April 5, 2007

Jessica's Law Goes Too Far

It's no secret that some of the least popular people in America are convicted sex offenders. There are websites that tell you where they live, many of which show their photographs and give detailed information about their convictions. There are restrictions about where they can live. Sometimes it seems as though politicians compete with one another to impose harsher and harsher restrictions on these ex-felons, because there is no political downside to doing so -- there is no lobbying group representing convicted sex offenders -- and every politician wants to "protect children" and be "tough on crime."

Somewhere down that path, however, society crosses a line and it starts to become unreasonable. Florida has crossed that line -- there is nowhere that these people can live other than under a bridge, sleeping in lawn chairs to avoid being bitten by rats. I agree with the proposition that such criminals need to be watched because of the danger of recidivism. But if these people are ever going to re-integrate into society in any meaningful way, there have to be better opportunities available than this. The alternative is that they remain not only pariahs but drains on the social welfare system, for the rest of their lives.

Query as to whether any of this slows down real sex offenders from committing their crimes again -- if they really do suffer from irresistible impulses to do these things, court orders and websites are not going to stop a determined criminal. So sure, exercising unthinking, punitive control over the despised to no particular purpose is lots of fun from a public policy perspective, but at best, this is only part of the solution.

1 comment:

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