From “The Counterproductive Catch-All of Supposed Sex Offenders” By Sadhbh Walshe
“Sex offender registries date back to the 1940s but they did not become mandatory in all states until the 1990s, when Congress began passing a series of laws such as the Jacob Wetterling Act (1994), Megan's Law (1996) and the Adam Walsh Act (2006) – all named for children who had been abducted, molested or killed. The registry was intended to prevent other children from falling victim to a similar fate, a desire shared by everyone. But the laws have so drastically expanded what qualifies as a sex offense, there are now over 700,000 Americans on the registry (pdf), many of whom have never harmed a child and are unlikely to ever harm a child, rendering it a self-defeating tool.
In some states, for instance, public urination is enough to get you on the registry, as is mooning, streaking, flashing or visiting a prostitute. A 19-year-old boy who has consensual sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend can be charged with statutory rape; a teenage girl who posts naked pictures of herself on any kind of file-sharing site can be charged as a distributor of child pornography.
The money, time, effort and manpower required to keep such broad categories of offenders (and so-called offenders) under surveillance is money, time, effort and manpower that is being diverted from monitoring those who pose a genuine threat. The argument, of course, is that when it comes to protecting children, you cannot take any chances. But there are sophisticated risk assessment tools available, and in use, that are far more effective means of identifying danger than making hundreds of thousands of people's lives unliveable.
It's easier, though, and politically more palatable, to declare zero tolerance for sex offenders and to keep passing laws that look good on the books. Never mind if they are actually counter-productive when it comes to actually keeping children safe.”
More to come...
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