Hot Button Question: Sex Offender Laws

I’m pretty sure none of you would want to run for Congress if you realized how many issues there are, and how many are really difficult to answer honestly, without fearing huge backlash.

I got an e-mail from a constituent who asked my position on the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. It’s a very complex issue, with tough decisions, but, because I believe in transparency and honesty over campaign rhetoric, I’m answering it as honestly as I can.

These laws scare me. Here is what Human Rights Watch says:

US: Sex Offender Laws May Do More Harm Than Good (Human Rights Watch, 12-9-2007)
“Human Rights Watch shares the public’s goal of protecting children from sex abuse,” said Jamie Fellner, director of the US program at Human Rights Watch. “But current laws are ill-conceived and poorly crafted. Protecting children requires a more thoughtful and comprehensive approach than politicians have been willing to support.”

In many states, registration covers everyone convicted of a sexual crime, which can range from child rape to consensual teenage sex, and regardless of their potential future threat to children. Unfettered public access to online sex-offender registries with no “need-to-know” restrictions exposes former offenders to the risk that individuals will act on this information in irresponsible and even unlawful ways. There is little evidence that this form of community notification prevents sexual violence. Residency restrictions banish former offenders from entire towns and cities, forcing them to live far from homes, families, jobs and treatment, and hindering law-enforcement supervision. Residency restrictions are counterproductive to public safety and harmful to former offenders.

Putting scarlet letters on people is not a solution.

There is a case in Troy Ohio where a sex offender found a place that was across the river from a school. It was deemed that he was within the radius- even though the only way was to swim, and would have to move.

There are sex offenders living in my neighborhood. There are also crack heads. Which causes more problems? The crack head. Both need treatment, neither are being handled properly.

Although other candidates will attack this stand, I still believe that our Constitution has protections against double-jeopardy, and that these laws aren’t the answer. No, I am not for letting child molesters and sex offenders off- but, there has to be some sensible way for them to reintegrate into society. Either that, or we may as well just start killing them off instead of sentencing them to a life sentence in the court of public opinion.

It’s hard enough to go from convict to citizen (see my post on prisons) but, these laws, often applied retroactively, are questionable both in their intent and their effectiveness, often creating more problems than they are solving.

Ouch. I’m sure by being honest, I lost the election. But, as I say: in an advertising campaign, if you lie, you get sued. In a political campaign, if you lie, you get elected.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed! If you wish to support this blog and independent journalism in Dayton, consider donating. All of the effort that goes into writing posts and creating videos comes directly out of my pocket, so any amount helps!