This topic comes up simply because a group of friends back in Cleveland are dealing with a “Sex Offender” in some context or other.

The who’s, why’s and how’s are not relevant to this, so I’ll happily leave them out.

First off, how do you get to be a sex offender that needs to register? It varies. A lot. There’s no hard and fast rule about what constitutes requiring registering as a sex offender. It can be as minor and public urination and runs the whole gamut all the way to child pornography.

If you get caught peeing in public should you be labeled a sex offender? I think probably not. What about child pornography? Well, that’s tricky too with the advent of a porn studio in pocket — a.k.a. a cell phone — that you give to your kids.

Beyond all that, however, what is it accomplishing?

Someone gets caught for something and gets charged and convicted of a crime that carries such a penalty. They serve their time and get out into the public. They get the scarlet letter of shame.

So?

Either they have learned their lesson, or they haven’t. If they are still a danger to others, well, why the hell did you let them out in the first place?! If they are not a danger (e.g. two 14-year-olds that sexted back and forth), then why should they be forced to pay for something for the rest of their lives?

Does it make you safer? Not really according to the studies. Plenty of sex crimes are committed by people who are either registered or should have been.

It increases the perception of safety. “There, we passed a law! We’re doing something! Now we can ignore the problem again!”

  1. It creates a false sense of security — you might be watching the person that served time and isn’t dangerous while ignoring next-door neighbor.
  2. Just because you know someone is “bad” doesn’t mean everyone automatically knows.
  3. Just because you told someone to register doesn’t mean they did.

Am I saying to not punish people convicted of crimes? No, of course not. All I’m saying is that the notion of shaming people doesn’t actually work — and in fact can get in the way of a lot of normal people who are not dangerous. There are too many fine gradations to be accounted for with an all-or-nothing type law.

I have to reiterate: if someone dangerous enough that you don’t trust them in society, why do you let them out into society with only a “law” trying to keep you safe?

(I generally have the idea that passing laws doesn’t fix any problems… you might have picked that up from past posts)