentally ill people and they do sometimes predictably act out their illnesses. But the facts are that they aren't hanging around school yards.

Almost all of the research shows that 90% of actual child molestation occurs within families or by a known party and these episodes are not usually planned in advance.

Many sources of research shows a low percentage of the "snatch-and-run" type of child molestation that the bill Jessica's law targets. The Republicans are just copying Florida and witch hunts around sex crimes have long been their ideal way to advance their careers. The Republican politicians behind these bills love punishing, adore prisons and were put into office by law enforcement labor unions to do their bidding. Check Sharon Runner's donations from law enforcement labor unions to verify these facts as well as her husband George. They are bought and paid for to build imprisonment as high as it can possibly go for monetary reasons. 

There is money to be made to put the GPS tracking devices on mostly young people for life. This money helps to run the police state and the bureaucracy. But it is a giant step backwards for us socially and no better than the red letter days of the Puritans. You will recall in high school history classes learning about how people were made to wear a red "T" on their clothing if they were thought to be a thief, a red "A" if they were thought to be an adulterer.

Well, Jessica's law proposes to brand and destroy FOR LIFE "sex offenders" even after they have served their prison terms and parole. This is most likely unconstitutional as it extends punishment far beyond time served. 


It is too easy for a person accused of a sex crime to go to prison without any physical evidence and many of these stories are later recanted. Nobody wants to lead the parade and stand up in public for an accused sex offender and so often the investigations never take place.

But the destruction to families and hype is so intense that I cannot sit on the sidelines silently and just let this one slip by without laying out the facts of what is no more than a public relations scam.

Anyone accused of the crime of child molestation is not going to get a fair trial in California. A judge recently committed suicide when his wife threatened to accuse him of child molestation because he knew that would be the end of him regardless of his guilt or innocence. I have sat through many legislative hearings about 'sex offenders' and listened to Republican politicians try to find new ways to extend punishments as if the ones in existence aren't bad enough. 

For example, there is a public hearing taking place around visits denied to at least 30,000 children except for three times a year across broad categories of alleged sex offenders even though many of them have committed no crimes against children! Shocking!. This new rule is so broad that it reads that these men and women in prison only need be accused of this offense and that an actual conviction is not necessary. What? An accusation could cut you off from having a relationship with your own child except a rare hour behind glass? What the hell is going on here.

Most prisons have only three windows for each yard which means that 600 to 1,000 men must share the phones for one hour through glass. Only about one visit every 90 days is going to be possible to people who may not even be charged of anything very serious. This is not rehabilitative to the mentally ill who need family support more than any other category of prisoner. No problem existed to prompt these harsh laws which literally destroy family ties and punish children.

The California Department of Corrections has made this a ONE HOUR hearing. In all the years I have been an advocate for families of prisoners I never saw a one hour hearing. The purpose of this can only be to slide this one through with no public input for the record. Hey! If nobody shows up, then denying tens of thousands of children a relationship with their mothers and fathers until they reach the age of 18 must be acceptable. Right? Wrong. 

When and if people are released from prison, they need to have strong family ties and support in the community in terms of a job and housing. How is a person wearing an electronic bracelet for life ever going to be able to get a job? What if he gets a job as a delivery route driver and is forced to make a delivery near a school? Oops, the tracker goes off and he's back in prison. Is this a sane approach? Obviously not!

Some of the myths surrounding sex crimes has been researched and posted for your careful thought at  [< link does not work]

It was the Republicans who duped us on the Three Strikes Law, Prop 21 and a number of other horribly inhumane and downright mean-spirited and well, STUPID, laws. The destruction of parents placed in prison for life on children is great, but to destroy people to the point that they cannot make a living on what might be a false or overblown claim hurts us all. 

The recidivism rate in other states is low, in the single digits according to my research and I challenge any claims that California has a higher rate. The entire process is so broken that to assume that everyone in prison is guilty of any crime is a big mistake. The statistics they release are full of variables and as useless as the paper they're written upon. Remember that most of the law enforcement labor unions are Republican-driven and they are seeking new profit areas more than solutions to crime.

Just ask the 3 million family members who have actually been through these trials connected to state inmates if there is any justice in the courts. Three million does not include those on parole (now l.5 million) or those in federal prisons, juvenile halls or in jail. Witch hunts have devastated far more people than child molestation.

Another ridiculous assumption that Republican lawmakers often make is that the mentally ill can be deterred from a crime by being ostracized and psychologically broken. This is the same mentality that prevents rehabilitation and healing from taking place. When a child being potty trained has an accident and a parent puts their dirty underwear on their head, it doesn't help the child to learn his lesson and in fact sets him back. Humiliation is not the same as rehabilitation.

Destroying someone who may or may not be guilty or be guilty of a much lesser crime FOR LIFE is not a deterrent to mentally ill offenders where most child molesters who are actually guilty would fall. 

The appropriate bill for you to insist upon would be one of prevention of mental illness and alternative sentencing to treatment facilities where degradation and violence are not part of the healing process for all sex offenders. They cannot follow the rules of society, that is what makes them mentally ill. In mismanaged prisons and jails they only become much sicker and this abuse makes our society worse instead of safer.

Asm. Sharon Runner (R) has one of the worst run prisons in the State (CSP - Los Angeles County, Lancaster) due to overcrowding and unbearable incompetence. Last Friday there was an article in the Los Angeles Times about yet another murder taking place there. How is it that the Republican legislators can find millions of dollars to go off on these crazy campaigns where no large problem existed in the first place during election year instead of taking care of business? Follow the money trail and the anticipated profits on the tracking devices to see what this initiative is really all about.

Study up on this ridiculous waste of resources for a non solution to a crime committed by the mentally ill in their own family circles 90% of the time and don't sign Jessica's law.

The Republican politicians need to change their symbol from the elephant to the Carnivore Dinosaur with the smallest brains. Their ideas are from the dark ages and do more to destroy families than any crime committed amongst the people whom they are trying to agitate right now.

Don't fall for it. Do insist on more programs of education, prevention of substance abuse and mental illness which makes far more sense than an unconstitutional approach that is going to drain money away from real crime solutions.

Before 1930 the purpose of government was to protect our property and to protect our rights. The church and family was to take care of educating on morality. Jessica's Law makes no sense, addresses no real emergency and opens up a plethora of Constitutional issues. 

Just say 'No' if this terrible idea makes it to the ballot and remember why it is being floated out there. Because this is an election year and some politicians think they can use the hysteria and hype of child molestation witch hunts to get votes.

We need smart on crime politicians that are really going to protect the public safety. Retributive justice never works and there is much to support restorative justice. Do your own research by entering key words at  on recidivism and the fact that most sex crimes occur within families.

People should attend the public hearing and write in to prevent 30,000 or more children from being cut off from their own parents until they reach of the age of 18 years. Our UNION has several key workers in the hospital and we are not going to be able to make this one after years of being the primary group to fight back at these hearings.

Are sporting events and television really a better investment of your life than attending legislative hearings so you can tell the good guys from the bad guys? Do you really know the intelligent from the unintelligent? Google 'restorative justice' and learn what smart on crime is all about and then at election time put twenty people in your car to get the vote out against all those politicians who are put up by law enforcement labor unions. 

There might be one or two bright Republican politicians who understand education, prevention and healing but after 37 years of high-heeling around in that stadium, I can promise you that I've met only one or two. You don't see many people in the helping professions such as doctors, teachers, nurses, social workers and so forth voting for Republican politicians because they worship punishing and do lockstep voting against everything sensible.

Here is the public hearing information to stand up for those 30,000 children who are about to lose their relationship with their mothers and fathers. It isn't likely that anyone will be there at all so you can make a difference by showing up.

Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation NOTICE OF CHANGE TO REGULATIONS Sections: 3173.1 Number: 05/10 Date Issued: December 16, 2005 Effective Date: December 5, 2005 This notice announces amendments to Section 3173.1 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 15, Crime Prevention and Corrections, to incorporate into the CCR, provisions governing Visiting Restrictions With Minors.

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