I have been trying to figure out lately why I am so disturbed by all the initiatives surrounding convicted sexual offenders.
For a while now, we've had Megan's Law requiring registration and community notification of all convicted adult sexual offenders with victims under 17. In recent local news, there are now cries for some way of notifying the "people who need to know" if a juvenile sexual offender is out of jail. Even more recently, punishment was handed down to include wearing a shirt in public places to declare the convicted man's status as a sexual predator.
To me, this seems to be getting a bit overboard.
Now, this doesn't mean I'm a supporter of sex crimes, or that I don't want to protect our nation's children, or that I think criminals' rights are more important than victims' right. But expressing any opposition to any of these proposals or laws is viewed exactly that way. Thus, no useful debate can be done on these topics. And so, our politicians have to continue to support every stupid piece of legislation that comes along on this topic. Really, which congressperson wants to go back to their constituency and try to get re-elected when they voted against Megan's Law? The public outcry would be uncontrollable.
Anytime that people are afraid to speak up against the majority, the majority oversteps reasonable bounds. So, here I am, speaking up against the absurdity of this line of policy-making. Please try not to skin me alive for my opinion. At least beat me to death before you skin me. I think that would hurt less.
I guess my biggest concern is about the notification that occurs for sexual offenders when they move into a new area. It's as if we're saying it's more important to know that a previous sexual offender that has been released from prison has moved in than a murderer or a person convicted of DUI or drug dealers or anything else. Why can't a sexual offender give out candy (and there is major public outcry trying to make sure everyone knows and makes sure they keep their porch light off), but we apparently don't worry about any other criminals coming into contact with our kids.
It sends the message, in my mind, that sexual offenders are the only criminals that aren't rehabilitatable (I hope that's a word). If that's not true, then let them reassimilate into society without the shameful sign hanging around their neck. If we don't make other criminals list their rap sheet on their sleeve, don't make these folks do so either. However, it's possible that we don't think they'll ever turn from their sex crime ways, but if that's the sentiment, then why are the punishments for these crimes so small compared to other crimes? If we really think we can't make these criminals safe for reentry into mainstream society, then why can't we sentence them to life in prison or to death? I'm not talking about death penalty as a legitimate punishment here, but if we use it for other crimes, why not these? As I was doing "research" (it's hard to think of internet searching as research -- no library, no card catalog, you know) for this piece, I came across someone who apparently questions this, as well. I'll be interested to see what happens with some of those pieces of legislation here in Texas.
The other concern I have on this is that general movement by this country to offload the raising of our children to public officials. Teachers, police, and others are expected to carry more of this load than parents. I'm not wholesale blaming parents for their child's molestation -- of course there are unavoidable situations. I'm just saying that parents shouldn't let their kids stay the weekend at Neverland. Beyond the highly publicized stranger encounters, though, most sexually oriented crimes occur in the family. And family incidents tend not to be prosecuted but hidden as part of that family's "skeletons in the closet." If they're not prosecuted, you can't be warned unless the family talks about it (unlikely).
I just don't want parents to get a false sense of security that with all these regulations that their children become "safe." Continue to be vigilant, and good luck!
The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers
2 months ago