Archive for October 16, 2008

Sex Offender Mandate Threatens Liberty

October 16, 2008 Comments off : Sex Offender Mandate Threatens Liberty.

If ever there was a good time to give short shrift to principled arguments on behalf of justice, the punishment of sex offenders could very well be that time. The caricature of the typical child molester — a man with sunglasses and a mustache, peering out his window as he cruises by the local middle school — is not a figure that should, or ever will, invite sympathy.

So it is understandable that the town of De Pere, in the interest of wiping clean such a stain on the fabric of civil society, would want to impose harsher restrictions on sex offenders. De Pere’s city council passed a law this past Tuesday mandating that registered sex offenders avoid loitering within 200 feet of public parks, schools or other areas where one would conventionally expect to find children. The ordinance applies to all sex offenders and will be pertinent to them even if they are not under state supervision.

The measure is not alien to the universal human urge to defend its young — perhaps that is why the city council passed it unanimously — but the casual disregard of De Pere’s city council for the rights of society’s most detested individuals is an act of insanity all the more troublesome because it is so excusable. De Pere’s ordinance may make a city council feel good about their ability to defend a threatened community. It may make police feel as though they have the legal muscle to nip pedophilia in the bud. It is also a drastic violation of human rights.

The idea that all sex offenders — every individual who has committed a crime that is remotely sexual in nature — are a threat to children reeks of a paranoia with no interest in hearing the voice of reason. Every class of offender, whether his or her crime victimized children or not, will now be painted with the stigma of pedophilia, the most egregious brand of sexual crime it is possible to commit. And while the bitter pill of reality may be difficult to swallow, it is impossible to see how certain classes of sexual crime — with their own psychological motivations and underlying causes — can in any way make an offender more disposed to harm children than the average citizen. The drunken partygoer who became too aggressive in a moment of alcohol-induced self-confidence is no more likely to be De Pere’s next pedophile than its average inconspicuous male park-goer.

Society has the right — and the responsibility — to protect itself from any individual who would do it harm. However, if such restrictions are truly necessary, it begs the question as to why these offenders, so unworthy of loitering in parks, are worthy of living in civil society at all. Parks, above any other public area, are where someone would be most expected to “loiter.” If this amount of latitude, so willingly given to any other member of society, is denied to sex offenders, then it is challenging to see how the city council of De Pere has any true willingness to see sex offenders rehabilitated. It is not an act of insensate brutality to acknowledge that the average pedophile may very well never be fully capable of existing in society. And if that is the case, attempting to make him or her stay away from parks will do little to discourage an underlying disorder that renders an individual more fit for a prison cell than the tree-lined streets of De Pere.

One must also question whether the measure is not simply designed to drive sex offenders out of De Pere altogether, so that another town in Wisconsin can bear the proud mantle of a municipality that is friendly to sex offenders. During a discussion on the ordinance, Alderman Bob Wilmet cited his concern that De Pere could become a dumping ground for sex offenders that are fleeing neighboring areas, where ordinances are stricter. As a patchwork of local regulations concerning the conduct — and in many cases, the living circumstances — of sex offenders begins to spring up across the state, it will be increasingly difficult for them to not only find a place to live in a state that has supposedly welcomed them with hesitant arms, but to be able to travel at all without fear of violating a draconian ordinance drafted upon the whim of well-intentioned councilmen.

TX Sex Offender Registry Toughest in Nation

October 16, 2008 Comments off : AG wants online IDs of sex offenders listed.

AUSTIN — Not sure who your kid is chatting with online? If Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has his way, the state’s public sex offender registry would include e-mail addresses and online names.

In what some are calling the toughest reporting proposals in the country, Abbott on Wednesday called for giving the public more information about the state’s 53,000 registered sex offenders. Aiming to crack down on cyberpredators, Abbott hopes to expand the state sex offender registry to include e-mail addresses and Internet screen names.

He said his proposal would provide Texans with the “most comprehensive reporting requirements in the country” and would provide law enforcement, and ultimately the public, “with new and better tools to track and monitor sex offenders.” The attorney general’s plan would need the Legislature’s approval; Abbott said he plans to meet with lawmakers in coming weeks.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said he doesn’t have any problems providing the public with more information on sex offenders and thinks Abbott’s proposals have a good chance of passing the Legislature next year. Texas leaders have enacted increasingly strict registration requirements for sex offenders. This year, the Texas sex offender registry expanded to include an offender’s school or place of work.

Some question whether the focus on online predators creates a false sense of security. Jill Levenson, a clinical social worker and professor of human services at Lynn University in Florida who has studied how sex crime policies affect sex crime rates, said children “are most often molested by people who are acquainted with the family, relatives and friends of the family, people who are trusted and use that trust to gain access.

“Parents certainly need to take precautions (regarding who their children are communicating with online) but in a way, all of this attention to Internet predators and stranger abductions and sexually motivated homicides takes away from important information we need to be giving parents, which is that children are much, much more likely to be abused by people (the family knows).”

As for whether tougher reporting requirements are effective in lowering the rate of sex crimes, Levenson said the studies she and others have done have been, at best, mixed. “Overall, the totality of research so far looking at the impact of registration and notification with sex crime rates does not really indicate there is a strong deterrent or preventive effect,” Levenson said.

She said she knew of no public registry in the nation containing offenders’ e-mail addresses or online names.
But Congress continues to pass stricter laws, as do states. Many registries, including the Texas registry, include at least some juveniles, their names, addresses and photos. Critics in Texas complain that the state registry includes anyone convicted of a sex crime, whether the offender had sex with a teen who was a few years younger or whether the offender repeatedly used force against a young child.

Bruce Siegel, 38, a convicted sex offender in the Dallas area, complained that Abbott’s proposal targets all offenders, not just the ones he believes the public needs to be warned about. “Now you’re asking police departments to monitor more, which spreads them pretty thin when they really need to ride herd on 10 or 30 percent of (all offenders), Siegel said. “It’s going to cause more paperwork and a lot of wasted time.”

Abbott’s proposal also would require offenders to report their cell phone numbers to law enforcement, though the numbers would not be made public. It would also restrict some high-risk offenders from using the Internet at all.

…UN-CONSTITUTIONAL ! And many courts still are unable to see that these restrictions are “punishment”.