Megan’s Law for Nursing Homes??

An Open letter to PA Representative Matzie concerning HB 2341

From one of our volunteers in Central PA

When I first heard of a “Megan’s Law for Nursing Homes”, my first thought was “why?” Then, I thought, “when is enough, enough”?

The Registry is attached to all of us who are guilty of a sex offense. This kind of public exposure can redefine or deny human connection to the people who are on the list. Our private information is posted for anyone in the world it review, and in some states, housing is limited by distance to schools or parks or even bus stops.

The Registry is supposed to increase the safety of the general population. However, 25 years of research has demonstrated that they are not effective. The incidences of sex crimes have not gone down since registries were expanded in the late 90’s. They do allow for pre-judgment. They rest on the assumption that one bad choice will be repeated.This, despite the fact that rates of sex crime recidivism are, in fact, very low for people on PA’s Registry.

I learned early on that once on the Registry, your contact and friends can be changed in an instant. You can see it in their eyes and hear it in the way they speak. The Registry casts a shadow over my life. My successes and contributions are erased or lost. There is only one act that counts: the poor decision that got me on the Registry. This is the world in which I have come to live.

If I am careful and in some ways isolate myself , I can minimize this effect. But I know from bitter experience that time is against me.

At eighty-one years old, I now have to consider the reality of assisted living or a nursing home. And just as this possibility becomes real, l learn that there is a bill pending in the state legislature that will require my Registry status to be a part of my application or acceptance into one of these facilities.

Apparently this was not considered until now. A tragedy in a nursing home has created a political opportunity. Now, a “Megan’s Law for Nursing Homes”, resting on faulty logic, promises to bring solutions.

If such a bill passes, I can only assume I might enter a care home prejudged and disadvantaged. My assumption comes from my experience of prison and the legal system. Once the knowledge of my charges was out, the meaning of everything I did was questioned and judged.

Should I be accepted to an assisted living facility, one where my Registry status is known before I even arrive, I have no reason to believe I will treated with care

or respect. Assumptions about me will be made based on my one bad decision from years ago- from staff to resident and beyond.

If the state legislature wants to protect people, they will push for evidence based prevention measures like individualized risk assessment. Instead, the people of PA are offered a one-size-fits-all “Megan’s Law for Nursing Homes” that paints a wide variety of people with one broad brush.

And to what end? This will not make anyone’s life safer and, in my experience, it will surely make the lives of people on The Registry – even at its end – less safe.

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