Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sex offender registry - Feel-good conservative crime policy

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!

/John G


Anonymous said...

Their are 2 perfect solutions to sex offenders:

1. put them in a room alone with the relatives of the victims for 1 hour. The relatives can't be charged for any of their actions.

2. Short of stoning or the death penalty, make them in the case of males, eunuch.

Until they allow this, I want them to suffer the inconvenience of having to register whether it works or not.


Right Wingnut said...

Castration works for me.... Along with registration of course. They deserve the public humiliation. In addition, I want to know where they are. I'm not sure where you got your research, but to suggest that a woman is just as likely to offend as a man is ludicrous. I'm not going to spend any time researching it to back up that claim. I'm too busy right now to bother. I'm not sure why this is so important to you.

John said...

When it comes to pedophiles, women are just as likely to belong to that group as men.

Let's not get emotional and think deserve. Let's instead get rational and think what works.

Anonymous said...

"Let's instead get rational and think what works.'

DEATH PENALTY then. That works if registration is out.

Until you've had a family member affected by this, DON'T PREACH!


Revolution 2010 said...

I'm with zeke 110%!

Johan "Mcon" said...

See I'm with Zeke on this one as well...

Unfortunately castration might be a little impossible to get on the books. So in that case, I think you do have some valid points John.

Anonymous said...

I don't fully accept your arguments about recidivism or whether the lists work for truly dangerous people. I agree completely that many people end up on these lists for all the wrong reasons.

As you said, teenagers who have sent or received nude pictures by text message are being put on these lists. While I don't condone their actions, this high-tech "show me yours and I'll show you mine" is not a sign of danger to the community. People have been engaging in this kind of behavior for years. Maybe these actions are nothing to be proud of, but unless someone is drawn into those behaviors to an extreme extent, they aren't a sign of danger. College students streaking on campus is another example. They shouldn't be proud of that behavior, but that behavior is not a sign that someone is a danger to the community. Another example is golfers or others engaged in outdoor sports who've had to go to the bathroom without proper facilities available. They've been caught, and when a public urination law isn't in place or can't be proven, they've been prosecuted for indecent exposure. Again, having to pee in the bushes is embarrassing, but someone shouldn't end up on a sex offender list as a result.

Part of the problem is not with the list itself as much as with these prosecutions. I've known of two eighteen year old men who grew up in good homes and were texting with seventeen year old girls that they knew from school. In each case, the girl sent a nude or topless picture. The guys didn't ask for these kinds of pictures, but somehow adults learned of them. In both cases, the guys were prosecuted. People who have grown up to become tattletales and busybodies have decided that the law needs to be involved in every problem. They make a fuss with a district attorney, and district attorneys under political pressure or with political aspirations respond by picking a few cases and prosecuting to the maximum extent possible. The DA's get brownie points with the busybodies and tattletales. The busybodies and tattletales get their fix of self-righteousness. Unfortunately, a few otherwise decent young people are ruined. In one of the cases I mentioned, the young man had grown up in a strict Christian home. He'd never had dirty magazines and had shunned that kind of stuff. He had planned to go into the ministry. They were able to keep him out of prison, but he can never go into the ministry. The other young man went to prison for several years and was traumatized. I wish the busybodies and tattletales would have their kids put through these experiences instead of the kids of people who recognize that the criminal justice system is the wrong way to address some problems.

If we are going to have these lists, we need to exercise some wisdom in how people are put on the lists. I realize that many sexual predators start with crimes like indecent exposure, window peeping, and public masturbation. I understand that some people want these lists as a warning about those who have engaged in these activities and may "move up" to more direct attacks. However, if the lists include a large number of people who aren't dangerous, then they become another example of "crying wolf." They include some real wolves, but they also include so many other people who aren't dangerous that they lose all effectiveness. A guy who pulls down his pants standing in the bushes and looking through a dorm window will likely be convicted under some "lewd behavior" statute, and his behavior can be a sign that he is dangerous. The couple having sex in the bushes outside the next building may also be guilty of "lewd behavior," but their behavior is not a sign that they are a danger to society. Making the lists worthwhile to keep people safer depends on finding a way to include only those whose "sex offenses" are such that they indicate a potential danger to others.

John said...

Thank you so much for your comment, anonymous. The most sensible so far. I knew this post would be provocative, but I had wished more people would try and explain why they want a sex registry and show scientific evidence that it works, instead of just going with the "hang-em-high" mob.

I'm very sorry to hear about those two young men. We need to remember that prison can actually make someone MORE criminal as well as less. The same thing goes if you're on a list together with real pedophile predators.

Right Wingnut, why I care? Because my writings have never been based on what's in the news at the moment (I write about subjects whether or not they are currently discussed). And, because I figured what I said had to be said and no-one else was going to say it. Everyone talks about obeying the constitution, but this must include the eight amendment as well (cruel and unusual punishment).

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to go into all of the statistics. We could talk all day about politics involved, racism, money etc.
Simply. I am a sex offender. I'm 31 years old. I was convicted of 3rd Degree Sexual Assualt in 1998. I was 18 years old a freshman in college. I went to a party for freshmens and had sex with a 15 year old girl that I assumed was a freshman in college. Sex was deemed consentual but she was underage. Because I had no record whatsoever, I was given 2 years probation. I completed probation sucessfully in 2000.
Okay. Up until that point in my life. I was a regular guy. Stayed out of trouble, went to school, wroked for a living. No drug or gangs.
Becoming a sex offender totally changed my life. I went through all types of treatment to see if I was crazy. It was determined that I wasn't. I could no longer get employment, good housing. It was like the whole world turned they're back on me. Sex Offenders have no rights and noonoe speaks out for us.
Seriously! I was 18 years old and I had sex with a 15 year old girl that I thought was a freshman in college. Say what you will, but noone walks up to a girl and says, "Hi, what's your name, how old are you and can I see some ID." Now, I'm deemed crazy, sick or whatever. Really! I made a mistake, I was a teenager. I'm not into children or hiding in bushes. I don't see a little girl or boy and think. "yeah!"
Now I don't have special bullitens or anything like that but nobody cares. It's all the same to most people. A sex offender is a sex offender. I have to register until 2016. I'm not lying or exaggerating my situation. It doesn't help the situation much the fact that I'm also young, black and living in Wisconsin as well. I've always been a scapegoat for everything that's wrong with the world just being born black and male. Add a sex offense with that and I should be shot.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Sex Offender Laws.

Anyone who values their liberties and who has studied history should be afraid - very afraid - of these laws. Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, all must be laughing and rolling in their graves seeing America enact and enforce the very laws they enacted some seventy years ago. Long before Hitler killed the first Jews in Nazi Germany, he paved the way for the wholesale disenfranchisement of human beings by — you guessed it — attacking the rights of sex offenders. From 1933 through 1936, a series of amendments were passed to Paragraphs 173 through 188 of the German Penal Law specifically targeting homosexuals and others determined to be “sexual deviants”.

The sex offender laws created under the Nazi Third Reich have been the model for “Megan’s Law” and many of the other Sex Offender laws being passed and enacted all over this once Great Nation. They established the first sex offender registry, required sex offenders to register their whereabouts and to wear pink triangles, carry special identification papers, and established draconian punishments for sex crimes that included longer prison terms, loss of voting and civil rights, civil confinement in concentration camps, and the death penalty. All of these laws were justified by the Nazi’s in the same way that our present-day politicians justify Megan’s Law: to protect the children from sexual predators. If it that reason was good enough for Hilter to use it is must be good enough for our leaders.

Of course, as history shows us, the targeting sex offenders is just a way to establish the precedent of wholesale deprivation of human rights in preparation for attacks against all the people we want to deem as unworthy to live and/or work in our communities. Even now the existing statues are being modified and applied to other crimes, illegal aliens, and even the homeless to imprison and/or banish them.

It’s doubtful that the German people would have acquiesced to Hitler’s rounding up Jews, Gypsies, Communists, Socialists, trade unionists, and so forth, and sending them off to death camps in 1933 when he first ascended to power. Hitler had to first establish a precedent, like our present day Politian’s have, that some people are subhuman and unworthy of human rights — and they started with the most universally despised group they could find, Sex Offenders. And just as Hilter moved on to others using these laws, so have we. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it all;

" Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal. "
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Anyone who thinks that this couldn’t and isn't going to happen again is delusional. It has already started. The simple fact is that history shows that you can’t single out one group for deprivation of civil rights without weakening those rights for everyone else. Which of us will be next? You? Me? Our children? Our grandchildren? Eventually we all will experience and become victims of these laws for ourselves!

" How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think."

-Adolph Hitler

'They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither.'

-Benjamin Franklin

Being a society that does not look at our past or listen to the people before us ( because we think we know everything and reinvent the wheel constantly) we are going to fail.

Anonymous said...

I can't help but to keep reading the postings that the insecure people- probably you- You know who you are, people like Romney, and organizations like the S.O.R.B just to name a few post and talk about. The scariest thing of all of it is that most people- The puppets and the followers in government and the public think that it is the "registered" sex offenders they need to fear. Sit there and think about it for a minute. Do you honestly think that every person in jail should be there? Do you think that every sex offender really did something or was it a child just saying something to get a person out of the house? Maybe the child had a friend that really was abused and said "well if your mad at your step dad tell someone he touched you. He will have to leave the house. I will bet that Most of the registered offenders will never re-offend because they never committed the crime in the first place. I'm not saying ALL of them but I am saying most of them. I would bet that about 80% of all sex offenders have never been caught because most victims never tell. You lull yourself into a false sense of security by regarding registered sex offenders as the worst of your problems. The people you least expect are molesting your children right now. You do not suspect them because you focus only on those you can see. The registering of sex offenders would be justified if every one on it was guilty. I hope people wake up and start addressing this issue I myself want to know where the drug dealers are so I can keep my kids away from them and I want to know where the cops are that beat the crap out of people so I can stay away from them. I know nothing will ever happen to rectify the corrupt judges in the Northampton courts, I mean look he's arrested for being drunk and disorderly and gets away with it, then throws out his sob story of how his opinion has changed and thinks the system failed him. People change your attitude, it could happen to you then what are you going say?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Their are 2 perfect solutions to sex offenders:

1. put them in a room alone with the relatives of the victims for 1 hour. The relatives can't be charged for any of their actions.

2. Short of stoning or the death penalty, make them in the case of males, eunuch.

Until they allow this, I want them to suffer the inconvenience of having to register whether it works or not.


Are you kidding me Zeke?? What are you- two? Put them in a room with the relatives of the victims.
And you Right Wingnut Yeah your a WINGNUT all RIGHT. It's people like you that just don't have a clue! Your like the puppets in the governments. The puppets are the people that just do what they are told to do weather it's right or wrong. The S.O.R.B for instance are puppets they just do what ever the court tells them to do. They sit there in their seats and put numbers on people. Who the hell are they to judge a person? Who the hell are they to drag someones name through the mud? If any of you honesty think that all people labeled as a sex offender are sex offender then you should be locked up in a room until you get your head straight. having a S.O.R.B is like having a restraining order. It's a piece of paper. A restraining order is not going to keep a person away from the one who filed it if that person doesn't want to stay away. And to register a person a sex offender is also a complete waste of time. If a person really is a sex offender a piece of paper is not going to keep them away from the person they want to abuse. You can sit there and say it works because well he had to register and he hasn't been in trouble since then. Has it ever crossed you mind that someone lied about being abused and that is why that person is on the registry. believe me it happens. And I said it once and I will say it again- ANYONE yes ANYONE even the feeble minded Zeke and Wingnut can be labeled as a sex offender and all it would take is for a girlfriend, daughter, step daughter, to get mad at you and say something to a teacher at school and then presto- your the one that is experimenting your brilliant idea of castration. Before you open your mouths and start running them on issues that you have no clue to, get informed, experience is a good place to start. Then think about the judge that is corrupt and sitting there judging you as well. Hopefully years later you won't find out that he is a drunk and being arrested in Northampton for being drunk and disorderly.

Anonymous said...

I was put on the sex offender registry by mistake. Once I found out several months later and notified the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the GBI immediately took me off.