Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Liberty of a Sex Offender

Just the word "sex offender" conjures up images of a creepy guy with a beard, mustache, and thick rimmed glasses drooling over a little girl. While this is an extreme exaggeration, this is the stereotype that is most often depicted, so its no wonder that in the last half century the country has gone crazy over sex offenders.

In 1947, California became the first state to require sex offenders to list themselves on a registry. Since then, all 50 states have followed suit and created sex offender registries. Using these registries, the government can track the activities of offenders and the public can be made aware of sex offenders in the area (ya'll better hide your kids, and hide your wife). The goal here is to make the community safer and make sure the person does not become a repeat offender.

Seems harmless enough, right? You know, we have to protect society from those bad people. Let me just ask one question then: why don't we have a murderer registry?

I mean, think about it. Why wouldn't we want to protect ourselves from murderers? That would be a smart thing to do, wouldn't it?

Oh, wait, let me ask another. Why don't we have a burglary registry? Oh, wait, why don't we have an arson registry? Oh, what about a securities fraud registry? Perhaps a guy who got caught with marijuana registry? OH, we could have a general creepy dude down the block registry!

You see where I'm going with this? A criminal registry, in general, is silly and violates a person's natural rights.

If I have committed a crime, and served out my sentence, I do not need to be monitored and tracked like an animal. I have paid my debts to society and deserve to rejoin it in peace. To FORCE a person to join a registry and not only be reminded for the rest of their lives about their crime, but to make sure everyone around him is aware of this is wrong.

So, at this point, it would be nice to throw out some facts and figures to complement the natural rights argument. Let's see, according to the a study done by Karl Hanson and Kelly Morton-Bourgon for Public Safety Canada concluded that the recidivism rates (repeat offender rates) for sex offenders over a period of 15 years after the conclusion of their sentence was around 24%. This means that 24% of sex offenders commit another sex crime. As far as any crime is concerned, the conclusion after 15 years was that it was 36%. So, 36% of sex offenders go on to commit any sexual or nonsexual crime. Specifically, the numbers were 13% for incest perpetrators, 24% for rapists, and 35% for child molesters.

So, all in all, we're looking at less than half. That's a pretty good number, but would you pay for something that only works 2/3 of the time? I sure as hell wouldn't. So, in order to really verify that sex offender registries have an effect, we need some more information. We need data from back before there were registries. The problem? There isn't any. Because we have no control group, we cannot say conclusively that the sex offender registry is the cause of the repeat offender rate being around 24%. Even if we had data from before there were registries, we would still have to scientifically survey sex offenders in order to prove a link between the registry and whether or not the person committed another crime. Just because there is a registry now doesn't mean that the data is the result of it. We simply can't prove that.

So, only one argument stands. That is the argument from natural rights, and it will be how I end this post. When you have committed a crime, and finished out your sentence, you have the right not to be tracked by the government and a right to not have to make your crime publicly known. You have paid your debts to society, and so you shall have all the benefits of being a citizen in that society.

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