18 and Life

Posted: 20 July 2009 in civil rights, human rights

I definitely understand society’s need to protect itself from the worst offenders and the most egregious of crimes.  However, our treatment of offenders that commit sexually-based crimes is beyond ridiculous.

Someone very close to me made a very bad mistake about a decade ago.  He went to prison for almost two years, and since then, has become by all accounts a model citizen.  He pays his bills on time, goes to work every day, follows the rules of society.  Had he been three years younger when he did the thing he’d been sent to prison for, it probably wouldn’t have been a crime.  However, even though he did two years in prison, parole, mandatory councilling, was a non-violent offender who has had nearly a decade without any sort of legal problems, he’s required to register himself with a publicly accessible database.  He will be required to do this for the rest of his life.

There are three problems with this database:

  1. The offenders themselves are required to keep their information up to date.  While he is fastidious about this, others are not.  An ex-roommate of mine was also on this list and his information at one point was eight years and three states out of date.
  2. While the charge itself is listed, they tend to be ridiculously generic.  Charges like “Sex offence” and “involuntary deviant sexual intercourse” cover a wide range of charges from “what do you mean she was sixteen?!” to “I had too many to drink and had to relieve myself on the side of this car” to “I was fourteen and texted naked pics of myself to my boyfriend, tee hee.”  Of course, that doesn’t matter to most people who read these lists, which leads to…
  3. Anyone can get access to a wide range of information about people (where they live, where they work, what kind of car they drive, the license plate number of that car) on the list and use it for their own vigilante purposes.  Because only bad bad people are on the list, right?

So, the other day, he tells me that his windshield was smashed in late one night.  In a vacuum, this looks like a simple act of vandalism by some asshole with too much time on his hands.  So, he gets the thing fixed.  Two nights later, it gets smashed in again. But this time, they spray paint “GO AWAY!” on the side of the car.  No longer a vacuum.  The very list that is, in theory, designed to “protect” the public is now endangering a few people that I care about.  Escalation over this short period of time concerns me.  Two days ago, it was the windshield.  Now it’s the windshield and the side of the car.  What next?

I don’t see who’s being protected here.  In this instance, at least, society isn’t being protected from a predator (because he is most certainly not), and he is not being protected from someone who obviously is a predator.

I’m not being naive here, I understand the need to be aware that there may be some untreatable child molester living near me, but who does it serve to provide detailed information on people and only suggest that there’s a chance that they like to rape two-year-olds?  Who is being protected by this?  Because I can tell you who’s not being protected by this.

  1. Leigh says:

    There is a sex offender in my area. Having a little girl I am very interested in knowing if there is someone in my area that might be a threat to her. And while I would quite happily run any offender out of area in an effort to protect her, I haven’t. But I also don’t ever let her out of my sight. Another child might not be so lucky.
    Parents live in a constant state of fear. It’s hard to explain, but it starts when you bring your child home and never stops. You are bombarded by stories and images of how your child could be the next to be abducted, assaulted, killed. If you aren’t watching them every moment of every day this will happen to them. You are a bad parent to let them play in the back yard with a friend. That level of stress takes it’s toll. So I can tell you who else the list isn’t procting, the parent’s peace of mind, even as it protects their children.

  2. Leigh says:

    Protecting even. Sheesh.

  3. Còmhradh says:

    I think my issue is that if the law has deemed that we still need to be protected from these people because we can’t trust them because of what they’ve done, why the fuck have they been released from custody? That makes no goddamn sense. Either they’ve done their time, or they haven’t.

    Also, sexual predators (a small segment of that list) have a problem, a mental defect – they’re not just criminals, they need treatment. I guarantee you that said treatment isn’t going to be found in prison. They need to be committed to psychiatric care and treated until such point that they are deemed to be able to return to society, however long that takes.

    As it stands, we’re effectively locking people up for life for things we only send them to prison for two years for.

  4. Leigh says:

    I don’t think the fact that we are putting people who have committed minor offenses in jail is helping. The guy who got caught with a joint shouldn’t be stuck in jail, and then there will be room for someone who actually should be in jail. Don’t stick non violent offenders in jail and we can keep the bad guys in jail.

  5. Còmhradh says:

    I don’t think the fact that we are putting people who have committed minor offenses in jail is helping

    Preaching to the choir there. Non-violent drug offenses are punished way to severely (that is to say, with any jail time at all), and offenders with mental handicaps are simple chucked in with no treatment. Our prison system is far more focused on punishment than it is on rehabilitation, and people wonder why recidivism is a problem. But hey, if you’re not for sending people to jail, you’re soft on crime, and that doesn’t get you re-elected.

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