Sex offender registries aren’t necessarily a bad idea.
For whatever reason, there are certain people who get off on molesting little kids or raping people, and who are not likely to be rehabilitated by a stint behind bars. It’s how their sex drive is wired. If they get caught and go to prison, they’re not any less likely to stop doing it when they get out. That’s not how sex drives work. So they often reoffend. To minimize this, we put their names on a list, make them register with the local police department, impose restrictions on where they can live and what they can do. They’re basically on extremely limited parole for the rest of their lives.
Their lives are basically over. The stigma is the worst our society can dish out. There’s a fat chance of pursuing any meaningful employment or making something useful of one’s life. The best that can be said for such an existence is that it’s not prison.
Of course, with people who have demonstrated a clear and present danger, for whom there is a real and realistic concern that they will victimize another child if given half a chance… well, their interests don’t weigh so much any more.
But are these people really the ones who get registered?
Here in New York, a 17-year-old kid can wind up on the registry for having sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend. A jerk can be registered for grabbing someone’s ass. Stuff that has nothing to do with sex, like even the mildest forms of unlawful imprisonment, gets you marked a sex offender. A harmless loser will find himself on the registry for calling up a call girl. There really isn’t any rhyme or reason to it any more.
These are not things that have anything to do with the policy underlying sex offender registries. There is zero concern that the people who commit such offenses pose a present threat of molesting kids or committing rape. It’s an (more…)