Sex Offenders International

It would have taken enormous courage to say no because it was a shockingly awful idea that played well to the simplistic and ignorant.  President Obama lacked that courage. Perhaps he’s too busy with his lame duck session. Perhaps he feared that a courageous move would have affected the chances of the Democratic candidate for president. Perhaps his talk of reform was just talk, and he’s every bit as good with bad criminal law policy as everyone else.

No matter. He signed it. It’s now law.

After months of hype about the historic bipartisan consensus that we must make the American criminal justice system less harsh, President Obama finally signed a justice reform bill into law Monday. There’s only one problem: Instead of making the justice system more fair and less punitive, the new law will make it more vindictive and petty. Specifically, it will require people who have been convicted of sex crimes against minors to carry special passports in which their status as registered sex offenders will be marked with conspicuous identifying marks.

This is the stuff that’s easy to sell, as it plays into people’s “common sense” fears. Child molesters? Screw them. There is no one more despised than a child molester. There is no harm to be done to them that’s too harsh.  And if it was your child, you would . . . but that’s not the point at all, of course.

The point of International Megan’s Law, in the words of its House sponsor Chris Smith of New Jersey, is to prevent “sex tourism” by making it harder for people to “hop on planes and go to places for a week or two and abuse little children.” In addition to the passport stamp, this goal is supposed to be achieved through the formation of a new federal unit inside of Immigration and Customs Enforcement called the “Angel Watch Center,” which will inform foreign governments when American sex offenders have made plans to visit their countries.

Reminiscent of all the cries about terrible things, what reasonable person couldn’t support such a thing? Except the notion is premised on two myths, that there are predators roaming the streets in vans with pockets filled with candy to lure unsupervised children into sex slavery. The fact is that most child molestation is perpetrated by someone close at hand, friend or relative, and not by strangers. Want to keep your kid safe? Don’t let Uncle Ernie babysit.

The second myth is that child molesters can’t control themselves, but are driven by evil forces to commit their horrific crimes even after they’ve been caught and punished. In fact, the recidivism rate shows the opposite.

A BJS report shows that insofar as that’s true, we’re still talking about a tiny percentage of people: According to the findings, just 5.3 percent of the 9,691 released sex offenders in the study sample were rearrested for a sex crime within three years of their release. Among male child molesters specifically, recidivism appears to be even lower: of the 4,295 male child molesters in the sample, just 3.3 percent were rearrested for another sex crime against a child within three years of their release.

But, but, but isn’t it worth it if it saves just one child?

The impact of the sex offender registries, sweeping in those we revile alongside those who make the list only because someone feared that a terrible person might escape perpetual castigation, has been horrific as well. Along with the realization that maybe sex offender registries don’t actually serve any useful purpose in the first place.

Maybe this was one of those ideas that sounded good to the great unwashed (who didn’t make the list), but didn’t actually work out. Maybe this was an idea that causes grave unintended consequences that could only be discerned by those who indulged in thought, an activity that causes far too many Americans to suffer brutal headaches.

As almost everyone involved in the legal system has come to realize, the sex offender registry concept has, at minimum, gone far beyond any theoretical purpose by including people for increasingly, and pointlessly, long terms of inclusion, offenses that threaten no one, and the unintended consequences of creating a caste of deplorables who can never escape their fate no matter how law-abiding they might be.

So let’s take it international? Let’s make these people who shouldn’t be on the list here be pariahs everywhere. Because isn’t it worth it if it saves one child?

On the one hand, it’s understandable that Obama couldn’t bring himself to veto a bill that purports to protect children from sexual predators. On the other, he should have been able to see that this law is unlikely to achieve anything besides making some Americans feel even more ostracized than they already do. That’s not criminal justice reform. It’s just politics.

Something to bear in mind: for all the talk of reform, there is no support for sound criminal law policies by anyone. As this law shows, no one has the guts to say no to any idea that enjoys broad appeal because it confirms the assumptions of the groundlings. There are no heroes to save the day. It’s just politics. And people’s lives. Nothing worth thinking too hard about.

10 thoughts on “Sex Offenders International

  1. Norahc

    Maybe it’s about time we create and enforce a Politician Registry and give those in office a taste of what they’ve been dealing out.

    Their passport special symbol could be a dunce cap.

  2. JimEd

    It’s really great that we don’t have to do that messy thing with the brand to the forehead anymore. The cost and the smell of burnt flesh. Not to mention the time it took to remove the semi burnt detritus from the iron.

    So good that we can now brand people without all the work and personal involvement and such.

  3. Martha Morales

    It sad that we have became a vindictive society . That myths not fact are use to pass such laws. I agree I was a victim by a family member. Though true and sad . But I don’t seek Vergenges.
    What happen with reform?, and paying yr debt to society ? Once you did ur time.
    To have learn from their mistakes.
    And what happen second chances?
    Sad , and shame on thoses that go along with being vindictive.

  4. John Barleycorn

    What’s it gonna take?

    Keep on keeping on but for the heavy linkage, your aggression might level the aggeration.

    Anyway, the way I see it. SJ is black dirt.

    Or whatever. That all being said where are you going?

    Holding and banking or getting ready to fly even higer?

    Cracks me up your “taboo” posts chill your audience in the back pages cold.

    Fuck the fucking fuckers and carry on.

    P.S. could be that “tractor” of yours needs an excessive upgrade.

    I can’t figure out why lawyers, over fifty are so fucking afraid of hydralic “love”.

    Could be they are deftly afraid of having a little bit more than is needed by nature. Or a inate fear of breaking machinery.

    Sad state of affairs all around….they all dig it literally when they come around.


        1. albeed

          No, not scary at all.

          Can’t talk now. There are some nice men in white scrubs who want to take me out for breakfast.

  5. Guy

    I don’t even think the politicians who drafted IML think it’ll do anything to deter child sex tourism and/or trafficking. In the preamble to the IML, they engage in legislative sleight of hand to make it *seem* that this is a good idea by (1) asserting that X number of sex offenders travel internationally each year and that (2) X number of children are victims of child sex tourism every year, without providing a nexus between the two. Those two statements are left as neighbors to one another, leaving the hasty reader with the impression that there is some sort of a connection between those two phenomena. In reality, if the stacks of recidivism studies are to be believed, there is likely minimal to no connection between them.

    It is disingenuous, but also par for the course for this area. Politicians seek to continue to stoke the public’s fears on this issue, and then translate that into votes. Nevermind the ever-increasing violations of basic human rights. First there were the residency restrictions, now IML. Not only can you not stay here, you also can’t leave. Kafkha would be blushing.

  6. losingtrader

    This really screws up my trips to Cambodia and Thailand.

    Oh, wait, I can use my Israeli passport.

    Whew, everything’s cool now.

    BTW, when’s the circle jerk?

    1. albeed

      “BTW, when’s the circle jerk?”

      It’s been going on in DC and centers of government for at least the last quarter century. You’d think they’d stop and rest by now but they show no signs of ending. It’s the law of diminishing returns. All the needed laws have been passed a long-time ago so now we need un-needed laws. That’s what lawmakers do!

      PS: I had a wonderful breakfast with all kinds of fancy new vitamins.

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