Saturday, July 30, 2011

Finally finished. My thoughts on Sex Offender laws.

Sex Offender Registry

     Scottie, at Scotties Toy Box (note blog link in sidebar), took on the incredible concept of the recent and expanding Sex Offender Registry laws currently going throughout the United States. His information comes much from letters received, some personal experiences as a child, and a lot of common sense, observation and ethics. He has encouraged others to make comment, and in part I’ve been somewhat hesitant to as it is such a hot button issue and difficult to find the balance of what should and should not be done.

     As I think on the issue, some thoughts come to mind about what MLK, Jr. said, and I’ll paraphrase rather than look up the exact quote, ‘injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere’. Another quote that comes to mind, attributed to Martin Nimoller, speaking on the lack of response to the rise of the Nazi party, control, and depredations:

First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for Me. And, there was not one left to speak for me.
     So, despite the uncomfortable nature of the topic and the difficulty in finding my way, it really is necessary that I look at this and offer my thoughts. Sorry, morality requires it of me.
     Evan, in his great post on this, spoke of a term called “Social Panic”. See (here). In this, he spoke of a Problem arising, being brought to the Media, which publishes their concern, etc., and gathers the attention of the Authority, who decide if and what response is necessary. Often, this response garners a Scapegoat, one sort or another of marginalized people or group the citizenry can place the blame upon.
     In the above, and thinking on the context of the post, it is not difficult to see where sex offenders and pedophiles in particular would be an easy scapegoat to the perceived outcry of the populace. Indeed, it is simple to get any sort of legislation passed by simply calling it by a name so filled with fear or so filled with positive feelings that no one would stand up against it as they would be then against that charged phrase. Things that come to mind, “It’s for the protection of the children” and “Family friendly”. Recent other hot-button issues falling into these catch phrases: gay marriage and DOMA, Patriot laws.
     Now, in all things, there is the good and the bad. When we look at issues that come up in the press and in the politics, a certain degree is good positive change and a certain degree is way over the top. Not surprising in an age of sensationalism and an elected authority desperate to avoid a real job that the appeasement of the populace is primary. What is right, positive, affirming and sustaining takes a distant position and is likely more considered “the next guys problem”. So saying, it is easy to find that a bit of push in one direction that brings a positive effect will increase the likelihood of continued pushing in that direction to be seen as “effective leadership” when in fact it is like feeding your child more and more chocolate cake because he so liked the first slice and encouraged more and more. And, just like that child, who has no concept of the future of such gluttony, the politician (parent) is only concerned about the now happy child. That one very good piece of cake transformed into gluttony becomes the catalyst for further inroads into obesity, diabetes, social stigma and weakness because the authority figure was too blinded by the applause.
     Another likely question: Since the damage to children is felt by the criminality of sex offenders, what about other issues? Surely the crack dealer is dangerous to all children. Surely the drunk driver is dangerous to all children. Surely the pit bull owner, the skateboard maker, the pool and lakeshore owners, the dangerous chemical manufacturers….. At what point do we put a stop?
     Currently we hear stories of the way that people, having been convicted of being a sex offender, are now unable to find housing, once finding housing are relegated to near hermit existence due to restriction about where they may go and what they may do, have difficulty finding employment much less meaningful employment, have their very lives splashed across the internet for anyone to see and react in whatever fashion they deem appropriate. There are difficulties everywhere, and it really isn’t hard to find a great list of them. Perhaps it’s far too easy to find such a list. And people hear of these troubles and think; ‘yeah, sucks to be them, but they deserve it right?’ Those questions and rationales really come back to the list of other things that could bind one to such strictures I noted above, where the proponents, if one were to replace a word, would find it quickly coming to their own doorstep.
     So, as my answer to the question: In my mind, this comes not in new legislation, but in relying on the things upon which this country has been grounded. Specifically: If you commit an offense, there are laws and consequences, specifically which we will send you off to prison and you will need to change your ways. The use of the penitentiary is …. for the penitent. The use of parole was originally done so those who are intent upon changing their ways could escape the full measure of the sentence and be a good and productive citizen. The concept of 5 to 10 imposed by the judge, or whatever given as the punishment, is to give an end to the term so that life can start again.
     Is this the case with the new laws? Are the new laws really helping? I would submit to you that the majority of sex offenders, the great majority (of around 90+%) of sex offenders are one time offenders - having once been caught and punished tend to refrain from more offenses. So, the real majority of NEW offenses are done by the person well known to the family and victim, the nice guy down the street, or whoever. Isn’t it they who should be watched? Isn’t it they who need to be focused upon?
     I have had the confusing and sometimes enlightening pleasure of taking some college courses in sociology and psychology. I must admit, most of it went way over my head. But, one of the things that I came to understand in those courses is that people will find a way to meet their needs. Laws, values, acceptable procedures all fail when looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs; the starving person is rarely seeking self-actualization when faced with a dumpster dive. Well, among the many needs, sexual gratification is among the basic drives. The failure of the person to understand, to grow and reach a better method of meeting his needs cannot be helped by making his or her life even more onerous, cause an even greater degree of withdrawal, defensiveness, denial, fear. In time, the person will hopefully ask for help, but in some troubles it is more likely that s/he will come to the attention of the authorities and thrown into prison. This can only compound the problems, creating even greater withdrawal and defensiveness, certainly fear. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not against the concept of prison. It is often necessary to remove someone harmful to the group in order to help them and return them to the group….prison gives that opportunity to examine the motivations and methods, the faults and failures, and give chance for positive intervention. That should be the goal of prison: to establish in the prisoner’s mind that his ways are not acceptable, teach him new and effective methods, and return him positive and well to society.
     Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if a person entering into prison was given such a great deal of help that he would exit the prison system ready to positively meet his needs? I don’t believe this is the case; I believe people are swept under society’s rug, to wallow in semi-existence until some future point in time whence they are allowed to exit prison in worse shape than entering. Isn’t this quite counterproductive?
     Going further, it was my sad and yet very clear understanding in those very classes that the seeking of help, especially for a sexually based problem, is not only terrifying but likely opens one up for a lifetime of restrictions. A friend of mine broke his hand and severed tendons. The surgery and rehabilitation were torture, so he was prescribed pain medication – in increasing amounts until one day he was labled “cured” and all meds removed. Well, he’d become dependent. Seeking help to beat the dependency, he checked himself in for drug rehab. Now this avid hunter and sportsman is denied the ability to purchase guns because he is considered a drug abuser. All because he ASKED for help. Now, that is an example of how asking for help requires the admitting of the problem and then all the consequences seem to come crashing in on the person. If the consequences are a lifetime of restrictions and social pariahism, can we really expect people to ask for help?
     My concern with these new laws is that they are ineffective. They spend money on seeking to catch an offense and not upon helping to reduce the likelihood that an offense could occur. The very laws intended to straight-jacket an offender may encourage a return to past ways of meeting one’s needs as the new rules become too difficult, too shameful, too restrictive. These same laws seem to seek to make a person’s life public to a public that cares little for the person. Why would it not be better to list such information only to the local police? In fact, sifting the lists of people to find those most of concern could couple an officer with that person for mentoring and oversight, creating positive and affirming change in the offender’s life. I posit that the laws, having been named for the victims of the most horrible crimes, are more a method of vengeance than watchfulness. What better scapegoat than one who can’t ‘scape?

My conclusion, my opinion such as it is, is that these laws coming about do far more harm than good. They were made in fear and vengeance, furthered by opportunists, and have removed all thought from the process. The logical conclusion should be obvious, but the panic remains the driving force.


Sammy B said...

Hello Randy
I hesitate myself to comment on this issue, not because I haven't got anything to say, but because I'm laying myself open, as a self-confessed boylover, to accusations of hypocrisy and vested interest. However, reading what you've written impels me to say this - if the authorities viewed this issue in as rational and measured a way as you, the way this problem was dealt with would be very much more just than it currently is. Unfortunately, as long as the debate is driven by the demagoguery of opportunistic politicians and media pundits, fuelling the fears of the 'masses' in the way they habitually do, the chances of that justice coming to fruition are, effectively, nil. It's always much more 'profitable', in electoral terms, to kick the easy scapegoat than to actually deal with the fundamental problem. Who's going to vote for a politician perceived as soft on 'paedos', at the end of the day?

Love & best wishes
Sammy B

Anonymous said...

Hi Sammy, hi Randy,

I totally agree with Sammy.

Just ask yourself: Who profits - or thinks to profit - from the extensive lifelog stigmatization of sex offenders
These are laws from the loudest - for the loudest.
In my opinion these laws are a "bit" of selfjustice - it reminds me of back to the time of KKK.
And maybe Google collects the other part of data about "unpopular" people.
I believe, there is just one CLICK at Googles to connect their databases to the ones of pol. and FBI - this can only lead into total control of a police state!
Opponents are shown: Look what we can do with "unpopular" people.

If we want to know, what freedom is about, we may just want to look to Norway.

So the question Sammy puts:
"Who's going to vote for a politician perceived as soft on 'paedos',..."
but: Who stands for freedom of the society and a liberal treating of individuals?"


randy said...

Hi Sammy and Miles;
Thank you so much for your thoughts. The ones who profit, indeed, seem to be driving this load of manure. And, as you say, the politicians are little concerned witht he logic of it all.
Thank you so very much for visiting.

Scottie said...

Hello Randy. I love how you describe the politicization of the laws, that a lot of it is simply grandstanding for added votes. That seems so true as one political person tried to one up the last one.

Do the laws do much good. Not really. I think the police should only have list, as what is the general public going to do with only snips of information, rather than a full understanding of the whole events.

I think you are right , a lot of the new and stricter laws are really punitive and vengeful, with out doing anything to prevent new abuses from happening.

Side note. If a person is determined enough to do an act, they will find a way. Regardless of the locks on your doors and windows if they want in bad enough, they will get in.. If they want to kill badly enough , no prison or death penalty will stop them. But in this country we are not suppose to jail and punish someone for their thoughts, only their deeds. We are not to punish future possible deeds, only what has actually be done. So why is that exact practice encouraged and done, not only by police but by the general public, scapegoating and vengeance is the right words, along with humiliation, and degradation.

We basically seem to be making a class of people we can do the worse to, and feel that we are so much greater than.

I don't like that. It is not a good enough reason to do this. It protects no one. It helps no one. It gives no rehabilitation, and no incentive to really reform.

I want to make a difference in our world, hopefully with your guys help we are. Hugs

Evan said...


That was a very thoughtful piece and thank you for adding your thoughts to this discussion. I agree with you and the commenters who are hesitant about talking about this issue. I worried quite a bit about posting my piece for two reasons - that I might get an audience of those who expect me to condone pedophilia (and those that asked Scottie to share the "details" of his abuse) and also fear that entering this area will attract the radicals who scream pedophile or even the "google police".

I like your use of the Nimoller quote - this has long been a favourite of mine.

It took me a while to digest all of this but I think I mostly agree with you. I would like to point out that Maslow's hierarchy is not quite as straightforward as it seems. The progress is not as rigid most are led to believe and many, myself included, question whether sexual gratification is truly a lowest level need. Important, to be sure, but not necessarily on par with survival needs.

Yes it would be wonderful if people could be rehabilitated while in prison, but unfortunately they are not set up in a way that would enable that. Prisons are set up to contain a collection of people from whom society needs to be protected (or so goes the official story). I agree with you that we need to protect people from dangerous criminals through the use of prisons but other facilities would be needed for rehab.

Your reasoning about extending the "damaging to children" argument is interesting but I caution that that argument can also be taken too far. It is what is known as a "slippery slope" argument and, while to a limited extent can be true, it is actually a twisting of logic because it is often used to extend to the ridiculous and illogical (ie gay marriage, to polygamy, to bestiality).

I think you have it right on when you state that this laws are far more about vengeance and fear. I think this is a huge issue in modern society and I will probably adress it in the near future.

A long comment but this is a complex issue,


randy said...

Hi Scottie;
You, of course, are so right regarding the ability of people to do what they want. I have family who live part time in one house and part time in another. They do lock their doors, including the garage, but it didn't stop the burglers from simply cutting a hole in the wall.
People need to WANT to do what is right. That's the only course forward.

Anonymous said...

What has happened to our free world? I feel totally set back into the past - to the Middle Ages with the "witch hunts" - into the last century with "Gestapo", "Stasi" and "Securitate". Where are the thinkers and philosophers of the "Enlightenment". No intellectual goes against these grievances.

Scottie said...

Hello Nikki, it takes a lot of bravery to face the condemnation for pointing out the faults of these laws. As Randy and Evan said , in our country sex offenders, regardless of crime or rehabilitation, are the lowest of the low and fair game for those who need scapegoats. No one sticks up for them it seems.

That is changing slowly now. more people are seeing the reality of the situation and are willing to speak up and to help change things. But in order to help them change it more people need to speak out. We have to be strong enough and loud enough to counter the hysteria.


randy said...

Hi Evan;
Sorry to be so late thanking you for your comment - it landed in the spam file and I didn't see it. That happens now and again for no apparant reason???
I wanted to mention that I used the "slippery slope" issue not in seriousness so much as in showing that the use of such logic does find extensions quite quickly, and that more is needed than that one criteria for such taking of a person's rights. I do have a cousin who is a "crack head", whose life is all but over because she can't seem to go without her need. She was addicted at 12, by experimentation.
Thank you for your very well thought out comment.

randy said...

Thank you, Nikki;
I think Scottie responded quite well for me here, except I would point out: You have a mouth to speak, fingers to type - let your observations and objections be heard! Many think "I am but one small voice", and yet, I point out this:

Anonymous said...

I am a sex offender convicted in 2002. I find myself on the fence about this issue often I agree with some laws obviously we can't run around raping children but there is no system out there for the sex offenders like me who have tried extremely hard to turn their life around I am in college have two kids and work normal job I moved to the state of north Dakota when I moved here some lady went missing dru shadeen and what did they do they turned up the heat on sex offenders putting them on the news when they moved hell they trumped my charges and told the whole community not to trust me and watch their kids around me I lost my job my apartment and my life in general so I couldn't find a place to live so I registered my car as my house so what did they do they made a law using my name that says a sex offender must have a residence or stay in jail so the next day after they created the law they took me to the jail and wouldn't release me until my girlfriend found a place I was allowed to live ten years after I was released I am still paying for my conviction and so are my children I wonder if they think of my children's safety they see more sex offenders every year than 100% of everyone else's children I wonder how these people get off on bringing people like me down by the way the girl who aren't missing and was found dead was raped and killed by a sheriff but I'm the one still paying for this

randy said...

Hello Anonymous;
Thank you for writing and telling us of your experiences. It is heartrending to think how simple it is to destroy someone's life.
I wish I had words of comfort for you. I wish I could say "this will improve", but it seems to be far in the horizon...if at all. I am reminded of the movie "The Green Mile" where they had just completed the execution of the Indian man...I forget the character...and he was being mocked by the jerk cop. Said jerk was stopped and told "He's square with the state". It seems to me, having been through a trial, judged, sentenced, and all that completing that sentence should make one "square with the state". Why that is not the case, I just don't understand.
Please continue to live a great life, continue to hold your head high. And, please continue to come to the blog and give your views and share your experiences. I can't speak for those out there that have been so against you unjustly, but you are welcome here.