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.”