I think it's time we had a national debate on that question. Do sex offenders (any kind, dudes who cruise in parks, rapists, guys who collect child porn, exhibitionists...) deserve to live? Should we automatically give them the death penalty after being found guilty?
The debate can't end up much worse than the status quo. Sure, we seem to agree we can't just give everyone caught with kiddy porn pics on their computer lethal injection, but it doesn't seem we want them to live anywhere at all.
Nine homeless sex offenders directed to live in the woods behind a Marietta office park are scrambling to find new places to go after they were ordered to move.
The sex offenders were searching for a new place to pitch their tents Tuesday after state authorities told them they had to leave the area.
They had been directed to the spot by probation officers who said it was a location of last resort for the sex offenders barred from living in many areas by one of the nation's toughest sex offender policies.
William Hawkins, a 34-year-old who had lived in the camp for about two weeks, said he was not sure where he would move. He said, "If I don't have anywhere to go, they will re-arrest me."
Great. They were kicked out of urban, suburban, and small town areas because they have to live a certain distance from all parks and schools, and now they can't even live in the woods. It sounds like some people put their thinking caps on when developing that policy. But I guess the woods is better than being forced to live under a bridge:
Five men -- all registered sex offenders convicted of abusing children -- live along the causeway because there is a housing shortage for Miami's least welcome residents.
"I got nowhere I can go!" says sex offender Rene Matamoros, who lives with his dog on the shore where Biscayne Bay meets the causeway.
The Florida Department of Corrections says there are fewer and fewer places in Miami-Dade County where sex offenders can live because the county has some of the strongest restrictions against this kind of criminal in the country.
Florida's solution: house the convicted felons under a bridge that forms one part of the causeway.
Such laws aren't just about child rapists, even though they're made to seem like they're going to protect kids from the creepy dude handing out candy so he can kill your children. They're often target people who've never picked up a child from the street to have sex with her:
Elwell was convicted of engaging in sex with a 16-year-old girl at a high school when he was 27 years old.
"I made a mistake," Elwell said.
Since then, he says, he has tried to rebuild his life. He recently opened a pizzeria in Cape May. He married, and he and his wife, a teacher, have two toddlers.
In October, then-Gov. Richard J. Codey signed legislation to prevent sex offenders from trick-or-treating or passing out candy to children on Halloween.
"The only reason my wife and I have even bothered to come forward is because of our children," Elwell said. "I want to try and (make it) so that they can live a normal life."
Under current laws, he can't take his own children to the local park.
"I can't take them to the beach," he said. "My son is 1, and my daughter is 2 1/2, and I couldn't take them out for Halloween. Do they seriously think I'm going to walk down the street, with my two kids, and grab some other kid?"
Or they go after teens who have sex with slightly younger teens:
Shirley Turner of Hartland clutches her son William Elliott's photograph while listening to testimony about Maine's sex-offender registry Tuesday in Augusta. Her son is thought to have been killed by a Canadian who targeted him because Elliott was on the registry. Turner said her son didn't belong on the list, because he was not a dangerous pedophile. She said he had had consensual sex with a girl two weeks before her 16th birthday. The man at right is unidentified.[...]
William Thurber of Waldo, a sex offender who said he was convicted in Florida of having sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 19, said he is on welfare and unable to get a job because he is on Maine's registry, even though the crime he committed in Florida would not have been prosecuted in Maine. That claim was later confirmed by Evert Fowle, the district attorney in Kennebec and Somerset counties, who said Thurber appears to have gotten "a raw deal" from Maine. The registry serves an important function because "we should be able to live in a state where we feel safe," said Kelly Thompson of Manchester, who identified herself as a mother.
Don't think these laws are making you or your children any safer. These laws weren't based on sound reasoning, careful research, and humanity. They're based on hysteria, with a healthy dose of frontier justice, which don't result in effective policy. And studies show sex offender registries don't work:
Conducted by independent psychologists along with staff from the state Department of Corrections' Office of Policy and Planning, this comprehensive study looked at 21 years of sex offense rates. It confirms in New Jersey what other studies have found elsewhere. Megan's Law "has no demonstrable effect in reducing sexual re-offenses."
Megan's Law struck out on every important area related to protecting the community from sexual offenders. Not only is there no evidence that it reduces sexual re-offenses, Megan's Law fails to positively impact sex offender re-arrest rates, fails to change the type of re-offenses or first time offenses that occur and fails to reduce the number of victims involved in sexual offenses.
As the state agency charged with representing those required to register under Megan's Law, the Public Defender agrees completely with the study's findings and with its ultimate conclusion that "given the lack of demonstrable effect of Megan's Law on sexual offenses, the growing costs may not be justifiable."
What is equally remarkable is that other research cited by the New Jersey study, as well as our own experience, shows that Megan's Law can be "counterproductive." Notification laws have been found to isolate offenders from normal relationships, undercut their opportunities for housing and employment, and subject offenders to threats and assaults.
In some instances, the willingness to obtain treatment can be negatively impacted. As a result of these factors, the study's researchers determined the unintended consequences of Megan's Law may be to increase the risks of recidivism rather than to protect the community.
OK, that study was about Megan's Law, which requires registration of sex offenders. That's only part of the reason they have to live away from civilization and can't get jobs. The other reason are those zoning laws that force them to live sometimes so far away from schools that no housing even exists in their city. And those laws don't help anything either, since just because they can't live near a school doesn't mean they can't be near a school:
Plantier is among the experts who believe the measures may not protect children in the ways that elected officials intend.
Plantier worked for 27 years at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center prison in the Avenel section of Woodbridge, including 10 years as its superintendent.
Establishing "sex offender-free zones" may not have much impact, Plantier said.
"Sex offenders aren't nailed to the floor," Plantier said. "They can move around."
And such ordinances disregard some bitter truths about sex offenders, Plantier says.
The laws focus attention on strangers, Plantier said, but someone who is known by the victim --- a priest, a coach, a family member -- commits most sex offenses.
These laws don't work. They're a result of child molestation hysteria and dehumanization, not an actual search for a solution to the very real problem of sex offender recidivism. Some states that have these laws don't even provide treatment for sex offenders while in prison or help them transition to life outside prison, two of the best-known ways to prevent them from offending again.
But we have these laws because people are afraid, and that means that they'll vote out politicians they deem "soft on crime." The fact that people's lives are needlessly thrown away isn't important. They're just thirsty for blood.
So why not cut to the chase and just ask for lethal injection for all sex offenders upon conviction? Their lives are obviously worth nothing to society, and it would at least reduce recidivism.