When the New York Times is willing to sell out the amorphous groups collected under the heading “sex offender,” you know they have zero support. This editorial shows how bad the problem is.
However useful [Megan's Law may be], the law has always carried great potential for danger, and now a New Jersey court has taken a step toward making it a more sophisticated instrument of public safety.
A disturbing new development is the proliferation of local ordinances that go beyond the reporting requirements of legislation like Megan’s Law by restricting where sex offenders may live.
These bans can do more harm than good. They will not deter a determined predator. Many law enforcement officials, including parole officers, have observed that they tend to bunch sex offenders in drug-infested, rundown neighborhoods that are poorly suited for anyone trying to turn around a life.
We have long supported the registration requirement. But we also believe that officials should be aware that in the wrong hands, this information can lead to harassment or worse. And the decision about where a sex offender should live properly resides with law enforcement agencies.
While on the surface, it would appear that the Times is standing up for “sex offenders,” it conceals the fundamental position that Megan’s Law is good and that post-sentence “sex offenders” should live their lives as societal pariahs, to be herded into whatever areas they’re told by “law enforcement agencies.”
I note that I am no fan of people who do harm, sexual or other, to children, and I do not represent such defendants unless I am convinced that they are innocent. My brethren in the defense bar think my position in wrong-headed, but it’s mine and I’m sticking with it. However, I put the words “sex offenders” in quotes because it’s a characterization that is grossly misleading and pejorative. And it continues to expand far beyond the caricature of the child molester that’s used to justify these restrictions.
It’s no surprise that lawmakers enjoy playing this card to prove their toughness. It’s no surprise that the general public doesn’t comprehend what is actually happening, as a vast swath of defendants who pose neither risk of recidivism or harm to children have their lives ruined by being tossed into the same hole as those who in fact pose a threat.
But one would expect just a little bit more thought from the New York Times. Like I said, when the Times can’t be bothered to think it through, we know that there’s no hope for this group. Eventually, this is going to catch up with us as more and more people become lumped into the social pariah class, and we have no place to put them and they have no place to go.