Public Comment

Commentary: Prop. 83: A Fatally Flawed Law

By Tim Ronson
Tuesday May 29, 2007

I don’t write to newspapers—ever. I can’t remain silent any longer, however. I’m compelled to protest against the implementation of a well-intentioned but poorly though tout law, Prop 83. Let me first say that I have absolutely no sympathy for the class of sex offender that I believe this law was aimed at, the very disturbed molesters of young children. Those who rape, torture and damage these innocent, trusting children and are eventually “cured” and released should never be trusted again ever.  

I’m concerned about the draconian aspects of 83. As I understand it, all people convicted as a sexual offender are subject to the same restrictions upon release. These include: wearing a GPS locator for life, severe restrictions upon where they may live and work, prohibitions against visiting any residence where children may be present (including their own), possibly having to report where they are working on a Megan’s List, and having the curfew of a middle school student (9-10 p.m.).  

These are fit and justified for the extremely disturbed individuals I just mentioned, but not all sexual offenders fall into that category. There is a class of sexual offender who in a weak or vulnerable moment stepped over the line and got involved with a 16- or 17-year-old. They know it was wrong. They would never do it again. It is an error in judgment that cost them their career, their friends, years in jail and in many cases their families. Under the present law their chance to once again become a contributing member of society is very small. It is virtually impossible to find an affordable place to live that is at least 1/2 mile from schools or parks or any other place children are likely to congregate. There are offenders in Florida who have been forced into living under a highway overpass as a last resort. What employer would want it known that he has chosen to give such a person a place to work? Finally, there is the matter of the GPS bracelet FOR LIFE. It is a modern scarlet letter, almost a reincarnation of the armbands worn by the Jews under Hitler. This kind of punishment is not justified for the mistake for which this class of sexual offender has been found guilty. They are not likely to repeat the kind of mistake for which they have already paid a very stiff price. What is likely to happen is that they will be backed into such a corner economically and socially that they will become a drain on society or a threat to it. In such a case we will either be supporting them on welfare or in prison. We will need even more taxes to pay for even more prisons. Maybe that’s what the governor has in mind. Why don’t we just buy an island for all of our sexual offenders? We could call it Devils Island. Oh wait, I think that’s been done.  

If the people really want to implement a law such as this one, the only just way to do it is with a tiered sexual offender structure. This scale of punishment should be applied to the most severe of these cases. Multiple “mistakes” of the kind I mentioned should also be subjected a higher degree of monitoring. People who have truly chosen poorly in a weak and vulnerable moment need to be given the chance to re-establish themselves in society.  

In my professional life I am an engineer. We are trained to see the world as it really is. We live in the realm of facts, analysis and logic. As it stands Prop 83 is not addressing the facts. It is not logical. Most of all it is not justice. It can work if we rewrite it. It will be tragic if we don’t.  


Tim Ronson is a Sunnyvale resident.