Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Raving Rabid Right

It seems like nothing, not even Hillary Clinton, can send the Right into such paroxyms of rage as the mention of sex offenders. Even most of the self-professed "Law-'n'-Order" crowd is perfectly willing to throw all reason, not to mention the law, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights right out the window in order to exercise their requisite Two Minutes' Hate. Proof can be found on the right-wing site Free Republic, here and here. (And look how they savage as "sex-offender lovers" those who disagree with them; mighty ugly crowd over there.)

Even those who profess to be Christians (even in their screen names!) jump in and roar their hatred.

If you read that site remember: those are their words, not mine. By their fruits you will know them, said Jesus.

Strange fruits indeed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

E Pluribus Unum, or One Label For All

Once upon a time we called them "rapists" and "child molesters." And the two were thought of quite differently. Rapists tended to be thought of as those who struck from the shadows, viciously taking victims by chance. This was very different from child molesters who were often thought of as mentally defective (not to mention morally repugnant), but not violent.

But in the late 80s the oh-so-clinical term "sex offenders" began to appear in public parlance. What is interesting about this is that, with all different types of sex offenders lumped under one label, the worst attributes of each type were brought forward to front for the group as a whole. For example, the mentally defective child molester, who simply cannot be trusted whatsoever because he just lacks the necessary self-control, presents the model for "repeats over, and over, and over" that is applied undiscriminantly to all, even though studies show that that is not the case for all.

Similarly, the "strike from the shadows" opportunistic rapist presents the model of ravening danger applied to all, though such are a minority of sex offenders.

This plays well into the hands of those who seek some kind of advantage (political power, or recognition, or whatever) by playing up the reasonable fear of such a false model. Were they to have to fall back on the old discriminating and differentiating labels, there would be far less outcry for some of the expensive, draconian and/or too-often counterproductive measures that are constantly being proposed for sex offenders.

A prime example of taking advantage of the false label is Georgetown University's Amitai Etzioni, who published a book calling for nothing less than concentration camps. Concentration camps for child molesters? Most people would laugh. But concentration camps for sex offenders? "Say, you just might be on to something there."

And with such measures, bit by bit, led by demagogues, the public trades its rights for small nostrums of false security.

Monday, August 29, 2005

If the victim is a sex offender... is it really a crime?

One notes this story ( where two Level 3 sex offenders were shot to death by somebody posing as an FBI agent. No doubt the police will go through the motions but one wonders...

Starting with the burning of a sex offender's house in the summer of 1993, I have seen news reports of other crimes against sex offenders, typically their homes and cars being burnt but sometimes murder too. (This includes the house of a British paediatrician; the yobs thought that meant paedophile.)

One got dropped in Montgomery County, MD in the last week or two. There was police activity reported afterward, but they were probably more concerned about the presence of a gun in that county.

The only prosecutions I have seen so far are:
1. The woman in California who shot the guy in a courtroom, a long time ago. (I think her real crime was discharging a gun in the courtroom.)
2. The two who beat up a fellow they thought was a sex offender -- but they were wrong.

I am betting that they never find this guy. A lot of people want to hang medals on him.

The catch here is: What happens when the registered sex offender realizes that he is not only unequal before the law, but quite unprotected by the law? Why then should he have any respect for the law other than its (limited) ability for enforcement? People want them back in prison; this seems a good way to get them there. If you can tolerate the additional crimes.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A little too far -- or just right?

Binghamton NY:

Keep an eye to the news September 23rd.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Nursing homes and exclusion zones

It seems very likely that nursing homes will all fall in the exclusion zones. So what happens when these guys (and gals) get older and may need to be in a nursing home, but there are none outside the zones?

Is this something the states could be sued over?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Pre-emptive zoning: a good idea if you like the results

I note from the news today that the big rage now is to establish "sex-offender no-residence" zones. But I note that at least some of the places establishing these make the zone effective immediately -- any registered sex offenders in those zones must move right away, no matter that they've signed a lease or own the property.

Add to the fact that some locales are increasing the size of their already-established zones and you have the potential for real disaster. The sex offenders will quickly figure out that there is no "safe" place for them to move; wherever they go they will forever face the risk of being pushed away again.

Never settling down, being forced into increasingly tight zones with other sex offenders -- you have the makings of an increased crime rate. (And not just sex offenses; as studies have noted that sex offender repeat offenses are not at limited to sex crimes.)

If society is willing to suffer the extra crimes in order to put these guys in prison forever, they will get what they want.

Friday, August 12, 2005

How to get rid of a sex offender

Most locales that have enacted laws prohibiting registered sex offenders from living within certain zones have, as part of the law, prohibited same from moving back in once they have left.

What this means is that if you live in such a zone with a registered sex offender, and he is forced to "move out" due to his house burning down (according to news reports sex-offenders' houses are unusually subject to this and though "accelerants" like gasoline are usually found nobody has EVER been charged for committing such a crime) and he has to take up a new residence... he CANNOT move back. Ever.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

"Please, sir, where may I live?"

If the community is going to designate areas where sex offenders are not allowed to live, is it not incumbent upon the community to provide maps? Some of these locales are designating day cares and "places where children gather" as the center points of exclusion zones. But how to identify those?

Years ago a neighbor opened a day care. You couldn't tell from the street that there was a daycare there. So a sex offender could easily take up residence someplace, well away from identifiable locations such as schools, only to be told he's got forfeit his rent (or lease) money and move out. Pretty soon you've got a broke and angry offender on the loose, thinking he no longer has anything to lose. I don't think that's a desirable situation.

And what the heck are "places where children gather"? The play area of the local McDonalds? Does a child's birthday party count as a "place where children gather"? The term is so vague as to be useless in letting a sex offender figure out where he can and cannot live.

It would seem it ought to be incumbent upon communities who enact exclusion zones to be able to provide maps of those zones to any who request them. After all, they will have had to already map out those zones so that they can go after the offenders who move into those zones.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Too Toxic To Tolerate

Thinking back on the "sex-offender 'free'" zones (that's a misnomer, by the way, because a lot of sex offense convictions are first time, and those people would not be kept from living in those zones), the locales that are doing this are setting themselves up for more trouble down the road.

A few years there was a story about some place where they decided sex offenders had to have their own halfway house. There was a lot of seemingly good ideas in the idea (they could be watched more closely, etc.), and I guess it was made law. The problem was: where to put the halfway house? People in the city didn't want it, it was too toxic. They couldn't put it in the country, because the people on the route to the sity (where the jobs are) didn't want them passing by. Everywhere they went, it was just too toxic to put it there. (No, I don't know where it wound up. I can't find the story.)

It would have been easier, less expensive, and fewer headaches to keep the old system and flag the sex offenders for closer supervision. No toxic waste dumps.

Well guess what? Some of these cities in Florida are setting themselves for a similar problem. Some are already zoning the sex offenders out of the vast majority of the city. And that will crowd them into the limited space remaining. Then somebody's going to recognize, "Oh my G*d, they're all living there together, sharing ideas, and it's so dangerous there."

Sex offenders: Sie sind unsere Juden jetzt. (YOU are our Jews now.) There is nothing we cannot, and will not, do to you. Eventually. You only choices will be Warsaw or Dachau.

Back to the rest of you. And the people living in those sex-offender "free" zones? Well, as I've noted the zones won't be though people will think of them that way because that's how the zones are being sold. And as a result, believe it or not, there is actually a clinical name for the children of such people.


Never EVER Trust the Press!!

This wouldn't be the first time I've seen the news media twist a story by leaving out or "modifying" details (I've seen worse from the news media), but it seems I've been taken in again.

The exclusion from shelters appears to apply to those sex offenders under supervision (probation), with "no contact with children" orders. Okay, when under supervision different rules can apply.

It still looks more like politicians tring to make a name for themselves with "easy issues", issues that look good at first glance but don't really do anything but waste money.

I don't know about conditions in these shelters. I am guessing they tend to be crowded, with really no opportunity for a sex offender to pull anything. If this is the case, then this law is going to be a waste of money.

The problem is that there are costs and risks to sheltering a sex offender in a prison. You've got to do a thorough search on admitting him. You've got to run the paperwork to admit him, and it has to be good enough to make sure you're not releasing the wrong guy when you let him out. If it gets fouled up and he gets held over for days, weeks or months, presumably the only cost is that of incarcerating him (somewhere I saw a number once, something like $50 - $100/day), as his employer would know he's on probation and likely cut him slack.

Like I said, I am guessing.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

No Sex Offenders in Hurricane Shelters -- Another Great Idea

They can just stand outside and die. While you tell them, "You are out now, so we want you to act like a responsible member of our society."
And now somebody wants to exclude them from swimming pools.

Well, all right. But why stop there? How about theaters, hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants (anyone remember that creepy security video of the guy following a kid into the restroom of a McDonald's) -- hey, prohibit them from entering restrooms too!

Then we will be safe.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Sex-Offender-Free zones -- a great idea

A number of cities in Florida are now passing laws prohibiting registered sex offenders from living in certain locales, typically a half-mile from schools, etc., and not as a condition of sentencing but after the fact. Some are forcing those who live in those locales to move out.

This is a great idea.

It establishes three things in law:
1) The right to live where you want can be infringed at any time.
2) If this is a constitutional right, it's not infringed by "local" restrictions so long as you can practice it somewhere else. (Think of the restricted-speech zones around "choice" clinics.)
3) Since the government can dictate where you can't exercise your right, it can also dictate where you can.

As with anything that's "for the children," this sounds good. But it is sure to bite somewhere else.