Monday, November 21, 2005

Thinking the unthinkable: The next logical sex offender law: Maybe?

Just look at the hope here. Wonder if this guy calls himself a Christian by day.,0,7720772.story?coll=orl-opinion-headlines

Come with me on a journey into the not too distant future.

We head north into the Ocala National Forest on State Road 19. Deep in the forest we catch sight of a green road sign that reads "Sex Offender Habitat."

We turn west off the paved road onto a clay road with ruts. We drive farther into the forest until we come upon a primitive settlement of wooden shacks and lean-tos. We see men and an occasional woman loitering about.

The place looks like some re-enactment of a lumber crew camp in mid-20th century Florida.

Here live the men and women who have been pushed out of the civilized world by sex offender buffer zones.

We didn't know what to do with them when they were convicted of horrible crimes and sent to prison. (Florida doesn't have a real sex offender treatment program in the state prison system.) We didn't know what to do with them when they were released from prison -- except for the ones we put back in prison.

We had figured if we locked them up tight enough and redefined solitary confinement by calling it "close management," they would get better. Of course, they don't.

We are at a loss as to how to treat sex offenders like human beings, so we have turned them over to the state's wildlife management officials.

It makes sense. Rangers have taken good care of black bears and the Florida panther, right?

For a week out of the year, the state issues licenses for hunters to go after sex offenders. That's when these offenders flee their camp and try to survive by their wits.

Remember in high school we all read that bizarre yet exciting short story by Richard Connell titled, The Most Dangerous Game, where the hunter becomes the hunted? This is the real-life version.

We're not quite sure how we have come to these living arrangements, but everyone seems comfortable with the solution, especially the hunters whose sport was waning because of diminishing habitats and wildlife species.

Bernard L. Welch is a resident of Mount Dora. (Florida)


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