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Sex Offender Laws Driven by Fear, not Reason

December 28, 2009

annarbor.com :Sex offender registry laws driven by fear, not reason.

It is heartening to know that Matthew F. (“Pittsfield Twp. man struggles with sex offender label” – Ann Arbor.com, Dec. 15) and others with similar stories are coming forward, and that members of the media are telling of their plight.

Sex offender registries in Michigan and nationwide are growing by leaps and bounds. Sex offender laws implemented in recent years cast a wide net and catch many fish that are awarded equal status with the shark. It’s a system that offers no measurable gain, but creates substantial loss.

Taxpayer dollars are lost to pay for implementation of sex registry laws and oversee compliance. Taxpayer money is lost to fund prosecution, incarceration, or to manage the probation of “offenders.” We’ve lost a controlled and focused sex offender list to a watered-down version that makes it harder to target and prosecute true offenders. We’ve lost rationale and logic to what often amounts to a whipped-up frenzy of fear.

Most sad is the human potential and emotional health lost or diminished when individuals are unfairly demonized and penalized by inclusion on a sex registry. The stigma and restrictions put on anyone who appears on a sex offender list are creating a growing under-society of people who face serious employment, residential and social limitations, and who can do little, if anything, to rise above their circumstances.

Think of the craze to catch “witches” during the Salem Witch Trials. Think of all the “communists” of the McCarthy Era. Sex offenders – regardless of whether they truly are or not – are the latest demons to fear and persecute. One can only hope that more and more “offenders” follow Matthew F.’s example . . . that they step out of the shadows and work to bring understanding and change to the emotional force driving unjust and costly victimization.

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