Earlier I've written about Feel-good conservatives - conservatives whom, like liberals, love to say things that makes them feel good even though they know deep inside what they are saying is wrong and naive. Serious conservatives look for real solutions and are prepared to tell people the truth even when it makes us feel like the Grinch.
This is going to be my most controversial post ever (yes, even more controversial than that time I wrote about Romney's businessman credentials).
I don't think the Sex offender registry works, and I think it should be abolished. There are no indications that it does work, and this can be easily explained:
1) Most kids are sexually assaulted by someone they know - mother, father, cousin, brother etc. Not by a stranger hiding in the bush.
2) A pedophile who really wants to rape (and doesn't have any children nor know anyone who has children) won't stick to his own area. Knowing there are no pedophiles living anywhere close to you may just give you a false sense of security. If they really want to rape someone, they would sure travel hundreds of miles to do so - as a matter of fact, that's more likely since they would rather rape someone in an area where no-one will recognize them.
3) Most sex offenders don't reoffend. "Once a sex offender, always a sex offender" simply isn't true.
Also, the sex offender registry hangs out sex offenders. That's no surprise, but has anyone thought of that this just means they'll be socially isolated and unable to find jobs. "Serves them right", you may think - and you'd have a point. The problem is that once unemployed and isolated, they have so much more time to think up new plans for raping and abusing. The Sex registry has to go, not for the sake of the offenders, but for the sake of the victims.
If we as a society don't think that a sex offender deserves to ever be trusted again, we should put him behind bars forever. Imprisonment for life, that's the only solution. But if we ever let them out, we need to consider their debt to society repaid. Instead, what is happening now is that they are still "imprisoned" even after they have left jail, except outside jail there are no prison guards to stop them from committing crime again. This just makes them so much more dangerous.
We also need to consider the kind of crimes that can land you in the registry nowadays. If a minor takes pictures of him or herself and sends them to a friend, he or she will be guilty of spreading child pornography. Do you really need to know if your neighbor once took naughty pictures of herself as a 14-year old? Does it make her any more dangerous? Sure, kids shouldn't do that... but sex offender registry? That's taking it way too far.
We need to consider why we have laws against sexual crimes in the first place: So that we will get fewer of them. We punish rapists because that way, there will be fewer rapes. We have a registry for sex offenders because we think that will reduce the number of sex offenses. If it doesn't do that, what's the point? It's easy to get emotional and demand that sex offenders be hang, drawn and quartered, but in politics, there is no place for emotions. Only solutions, and the registry can't be classified as such.
If you know a pedophile lives close to your home, what are you going to do about it? Move? There isn't much you can do, although you can obviously tell your kids to stay away from him (although that can be countereffective since kids tend to be curious of everything their parents tell them to stay away from). And, since sex offenders are relatively unlikely to reoffend, you are probably worrying over nothing. What is going to happen is that you will grow paranoid, your kids will suffer (because they can sense when their parents are worried and will worry themselves even though they may not know what the problem is). All this without making your kids any safer. Some information, such as who is a sex offender and not, is the kind of information you want to know but will regret finding out about as soon as you do. It's not useful.
The constitution itself forbids cruel and unusual punishment. Yes, even for sex offenders. Where goes the line? It's hard to say, but the founders certainly seemed to have intended for the US to be... well, a civilised country. Even towards criminals.
While on the subject of pedophilia, let me give all parents some advices on how to protect your kids (all of these advices are approximately 100 times as efficient as any registry in the world):
First, teach them to be assertive. To stand up for themselves. See, the thing that turns pedophiles on is generally not the child's body, but the child's innocence. A child that "acts as an adult" isn't a turn on for a pedophile. Of course kids should be allowed to be kids, but teaching them to act assertive (when needed) is typically enough to scare away most pedophiles. Pedophiles often act impulsive, they don't plan their crime (another reason why registries don't stop them; they don't think about the fact that they will be caught). A child which screams "No!" or "I will tell my mum/dad" may very well be enough to "wake them up" and make them act rational. The pedophile is hoping that the child will be so ashamed of him/herself that he/she won't tell anyone. The child telling them straight up that that's not the case may scare them away.
This is information I've gotten from reading what actual pedophiles have written on a Swedish forum (no, not a child pornographic site, just a site with complete freedom of speech for everyone - nazis, pedophiles, fascists etc). I got no reason to doubt that it's true, it seems to be the consensus there. It's very sad that parents have to worry about pedophiles at all, but things being the way they are, it just may be worth the effort to talk and think about.
Also, like I mentioned above, remember that most child sex abusers have a close relation to the child. That is a reason why kids don't tell anyone they have been abused, because who would ever believe them if they told them their uncle, who was always been such a gentleman, was touching them inappropriately?
Remember that a pedophile can be any age and gender. It is just as likely to be a 25-year old women as a 53-year old man. Yes, just as likely. We generally only suspect "dirty old men" for such crimes, but that's a huge mistake and a costly stereotype since it allows so many pedophiles who don't fit the stereotype to get away - they will simply never be suspected, and just like with relatives, kids won't dare to tell anyone that they were abused by a 25-year old women because they fear no-one will believe them.
I have come to the conclusion that helplessness is the worst feeling in the world. We want to believe we are champions of our own destiny, and therefore we try to avoid helplessness at almost any cost. As a parent, I imagine it's easy to feel helpless - it's like your kids could die any moment, and you can't watch them all the time. Therefore, parents resort to all kinds of "solutions" that they tell themselves will keep their children safe and healthy (think, "Baby on board" signs). The sex offender registry is just one more in the line, a way to tell yourself that your children are safe since you know were the bad guys live. But since most sex offender are first time offenders, and since those that have committed sexual crimes before are probably MORE likely to do it again now that they are isolated and unemployed, that's about as far from truth as it can be.
It only makes us feel good. We're sticking it to the pervs, but deep inside, we probably sense that we've forgotten something: That the whole purpose of punishing sex offenders is to make sure we get fewer of them. Crime prevention through punishment, you could say. So if it doesn't yield that result, we shouldn't do it. Like I said, if you think we can never trust a sex offender again, you should call for actual imprisonment for the rest of the offenders life.
Here is a report on the matter, and here is an excellent article (I recommend you read all of it, not just the part about sex offender laws).
I'm not trying to go soft on sex offenders, as I'm sure everyone here is going to accuse me of, but I want a solution that works in practice, not one that just leads to a false sense of security. This is called being a thinking conservative, not a feel-good conservative. Looking at the facts instead not trying to derive solutions from our gut feeling.
Hope we can have a sensible discussion about this. And just so you know, I was approached by a pedophile when I was 12 years old (over the internet), and didn't understand his intentions initially. Not a pleasant experience to think back on. I'm not soft, I'm just thinking - and I don't care what you call it!