Friday, March 2, 2007

Political Gestures or Appropriate Legislation?

Ohio is considering a bill that would require convicted sex offenders to have a fluorescent green license plate on their cars. This legislation is one of several measures that have been adopted or are being considered in several states that would monitor and restrict convicted offenders after they have served their sentences in prison. New York will join several other states with legislation that will allow the state to continue to detain offenders even after they have served their time, under certain conditions. Other states place a lifetime limit where released offenders may live, bans on using the internet and cell phones, be listed in public online databases, and so on.

The point of all of this is purportedly to protect children from possibly being victimized by these people. Perhaps. I'm thinking that the inspiration behind a lot of this legislation is political; gestures to prove that someone is "doing something" about crime. I'm skeptical. I'm wondering why sex related offenses of all kinds are now considered to be the most heinous of crimes, that offenders can never sufficiently pay their debt to society for and never be considered to be rehabilitated from.

Murder was once considered to be the worst crime a person could commit, But convicted murderers released from prison are not required to use special license plates, are not restricted from living wherever they choose, listed in public databases, banned from using the internet, or held in custody after serving their sentences.

Another point to consider is that "sex offender" is a broad umbrella classification. When most people think of "sex offenders", they imagine the brutal rape of small children. Crimes such as these are heinous and deserve to be dealt with harshly.

More commonly, however, those engaging is much lesser offenses, and, in some cases, merely exercising bad judgment can be branded forever with the title of "sex offender", ruining their lives. An example of this is a high school teacher who was convicted of honestly answering a question about sex that a student posed to him online via email. Bad judgment? Perhaps. But this teacher is hardly a dangerous "predator" who deserved to have the rest of his life ruined.

Another example is the unfortunate case of Genarlow Wilson, who, at 17, was convicted and given a ten year sentence, along with the indelible label of "sex offender", for allowing a 15 year old girl to perform oral sex on him. This is despite the fact that everyone agreed, including the prosecutor and the girl herself, that she initiated the act. The fact that this was even considered a "crime" just boggles my mind.


Not Fair: Ten Years For Consensual Oral Sex

No comments: