Feb. 6, 2023
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- SB 59 Re-referred for amendment (passed)
- HB 1245 Interim study on court system funding (passed)
- HB 1004 Adds full address to the sex offender registry (passed)
- SB 118 Defines Anti-semitism in Arkansas Code (passed)
Sen Stubblefield Call this meeting of Judiciary, Senate Judiciary to order. Senator Chesterfield, since you’re already at the end of table, if you want to go ahead and present Senate Bill 59, you’re recognized.
SB 59 Re-referred for amendment (passed)
Sen Chesterfield Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for the committee originally passing the bill. A member raised an issue about the– looking at page 1, lines 25 and 26. A member raised a concern about it saying originally ‘without limitation,’ and we changed it to say which shall include a person employed by a school district. It’s a simple change. But rather than seeming to give carte blanche to anybody who comes on a school campus to be able to do what he or she would want to, we wanted to make it more specific. And we think it makes it a better bill. I’d appreciate a good vote. Happy to take any questions.
Sen Stubblefield All right, committee, you’ve heard the explanation of the change. Is there any discussion? Chair would entertain a motion of a motion do pass. I have a second. All those in favor say aye. Opposed? Congratulations.
Sen Chesterfield Thank you. Thank you once again. I appreciate it.
Sen Stubblefield I’m going to turn the chair to–
HB 1245 Interim study on court system funding
Sen Flowers Senator Stubblefield, you’re recognized to present House Bill 1245.
Sen Stubblefield Thank you, Madam Chair. Senator, and thank you, colleagues. House Bill 1245 is basically just an interim study. It’s a bill that does a legislative study of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees for the funding of our court system. It also has the backing of the Office of the Courts, the Municipal League, Association of Arkansas Counties. This committee when it does meet will look into the funding sources of our court systems, collection and distribution of those systems, and the financial matters related to the courts. I’ll be glad to take any questions.
Sen Flowers Any questions, committee? If not, is there anyone here to speak for or against the bill? No one signed up. What’s the wishes of the committee, or would you like to close?
Sen Stubblefield I’m closed, Senator Flowers.
Sen Flowers What’s the will of the committee? Motion do pass from Senator Tucker. Second from Senator McKee. All those in favor say aye. Those opposed nay. Ayes have it. HB 1245 passes.
Sen Stubblefield Representative Ray, you here to run a bill this morning? Senator Johnson, are you with him?
Sen M Johnson Yeah.
HB 1004 Adds full address to the sex offender registry
Sen Stubblefield If you want to go ahead and take your place at the end of the table, you’re recognized to present House Bill 1004. We have a– does everybody got the handouts? Okay, there’s a handout that goes with this bill. All right, Senator Johnson.
Sen M Johnson Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This bill, House Bill 1004, comes out of a meeting that Representative Ray and I had with our sheriff and former county sheriff Tim Ryals. And Representative Ray did such a great job of explaining it in the House, I’m going to ask him to do that because he covered things I hadn’t even thought of. But as usual, he did a great job of research. So I would like to ask the committee to allow Representative Ray to move forward with the bill. And also former Sheriff Bradley, the head of the Arkansas Sheriffs Association, is here if there’s any questions related to them.
Sen Stubblefield Representative Ray, you’re recognized.
Rep Ray Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Senator Johnson. So, House Bill 1004, as Senator Johnson alluded to, was brought to us by our sheriff in Faulkner County, Tim Ryals, who couldn’t be here today. But the Sheriffs Association is in support of the bill, along with our Attorney General. And what the bill would do is it would require the collection and publication of the full physical address of the offenders that have to register on the sex offender registry.
Arkansas is currently one of only four states in the entire country that does not require publication of the full physical address. There’s Maine and Washington State, which use street number and block number– or sorry, street name and block number like Arkansas does. And then Vermont is actually the only state in the country that requires less information to be published than we do.
So the way our registry currently works is it will publish the street name and the block number of the offender, but not the full physical address, including the house number or the unit or apartment number, if applicable. So what that looks like in practice is the registry will tell you that there’s a level three or a level four offender living on the 200 block of Oak Street, for example. But that could be potentially as many as 100 different houses that that could be. And if you live in an apartment complex where there are potentially hundreds and hundreds of units, you know, good luck knowing if that offender is all the way on the other side of the apartment complex or if they’re literally in the unit right next to you on the other side of the sheetrock.
The purpose of the sex offender registry is to provide people with the information that they need to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. You can think of many examples of where people would want or need this information. So you’re taking your kid trick or treating. You’re a political canvasser going door to door. You’re a door to door salesperson. I think of the people that come to my neighborhood every so often trying to sell me solar panels. You know, if you let your kids play in the front yard or you let your kids go to a child classmate’s house for a sleepover and you’re not familiar with that neighborhood, there’s just many instances in which people would want or need to know this information. Obviously, it’s our role as lawmakers to do everything we can to enhance public safety and keep folks safe. And law enforcement supports this bill as well. That’s why it’s been endorsed by the Sheriffs Association and the Attorney General’s office.
I’m sure you all have gotten some emails about this bill, so I’ll try to just quickly answer some of the questions that were brought to me. You know, one question that I got was, does this bill put sex offenders in danger? I would say no, not any more than they already are. There are 46 states that publish the full physical address of the offender in their registry. And I’m just not aware of any instances of, you know, mass vigilante retribution or anything of that nature. If someone really wanted to determine the actual residence of a sex offender, there’s plenty of information contained in the registry already, including the vehicle make and model that they drive and the license plate number. So that’s already out there. You know, there’s a question of does this violate people’s privacy? Again, I would say no. There’s 46 states that already do this. And there’s plenty of instances in our law where people’s address is already publicly available, whether that’s voter registration, property records, deed recordings, things of that nature.
And Senator Gilmore’s looking at me as if I’ve talked too long. So with that, I’ll answer any questions.
Sen Stubblefield All right, committee members, you’ve heard an explanation of the bill. Are there any questions? Senator Tucker.
Sen Tucker Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Ray, what I heard toward the end there was that there’s already plenty of information publicly available to determine where these folks are if you’re a vigilante. So is that not also true for anybody who wants to determine where they are?
Rep Ray Well, look, if you wanted to– for someone who just wants to access the sex offender registry for a common purpose, it’s not as user friendly as it could be. And that’s the point of this bill is to make the information that is publicly available easily usable for folks who want to use it or who might want to use it. There’s people who make decisions all the time about where they go in their community, and they ought to know if there’s someone with a history of violent sexual behavior and where that person would be located. And so that’s the purpose in just clarifying the residential address.
Sen Tucker I know that originally the employer address was in here, but you’ve amended that out. Is that right?
Rep Ray That’s correct, yeah. When the bill was originally filed, it included employer address information as well. And all of the states that surround us include that information. But, you know, out of conversations with business groups and associations, I decided that it would be easier just to amend that information out of the bill.
Sen Tucker Since this is the law in so many other states, I assume there’s a lot of data out there about the effect that the disclosure of this information has on crime rate and specifically recidivism rate. And I’m curious what that data is.
Rep Ray Well, I’m not aware of any specific data related to physical address versus street name and block number. But what I will tell you is there was information published out of Missouri by the Columbia Missourian that showed that Arkansas is actually a leading state for inbound migration of sex offenders from Missouri. So the fact that we’re the only state in the south and one of only four states in the country that doesn’t publish the full residential address of the sex offender may in some instances actually make us a target for or an attractive inbound, you know, destination, I guess I would say, for sex offenders.
Sen Tucker Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you.
Sen Stubblefield All right. Any other questions from members? Representative Ray, you don’t have any statistics, nationwide statistics of these sex offenders who’ve been assaulted or killed by vigilantes or whatever you want to call them?
Rep Ray No, no, no, sir. Mr. Chair, I’m not aware that that’s a problem.
Sen Stubblefield Okay. Senator Clark, you have a question?
Sen Clark Yes, Representative Ray. We all want to protect the public. We all want to protect children. You have impressive data that 46 states are already doing this. I’m a parent or grandparent and have looked and there is a sex offender living in my neighborhood and I’ve pinned it down to the block, how does having the specific address help me that much more?
Rep Ray Yeah, well, I would say if you want to, most people that are accessing this data on the sex offender registry are doing it because they wish to not come in contact with a sex offender. Most of the people on the registry are sexually dangerous people that are categorized as having a high level of likelihood to reoffend. And so, you know, knowing which house to avoid is obviously helpful. And you don’t, again, if you just have a block number, that could be a dozen houses. It could be two dozen houses. It could be as many as 100 houses. You know, in rural areas, we don’t have blocks. And so it’s not particularly instructive for rural areas either. So it just adds a level of specificity to what’s contained in the registry and gives people that information. So if they’re going door to door to sell something, to distribute information to trick or treat, whatever the case may be, they could avoid that house.
Sen Clark Okay, Mr. Chair, if I may? Because I get your example of somebody coming into the neighborhood, but someone already in the neighborhood is very likely if they’re concerned to have already pinned, already figured out what this person looks like, right?
Rep Ray That’s likely. I mean, there’s a picture of the sex offender that’s contained on the registry so they can see what that individual would look like.
Sen Clark So they probably have a good idea. And but I just want to be sure, you know, that while we’re protecting the public, and like I said if 46 states have done it, it’s probably a good sign that it’s not a bad idea. But that’s not always true. So again, I’m not sure about trick or treaters because most of us are not taking our kids anywhere anymore that we don’t know them specifically, but I get your point of– I just, as a senator said earlier, we never have a shortage of sex offender bills in this committee. So I just want to be sure that when we enact this into law that we’re doing the right thing.
Rep Ray Sure.
Sen M Johnson And Senator Clark, I agree with much of what you said. Let me sort of go back to the genesis of this bill. Sheriff Ryals contacted Representative Ray and I, along with Mark Morgan, Association of Counties, right after Halloween, and it came out of the fact that parents had come to him and said, hey, this is a great tool. We can go look on your website and get a link to this and see where the potential bad guys in our neighborhood are. But when they found out they couldn’t get specific enough to really give them any protection, they brought this up with the sheriff and that’s why we’re here. Obviously, I feel for younger people. Representative Ray has young children. I didn’t worry about this too much, you know, 40 years ago when my kids were out trick or treating. But it’s obviously a serious concern. And that was why this bill at this time.
Sen Stubblefield Senator Clark.
Sen Clark And I get that. Just having come through Covid, I want to guard from over protecting and to come back and say, you know, as a parent, that I need more protection for my kids on Halloween when I’m perfectly capable of making just by going to acquaintances only knowing who I know we’re not sex offenders that I don’t have to get the government involved to help me with that and so–
Rep Ray I think what you’re describing would be a prudent approach for most parents. But to the broader point of, is this necessary, you know, we developed this bill in consultation with local law enforcement and state law enforcement as well. And, you know, this wasn’t something I was sitting at home on the couch and thought up. I trust the judgment of the folks in law enforcement that are telling us they need this legislation.
Sen Clark And I appreciate the work you’ve put into it, but I think it should be well vetted–
Rep Ray Absolutely.
Sen Clark –before it goes into law. Thank you.
Sen Stubblefield All right. We do have some individ– any more members have questions? We do have some members signed up to speak for and against the bill. First one is John Sarna. If you want to go to the end of the table, you’re recognized to speak. State your name. Against the bill.
Sarna Good morning. My name is John Sarna. First and foremost, I am a concerned Arkansas citizen and voter. I also do a good deal of work with groups such as the Central Arkansas Reentry Coalition Arkansas Community Organization. I listened with very, very great interest to the comments just now, but I must go on the record for being opposed to House Bill 1004. You got the handout that was put together to provide information about that particular bill. Most of what you need, what you need to know is in that bill. And please, my apologies. This is my very first time in addressing any committee, so I must ask for your patience. And I do apologize in advance for any gaffes, mistakes, anything of that sort that I may do in the next few minutes. House Bill 1004 flies in the face of a steadily growing body of research into this particular area of criminal justice.
The senator a few moments ago used the word potential sex offender. There’s a big difference between potential and someone who is actually going to act. Research overwhelmingly shows that once a person who has offended and is back into the community, they are not going to offend again. Research, peer reviewed research, supports this finding. One of the pages, if you look at the last page of the handout, there is a reference of one peer reviewed study that shows that despite sex offender laws being on the books and despite the best intentions of law enforcement and our elected officials, vigilante action ranging from harassment to murder has been recorded, has been documented. That one study cites 279 vigilante episodes, many of which ended in murder against people who were on the registry. There are some episodes of this vigilante action that is included in that handout, including documented recorded episodes in Arkansas.
The research that has been done, I have not yet been able to find if any registrant has been murdered as yet, but serious injury, harassment, property damage has been recorded. There are no doubt a lot of other episodes of harassment, of property damage, I hope not worse that have been directed towards people simply because they are on the registry. Looking at House Bill 1004, the information that is being requested is redundant for the plain and simple fact that law enforcement already has that information. The cry was made that there’s a danger to the community. Research, peer reviewed research, has determined that the real danger is from the sex offender who has not been found out, who has not been arrested. The classic example, Larry Nassar, who molested, did sexual trauma to hundreds, if not thousands of young girl gymnasts for years before he was found out. If there is any danger, it is from the person who has not yet been caught. Not, to all intents and purposes, not from persons who are going to re-offend.
I ask that before taking any further action that the committee, that everybody in the legislature do the research to find where is the verifiable proof of the danger that has been brought up in this bill. Where is the verifiable proof that this bill is even needed, is even necessary? Sadly the tone that way too many people take when they’re even taking a look or even hear the two words in the same breath, sexual offender, ooh, ooh, get that person away from. Okay. It’s a long history that we’ve got in this country. We could replace the term sex offender with communist. We could replace it with the term socialist. We could replace it with black, we could replace it with LGBTQ. And more recently, we could replace it with the word woke. Non-Christian groups, sad to say, in certain circles, get similar, harsh, hostile treatment.
When you get down to it, this is an appeal from hysteria and fear. And to my opinion, it is not based in reality. And where’s the peer review? Ask yourselves this question. Where is the peer reviewed research to support the call for immediacy, taking immediate action? And finally, where’s the peer reviewed research that all dangerous sex offenders will attack, will be a source of trouble? Is it inevitable that all dangerous sex offenders will attack, that they will all go on a sexual rampage? Where’s the research to back that up?
The recent work on House Bill 1125, as I understand it, was triggered by the actions, the possibly questionable actions of one registrant. This is that bill about the drone that higher risk offenders are now banned. It’s a blanket ban, thanks to the actions of one. And I don’t know, and please correct me if I get this wrong, I have not yet seen any conclusive evidence that the actions of that one person was, in fact, for sexual reasons. Too many times when that word sex and that word offender are in the same breath, we sort of like spiders. We see the daddy longlegs, we see the brown recluse or insects. There’s the water bug. There’s the bedbug. But for some individuals, it’s all lumped together. It’s a one size fits all category of ick. This is a knee jerk response. It is not based in research driven reality. Thank you for your patience. I will try to answer your questions.
Sen Stubblefield We have some questions, Mr. Sarna. Senator Rice, you have a question?
Sen Rice Thank you, Mr. Sarna, for your testimony. Let me give you a for instance. You tell me how you would handle it. If we’re talking about a level three or four sex offender, and being on Judiciary a long time, I ought to remember, but I can’t remember the stats. But somebody might want to update me with current. Level three and four sex offenders, there is a higher percentage of recidivism. They’re in a small community that is 20 minutes from the police station, from deputies being dispatched. There is a kind of a malaise of trailers.
Sarna I’m sorry, what?
Sen Rice There’s kind of a malaise of trailers. I’m not talking about a mobile home. I’m talking about camper trailers. They have various individuals that live there and different relations and come and go and all. And across the road is a mobile home with children playing in front yard. Down about two blocks is a church that’s having vacation bible school with kids being picked up and dropped off and adults to the best of their knowledge watching, being vigilant, you know. But we’ve got a level three, possibly four in that group of trailers that we don’t know which one it is. And I would hope you could see the concern of the community that it only takes one child being harmed when you wish you would have had more prevention. So having a particular address would have been able to focus in. And again, we’re 20 minutes from having law enforcement there. So this is not a vigilante deal. This is a community that’s going to protect their children against people that have a higher percentage of being repeat offenders. Can you give me your take on how you would handle it?
Sarna Yes. If you’re talking about a general community, the chances are already very, very strong that the people in the area, in that community know about the person on the register.
Sen Rice That’s your assumption.
Sarna I’m assuming on that. Yes. But research has also shown that if a person is going to offend, certainly if that person is on the registry, the chances are very, very small, very small that someone who is on the registry who is that determined to re-offend is going to find a victim so close to home. Also, I respectfully must disagree with the finding that the higher risk offenders automatically to many people’s minds are going to re-offend. I know of people on the registry who have been there for a very long time. I know personally of at least two people who were level fours who have been on the registry. And the last thing that they want to do is to be the source of any further trouble.
I don’t think it’s my place, because it’s not really connected to the bill to go into the flaws that exist in assessing people who wind up on the registry. But I do respectfully urge all concerned citizens, all concerned lawmakers, to investigate the research, but to please, please make sure that the research that is done has been peer reviewed. There’s the saying ‘Act in haste, repent at leisure’. I know of one episode, and I believe I included that in putting together some examples of violence or attempted violence.
This is an undocumented report, a woman who was herself the victim of repeated sexual abuse when she was growing up, got a call from her niece that her stepfather had been molesting her. She knew that experience. Didn’t want it to happen. Got a .38, stormed over to the house, confronted the stepfather, and was seconds away from putting a bullet through the man’s brain. If it hadn’t been for an unexpected noise, the man would have been shot through the head dead before he hit the floor. But that unexpected noise providentially allowed him to literally jump through an open window and get away. It turned out later that the niece had made up that allegation. She wanted to get back at the stepfather because the stepfather, in exercising parental rights, was keeping her on a curfew and trying to keep her from going out and dating with someone who had various issues in the community.
Act in haste, repent at leisure. Please, please do the research and if anything even smells of being started as the result of, say, a knee jerk reaction, anything that even approaches what could be called a one size fits all solution, please no.
Sen Rice I’ll just finish up, Mr. Chair, and I appreciate your testimony. Again, we look at these things. It’s not a one size fits all. There is one other one I’ll mention that I got involved in actually trying to help. Somebody had a sufficient income and had them an old business partner, wanted to help him when he got out. He was going to get out anyway and he got out. He couldn’t leave the internet alone. That’s one of the parole conditions. Couldn’t leave it alone. He’s locked back up probably for a long time. So he did not re-offend bad enough first time, but he couldn’t leave it alone. The potential of re-offending was great and the public has a right to safety.
Sarna Respectfully, sir, was the computer, had there been any effort to put a block a guard that is easily and readily available to prevent someone from surfing the internet? I know of one registrant whose parents, after he finished prison and he was put into prison for looking at online child porn, he had, and this was sanctioned by local law enforcement, he had a block. He had something that was installed. I don’t know what the exact name or term is, but he had that program, that blocker installed and was incapable of looking at child porn without law enforcement knowing about it immediately.
Sen Rice This was someone who had enough money that they’d got a friend, I think, to get him a phone and there’s ways they’re going to get around it. Thank you.
Sen Stubblefield Senator Clark, you have a question?
Sen Clark Is it Mr. Sarna?
Sarna Sarna. To think of an oh so comfortable sauna then have to change the U to an R. Well.
Sen Clark Mr. Sarna, I’m an equal opportunity skeptic. You emphasize the word all as if the authors of the sponsors of this bill think that everyone will re-offend, or that the legislature or people in general think that everyone will re-offend. But you talk about peer reviewed studies, which is higher vigilantism against sex offenders or sex offenders re-offending?
Sarna Did you say higher?
Sen Clark Yes. Which number is higher? Vigilantism against sex offenders or sex offenders re-offending? Because you downplayed the one and emphasized the other. Which one’s higher since you talked about studies? Which one is higher?
Sarna To the best of my knowledge, to the best of my knowledge, at this moment, vigilante action.
Sen Clark I think that you need to do some more research. You’ve only mentioned 279 cases, and there is a plethora of sexual offenders out there, sexual offenders re-offending. 95% of gun crime is committed by convicted felons. We don’t have to worry about most of the rest of us. And while you’re right, as somebody who has been a victim, there are people who will never be reported and people will never be caught. But we can be sure that within this pool, the numbers are not low. You talked about peer review study. The numbers are not low in sex offenders re-offending. So the idea that we would track them and the idea that we would have restrictions, do you think there’s something wrong with that?
Sarna The flaw is in the standards that are used, certainly in the earlier studies states such as California, Florida and Texas lead the nation in these vigilante attacks. Apparently, and I admit that there must be more peer reviewed research that is done. But one thing is that what I think it’s 95 to 98% of people who are on a registry do not and will not re-offend. There have been proposals—
Sen Clark Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Won’t re-offend or won’t get caught?
Sarna Won’t re-offend.
Sen Clark I would love to see that research.
Sarna Let me know what specifics you are in. I can point you in that direction. Yes, sir. If I can’t, I know people who can.
Sen Clark Because that’s interesting. Because when it comes to behavior not accepted by the public of alcoholism, drug offense, and I could just go, people who are gamblers who are out of control, kleptomaniacs, they have a much higher percentage than this. And sexual, the sex drive– I would really love to see those numbers because I have studied this subject and the peer reviews that I have seen don’t suggest anything like those numbers. We can’t operate on a set of facts that doesn’t fit all of the studies, can we?
Sarna A good deal of information, I think, can be determined– I think can be determined by making sure that you are differentiating between, say, studies–
Sen Clark But but, but, but not by just hand picking our studies. You’ve probably done more to help the sponsors than hurt them, but thank you.
Sen Stubblefield Any other questions from committee members? Senator Tucker.
Sen Tucker My question is not for Mr. Sarna. I’m just curious if there’s anybody from corrections here. And I’m sure you don’t have this data available at your fingertips, but I’m just curious about the recidivism rate in Arkansas for level three and four sex offenders, period, and then also relative to other offenders. I don’t know if that information is available or.
Sen Stubblefield If you’d like to identify yourself for the record, you’re recognized to speak.
Bradshaw DOC Jerry Bradshaw, Director of Division of Community Correction, Arkansas Department of Correction. To your point, I don’t have the exact figures. I do know within our sex offender population as a whole, looking at level one through level four, recidivism is lower among sex offenders than it is other offenders. But there is recidivism among sex offenders. It’s about 3% is what we see. But one of the points made by the introducer of the bill speaks to me to the biggest point, and that is that Arkansas is one of four that doesn’t have this requirement, which makes Arkansas a more attractive place for offenders who have committed sex offenses to want to come to.
Sen Tucker That’s all I got. Thank you, sir. Thank you.
Sen Stubblefield Any other questions from committee members? All right, Mr. Sarna, thank you for coming here today and testifying.
Sarna Thank you for this opportunity.
Sen Stubblefield And we have a Jordan Cope here to speak for the bill. Earl Scott. Scott Bradley. Sorry about that. Scott Bradley here to speak for the bill.
Bradley ASA Morning, Mr. Chairman. I’m Scott Bradley. I’m the director of the Arkansas Sheriffs Association. I’m here to speak for the bill and let you know that sheriffs across the state definitely support this bill. I know you got to see a lot of sex offender bills they come across every session. But I would ask you, how many have you seen come from the sheriffs or the Arkansas Sheriffs Association? We don’t bring bills to you. We don’t feel like we bring bills needlessly. And we feel like this bill is important. Like to thank Senator Johnson and Representative Ray. They done a great job. There’s not much I can say to add to that other than when you think about the rural counties in Arkansas and you think about a block.
I was a sheriff in Van Buren county for close to 16 years, and we have many blocks in Van Buren county with a lot of acres, a lot of roads and residents. So it’s kind of hard to narrow down to a block when you turn by the big red barn to go to somebody’s house. I would add that I’d like to add also, if you’re in a city and there’s an apartment building on several blocks, it’s kind of hard to narrow down where someone lives if it’s an apartment building. One of the other things I might add is it’s not just children, although that’s who we focus on a lot when we think about sex offenders. You can become a sex offender for other crimes that include adults. So I think it’s important for law enforcement to know where these folks live.
And I think it’s important that the people who live in these communities know so that they don’t have inadvertent contact with these people or not knowing who they are. Not everybody looks at the computer all the time to see where they live. Not all people actually have computers, so they could have a neighbor that they don’t know about and come in contact with them for themselves or for their children. I just would just like for you to consider that, and I think I’ve heard Representative Ray speak at this on the House side. He does a fantastic job, better than myself. So that’s all I have right now, sir.
Sen Stubblefield Committee, any questions for Mr. Bradley? Senator Flowers, you’re recognized.
Sen Flowers Morning, Sheriff.
Bradley ASA Yes, ma’am.
Sen Flowers Remind me, is it true we have another– we’re talking about what’s going to be reported on the sex offender registry, which is online, right?
Bradley ASA Yes, ma’am.
Sen Flowers I thought I recalled where there is posting also in neighborhoods.
Bradley ASA There can be. There were some bills, I believe, that were passed in the past on like, for example, on Halloween, where there’s some posting out in the yard or a sign or something on the house to show, you know, people where they might not want to stop by. And it’s good for the sex offender, too, so that they don’t come in contact.
Sen Flowers I want to know, Mr. Chair, is there somebody here from the sex offender registry or Assessment Board?
Sen Stubblefield Anyone here from the sex offender registry? Sex offender board? No one here.
Sen Flowers The lady back in the lavender. Are you not with the–
Compuras PAA Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Members of the committee, I’m Lori Compuras. I’m with the Prosecuting Attorneys Association, but I am a member of the Sex Offender Assessment Committee.
Sen Flowers I wanted to know if you were aware of where else is there a posting of sex offenders, class three and four identification. Did we not pass a law some time ago to post in neighborhoods or something on–
Compuras PAA I know that level three and four offenders are posted on the Internet, and I believe maybe some level twos because I was just looking at that earlier on my phone and saw a level two through ACIC. You can get on there and find where level three and four and some twos are posted.
Sen Flowers But not on street poles or?
Compuras PAA Not that I’m aware of. I know law enforcement and Bradley can, Mr. Bradley can probably speak more on where they actually post those. Depending on the level, the guidelines, which I don’t have in front of me, and I haven’t read them thoroughly in a while, but they list out for level twos which groups in the community are supposed to be notified. Level fours have the highest level of notification and level threes and fours usually are the ones you see posted most. Level two and level one are more narrowly tailored to people who might be impacted by a particular offender.
Sen Flowers Sheriff, do you ever post it on a pole?
Bradley ASA No, ma’am, I’m not aware of that.
Sen Flowers Okay. It is something that I recall seeing. And maybe it was just in the form of a bill that wasn’t passed into law or something, But I thought I’d seen that before. But so we’re only talking about what’s online.
Bradley ASA Yes, ma’am. We’re talking about on the sex offender registry that most sheriffs have. You go to a sheriff’s website in any county, they’ll have a sex offender registry on their website. And you can go to that website and you can research your community or the state, actually.
Sen Flowers Do you feel as though there may be any resistance from a landlord to lease or rent to these individuals that are classified three or four?
Bradley ASA I’m not sure. There could be. There definitely could be. But you know, as a sheriff in law enforcement, it’s our job to try to keep everyone safe. And, you know, I heard the percentage of 3% on the re-offending. We want to keep everyone safe. So 3% matters.
Sen Flowers They’re already restricted from living in certain areas, right, around schools and churches or something like that?
Compuras PAA Yes, ma’am. There is a law that says they can’t live within, I believe it’s a thousand feet of certain locations.
Sen Flowers Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Sen Stubblefield Alright, Senator Flowers. Any other questions? Senator Tucker.
Sen Tucker I don’t have a question. But I was curious about this in this conversation, so I just looked it up. A level three or four offender may not reside within 2,000 feet of a school, a park, a youth center or a daycare facility. And a level four offender may not reside within 2,000 feet of a church.
Sen Stubblefield Any other questions from members? Seeing none, thank you for coming to testify. Thank you, ma’am.
Bradley ASA Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen Stubblefield That’s all who are signed up speak for and against the bills. Anyone else in the audience that would like to speak for or against this bill? Seeing none, Representative Ray, are you ready to close?
Rep Ray Yes. Mr. Chair, I just want to highlight a couple of things that were mentioned in the discussion and testimony. With respect to the data being presented, I’ve had people text me department of Justice Studies on recidivism of sex offenders just since we’ve been sitting back here listening to the testimony. So there is a lot of data on this, and the courts have taken that data into consideration when they’ve ruled on the constitutionality of sex offender registries.
They’ve been challenged numerous times on everything ranging from equal protection, due process, search and seizure, ex post facto, cruel and unusual punishment. They’ve been challenged numerous times and been upheld because the courts have found that they are a reasonable measure designed to protect public safety. And we’ve been required since 1991, I believe, by the federal government, every state has to maintain a sex offender registry. And as long as we have one, it should provide information that is user friendly to people who want to access that information.
Related to the descriptions of sex offenders on the registry, level four sex offenders or described as a sexually dangerous person with impaired judgment or control who have sexual or violent compulsions that they lack the ability to control. This may be due to pedophilia or other disorder of sexual attraction, mental illness or personality disorder that distorts thinking, interferes with behavioral control, and predisposes the person to predatory sexual violence. Level three offenders are high level offenders with strong histories, usually have strong histories of repeat sexual offending. The offense patterns of these individuals reflect a relatively high probability of re-offense and or a substantial risk of substantial injury to victims should a re-offense occur. And so this bill is designed, as Sheriff Bradley mentioned, not just to protect children, but also to protect women.
You know, in researching this bill, I came across some very disturbing statistics. And I’ll share just three of them with you real quickly. Arkansas ranks number one in the country for the number of child sex abuse cases per 100,000. We rank number two in the country for the number of rates per 100,000, and we ranked number three in the country in terms of sex offenders per 100,000 residents. So this bill by itself is not going to solve all of those problems, but it’s a small step reasonably designed to protect public safety. And that’s why I would hope you would approve it today.
Sen M Johnson Mr. Chairman, let me add with the good job that Representative Ray has done, one thing to consider. There are times when I’m very proud that Arkansas does things differently than other states. But this is a case where because we’re not in sync with all but four of the other states, really three plus the District of Columbia, we literally are creating a slight vacuum that is bringing in sex offenders and as the Columbia, Missourian study said having that be one of our neighboring states, it literally is. They’re looking for a place to land that’s more, I hate to use the term hospitable, but I guess we’re talking about comparatively speaking. So it actually can make us have the kind of statistics putting us, I guess when he says number one, I think that really puts us at the bottom, Representative Ray.
But, having the highest number of child sex abuse cases per 100,000 people is not anything to be proud of. I mean, we certainly couldn’t say thank God for Mississippi in that one. So we don’t need to be different in this particular case. And there’s been a lot of statistics thrown around. And I actually like statistics generally, but I couldn’t help but think about you’ve heard the one of, if you have one foot in a bucket of ice water and the other foot in a bucket of boiling water, then on average you’re okay. And I think that we’ve got to kind of set that aside. If we’re talking about 2% or 3% of offenders with recidivism, it’s like if your child is a victim of that 2% or 3%, all the statistical evidence to the contrary is not going to assuage you or to protect your child. So this is not a dramatic change. As Representative Ray pointed out, we’re required to have this registry under federal law. So all we’re doing here is making it equivalent to what other states have. And by doing that, providing what the whole genesis of this bill was, parents going to Sheriff Ryals and saying, hey, this isn’t doing us any good to see just a block number. We need to know this specifically.
And those were people that specifically wanted to know and cared enough to be extra cautious with their children. And again, we can all say, well, parents are supposed to be diligent and do what they’re supposed to do, and they asked for this tool. And that’s why we’re sitting here. So I also would appreciate a good vote from the committee. And thank you, committee, and Mr. Chairman.
Sen Stubblefield All right. Thank you. Senator Clark, you have a– let me just say something as Chair and a strong child advocate all my life, I think this bill sends a resounding message to anyone who wants to come to this state and abuse one of our kids. I would send them a message and say, no, you’re not going to come to this state and sexual abuse one of our children. If you do, you’re going to pay dearly. And that’s what, that’s what this bill does. Senator Clark, you’re recognized for a motion. Have a motion do pass. Senator McKee, we have a second. Any discussion? All those in favor say aye. All opposed? Bill passes. Representative Ray.
Rep Ray Thank you, Committee.
Sen Stubblefield Senator Dotson. You’re recognized to explain the bill.
SB 118 Defines Anti-semitism in Arkansas Code
Sen Dotson Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Members of the committee, SB 118 that you have in front of you on today’s agenda is an act that would define the word anti-semitism in Arkansas state statute. Arkansas is one of several states that don’t have an actual definition. Several states have adopted the definition that you see before you here today. That is the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition as it was adopted in 2016. And there are at least three states that have adopted it as a statute and more than 20 that have put resolutions out. There’s also executive orders in various states. But this would provide state officials with an objective definition of contemporary anti-semitism needed to ensure proper assessment of criminal and discriminatory incidents motivated by antisemitism.
This bill does not create any new law or protected class, but it implements an objective definition of contemporary antisemitism in order to clarify the application of the state’s already existing laws protecting against unlawful conduct to Jewish persons, ensure that incidents of antisemitic hate and bias are treated equally under the law, and to provide state officials and institutions with proper definitional tools for assessing the intent of persons who engaged in unlawful activity, and to ensure that public institutions remain in compliance with federal civil rights obligations. I have with me Jordan here that is an expert in this topic and will be more than happy to answer any questions. But I’m going to let him introduce himself and say a couple of things.
Sen Stubblefield Alright, Mr. Jordan. You’re recognized. State your name for the record.
Cope SWU Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Jordan Cope. And thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee. It’s an honor to be here today. I’m Jordan Cope, the director of policy education at Stand With US. We’re a nonprofit, nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to combating anti-semitism and misinformation about Israel and the Jewish people. I’m also an attorney, and I’m here to testify in support of Senate Bill 118. This bill has a lot of misinformation sometimes surrounding it. And so just to preempt that, I would like to discuss what this bill does and does not do. This bill does not criminalize anything. It does not limit or restrict any free speech whatsoever, including speech that might be anti-Semitic.
This bill does not create a new protected class of people. And in addition, this bill does not outlaw discrimination against the Jewish people because that is already illegal. What this bill seeks to do is to codify a definition of anti-semitism for a very narrow purpose. That purpose ultimately is to help government officials be able to better identify anti-semitic motive and criminal activity and unlawful discrimination. And second, to provide government with a definition so to train government employees in the future how to better recognize anti-semitic discrimination. Why do we need this definition now? Right now, as we speak, there’s an anti-semitism crisis surging throughout America. Jews comprise approximately 2.4% of the American population, and they somehow managed to suffer 60% of all religiously motivated hate crimes.
What makes this even more severe is that, unfortunately, according to a recent survey, 50% of Americans did not know what anti-semitism was. So what does this bill ultimately seek to incorporate? The definition it seeks to incorporate is the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-semitism as adopted in 2016. Why this definition? This definition has the very vast majority of support by the Jewish community. It is a consensus driven definition of anti-semitism for the Jewish community at large. It’s been adopted by over 95% of all major Jewish organizations to comprise the Conference of Presidents. And in addition to that, this definition has been adopted or endorsed by an at large it’s the consensus driven definition, by and large by society in general. It’s been adopted by over 1100 entities worldwide. It’s been adopted by presidential administrations, hailing from both the Republican and the Democratic Party’s. In other words, it transcends political party lines.
And in addition, it’s been adopted by institutions as large and as diverse as the Global Imams Council, the English Premier League and Lufthansa Airlines. I’m happy to answer any questions that you may have today, and I’d like to thank the great state of Arkansas for all it does to defend our people. And just one last closing remark about the importance of this definition. This definition was purposely drafted to help us understand how anti-semitism manifests both classically and contemporarily. Because if we were to try to address the anti-semitism of the 1940s, we’d be drastically missing a lot of the anti-semitism today. Thank you so much.
Sen Stubblefield Thank you, Jordan. Any questions from committee? We have a motion at the proper time. Anybody else in the audience have to speak for or against the bill? Alright Senator Tucker, you’re recognized for your motion. We have a motion do pass. We have a second, Senator Hester. Any discussion?
Sen Clark Point of order. The Representative didn’t close for his bill.
Sen Stubblefield Senator Dotson, would you like to close for your bill?
Sen Clark Senator, I’m sorry.
Sen Dotson I, I just apologize to the Committee. I spoke so long and didn’t allow him to do the entire presentation, but I would appreciate a good vote. Thank you.
Sen Stubblefield All right. Any other discussion, Senator Clark?
Sen Clark I don’t need to stick my foot in my mouth again.
Sen Stubblefield All right. All those in favor say aye. All opposed? Your bill passes, Senator Dotson.
Sen Dotson Thank you very much.
Sen Stubblefield Alright be sure and remember now, if you want a bill on Wednesday’s agenda, we need to know by today. Is there anyone here to present Senator Wallace’s bill? Senate Bill 96. No one here? Alright, seeing no more business, we are adjourned.