P is for Payment

The LA Times has a piece about Proposition 83 which would restrict where former sex-offenders can live, where they can go and a required life-long electronic tracking device.

Proposition 83 on the Nov. 7 ballot — dubbed Jessica’s Law by proponents — would lengthen prison and parole terms for the most violent sex offenders and make possession of child pornography a felony.

In addition, its most controversial provision would ban all released sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. Local governments could declare additional locations off-limits, and sex offenders would be monitored for life with an electronic tracking device.

Is it just me, or is this not what I was taught under the heading of “paying your debt to society?”

I’m always sceptical of one-size-fits all laws. I have only read a couple of articles about this but the following quote from the Times article sums up the problems:

Citing the experience of other states, some scholars say the residency rule would banish the former convicts from urban settings that offer the services, jobs and family connections that help them remain law-abiding — and dump them on rural communities ill-equipped to supervise them. In Iowa, prosecutors who once backed such a law said the residency limit had backfired, and they now want it repealed.

Think about the consequences of this kind of law. You are not only restricting the person to where they can live but where they can go. By restricting where they can go, you might also limit what kind of employment they can have. Any job where travel is a remote possibility is out because the (former) offender might end up next to a park or a school. By inacting some of these restrictions, you almost ensure that the criminals become either homeless are at best marginalized to areas and jobs least capable of coping with them.

Some would say that’s OK; evil gets what evil does. The person was convicted and should be punished. It seems to me that if you want someone punished, you should convict them to life in prison without parole. (I will do another post about LWOP someday.) Unfortunately, the prisons are filled with the drug dealers so that’s out. And spending $200 million per year on supervision, cultural training and care programs is out. (Stupid wishy-washy liberals – always throwing money at attempted solutions. Pah!) Especially when most offenders know or are related to the children involved, can’t look to the parents, grandparents or other relatives, they did nothing wrong and need no training, no long term help.

Again, the eclectic in me sees both sides of the issue. I really do understand trying to keep children safe. This is a deep visceral feeling; many would like to see child molesters publicly pilloried at best and drawn and quartered at worst. People with paedophile tendencies should not be around children. It is unclear whether many of these people can be effectively treated. Schools, sports teams and clubs should be required to vet possible employees and volunteers. Failing in this duty should be punishable with draconian fines and/or prison sentencing for those who failed the most simple background check.

But in subverting the criminal justice system into something that marks criminals for life, even those who have ‘paid their debt to society,’ is neither humane nor the American way. Perhaps the supporters of these kinds of bills should finally show their true colors. The Aleutian Islands are largely unpopulated, let’s just create prison islands. Perhaps we should simply feed the offenders to the kodiak bears. (Oh, wait – the wish-washy liberals will probably not like either of those due to environmental issues – stupid bear huggers.)

With all due respect to Nathaniel Hawthorne, perhaps we should simply mark them with Scarlet P. P for Payment.

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