Archive for March, 2013

Are you a Christian?

March 17, 2013

It’s Sunday today, and I’d like to ask you if you believe in the Bible, in God, in Jesus?

Did you say yes? If so, I’d like you to think about something. 

You are a sinner. You have not led a blameless life, any more than I have. Somewhere in the past, you have done something which is a sin. This means that you have done something for which you need to be forgiven. It is likely that you have already accepted this, if you are a Christian.

Open your Bible to Matthew 6, and read the passage known as the Lord’s Prayer. It’s verses 9 through 13. Then read the two verses following.

In my version, it reads: “This, then, is how you should pray:

     ” ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

 

It seems that Jesus had some pretty harsh things to say to those who would condemn others. In Matthew 7, the first two verses continue this thought. 

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

 

Do you wish to be forgiven your sins? Then forgive the sins of others. That’s all. Don’t stone the woman caught in adultery (the image of sex offender in that time). As is said in John 8:7-11,

“When they kept on questioning him he straightened up and said to them, ‘If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.'”

It is clear that if someone wants to start over, he/she is given permission. That person is not required to relive the past sin daily. In fact, that’s one thing that our justice system was based on, the idea of rehabilitation. Even the worst sinner can be redeemed. 

What we have now is supposed Christians refusing to allow second chances. Many offenders have met God in jail, and have become very different people. Allow them to be redeemed. If you do not, you may reach heaven only to discover that God will tell you that the unforgiveness that you extended to others is now to be extended to you.

Go now and sin no more.

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The Costs of the Sex Offender Registry

March 12, 2013

Complying with the Adam Walsh Act is not coming cheap for states. There are many different levels of costs associated with this list, not all of which can be expressed in dollars and cents.

The primary costs include re-aligning the list of sex offenses with length of time to be spent on the registry, reprogramming the computers, educating the staff responsible for the upkeep of the registry and many other administrative tasks, including the upkeep of the database. Studies by independent agencies have indicated that states have spent and are spending tens of millions of dollars for this one piece of legislation. 

If this was really making a difference, if it was really making anyone safer, it might be worth it. However, studies have also shown that there is very little, if any, positive result from having a sex offender registry. It is not saving anyone, and is often instituting a false sense of security, since (as I mentioned in my previous blog post) the real threat is from someone close to the child, not the sex offender down the street.

In the meantime, other dollar costs are being incurred.

Secondary costs

Legal defense of a bad law, which is certain to happen, is a secondary cost. People will sue the state to keep them from being labelled a “tier III offender”, when they have little chance of re-offending, such as a teen-on-teen relationship where the two involved have married or moved on to other peers.

Police departments across the country must keep a registry officer, one who registers the sex offender, updates the database locally, checks on the compliance of the registered individuals and so forth. This cost is borne locally. It is also a secondary cost.

This officer often has nothing else to do, since tracking sex offenders is a full time occupation. In larger communities, more than one officer may be dedicated to this task. Sex offenders move often, usually because they are forced to move by those who do not want a sex offender in their apartment building, mobile home park or neighborhood. People who have forced such things do not realize that they have not made their families any safer.Repeated studies have shown that sexual offending has little relationship with where they live (see Jill Levenson’s studies or the Human Rights Watch report, No Easy Answers). 

 Tertiary Costs

Other costs are also incurred which are not so readily apparent. Sex offenders must have some variety of income. When people see where the registrant is working, they sometimes complain to the company. Most companies will fire a registrant after the first complaint, not because the registrant has done anything wrong, but because they are sensitive to public opinion. When a company fires a registrant, he has little choice but to apply for some variety of governmental assistance. He would rather work. The fact that he had a job proves that. But if he can’t work, due to the fact that most companies don’t want their names on the registry, then he must get food stamps, rental assistance and so forth. The level of unemployment among the sex offender registrants in many places is 85%. 

If the registrant is capable of working, nearly all the registrants would like to do so. They would like to become productive, tax paying citizens, not unemployed people living off the state or local assistance. 

Not All Costs Can Be Measured in Dollars and Cents

The cost to families of registrants has been well-documented elsewhere. Stress, bullying of the children of the registrant, vandalism to homes and cars of the family. All these have been documented in other blogs. For further reading on the subject of collateral damage, especially to families of registrants, I recommend http://prospect.org/article/life-list, I love a sex offender, life on the mountain and as a general overview of the subject, https://www.facebook.com/OfficialSOIssues .

 

If you take anything away from this post, remember that the registry has a long list of costs, both dollar amounts and human costs. One of those potential costs is your own liberty.

“Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.” 

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

An activist’s start

March 10, 2013

I have been an activist for many years. I was born in 1951, and came of age in the Washington, DC area in 1969. The place was overflowing at that time with worthwhile causes to be active in. I was active in the civil rights movement, the women’s movement (and am discouraged with some of the current parts of that movement) and the anti-Vietnam War movement (while supporting the troops themselves, at times a delicate balancing act).

So, I am not an newbie to activism. I am, however, a newbie to having an activist blog.

The cause which I am addressing myself to in this instance is liberty and justice. A broad topic, one might think, but one which I have found to be sorely under addressed. In particular, I am very concerned with the registries now popping up all over the place.

The sex offender registry is one which impacts me personally. I have two sons who are listed on it.

You never really appreciate how devastating it is to have someone you love on a publicly available registry until it happens to you. I could go on for pages detailing the damage done by the sex offender registry, but others have done that, in many cases far more compellingly than I could. Instead, I want to tell you that it has happened before, and the consequences for the society where it happened became obvious only over time.

Germany in the 1930’s instituted a registry of sorts. Sex criminals and homosexuals were the first on which this registry was tried. A system of triangles, which the offender was required to wear at all times, was the manifestation of this registry. It was sold as being for the benefit of the children. Does this sound familiar? How do we justify the sex offender registry today? “If it saves one child…” is the cry of the politician, but studies have indicated that we are sacrificing children on this altar, not saving them.

If we truly want our children to be safe (and 100% safety cannot be assured, no matter what we do) then we will pay attention to studies which indicate that those strangers on the registry are not the ones most likely to harm our children. A child today is more likely to be arrested for violating one of the more than 250 laws which can get him on the registry than to be a victim of a sex crime. One third of all sex crimes against a minor (including sexting and consensual sexual experimentation) are committed by other minors. This does not save the children. Things that today’s law-abiding adults did as children can get their children arrested.

I have seen articles about children as young as an 8-year-old playing “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine” being arrested and taken to court. This does not protect anyone.

What also does not protect children is posting the address and workplace of a sex offender. Your child is far more likely to be molested by someone in the family than by the sex offender down the street. If that same sex offender has a job, the odds of him offending again are far lower, especially since he is being supervised at work. Do you feel any safer knowing that the sex offender you got fired from his job is now free to go where ever he wants at all times of the day? Do you feel any safer knowing that the sex offender you got kicked out of his home or apartment is now roaming the streets in the middle of the night to keep from freezing to death? If he did it, why shouldn’t he do it again, what is his motivation to keep crime-free? If he didn’t do it, you are punishing an innocent person, and possibly his family along with him. Does this protect children?

It is my hope that you will think about these things. I will leave you with one more thing to ponder. Today we are publishing the names and addresses of NOT JUST sex offenders, but gun owners and domestic abusers and drug users. Other registries are being debated. How long before YOU are on one? As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.”


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