Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Another bad idea re: sex offenders

I hate to seem unsympathetic to the parents of murdered children, but I guess I am.  Not every child's murder needs to be turned into a crusade to create yet another pointless, ill-considered law targeting sex offenders.  This man's daughter was raped and murdered and that is a tragedy.  So now he is supporting legislation to require that registered sex offenders are so labeled on their driver's licenses.  I understand the impulse he feels to find some crusade to make sense of his daughter's senseless death.  But we really don't need more pointless laws that make us feel like we're being really tough on all those darn sex offenders even though the law would have no practical benefit.  (Well, other than branding people.)

This man's daughter wouldn't be alive if her killer had been marked as a sex offender on his driver's license.  I'm not clear at all what the purpose is or what the proponents hope to accomplish with this legislation.  I really don't see how this proposal would make any of us safer.  All it will do is further separate us from them.  It's one more way to make their lives outside of prison too difficult, one more way to make sure they won't be able to successfully reintegrate into society and live productive lives.  Every time any sex offender in California needs to show ID to complete a check or credit card purchase, the cashier will look at her customer with just a little more scorn after seeing the mark.  How many other times and places do we have to show a driver's license?  So all the sex offenders in California will get those looks from all sorts of random strangers in all sorts of regular, daily interactions.  Yep, that is definitely a recipe for rehabilitation and definitely will make us all safer.

Personally, I think anytime some new crime related legislation is being pushed by the grieving family of a victim, we ought to assume the proposal is not a good or necessary idea.  I don't think criminal laws should be driven by the passions of grief-stricken parents.  Grief and good public policy aren't the best bedfellows. 


Unknown said...

I agree there's "no practical benefit" to that one.

What about outing the ones who live among us? I'm not sure how I feel about that.

S said...

I don't think the registries really help. There's no attempt made whatsoever to distinguish between the kind of child sex predators the hysteria is aimed at and the vast majority of those who are convicted of sex offenses. Most child sex offenses are committed by people who already have access to the family, anyway. The recidivism rates of sex offenders are also misrepresented. They actually don't have the highest rate of recidivism.

In short, I think "outing" those "sex offenders who live among us" is pretty worthless. The time and money we spend on monitoring those programs could be better spent elsewhere.

Unknown said...

Thanks that helps me clarify my own ideas.

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