Elizabeth, the doyenne of sexinthepublicsquare.com left a comment asking what a rational sex offender registration scheme might look like. I have often commented that I think sex offender restrictions are here to stay, are not necessarily the blanket evil that many of my on line colleagues posit and are notoriously irrational as usually enacted. Elizabeth's comment then challenges those of us interested in such issues to come up with a more rational alternative.
For myself, I think the chief evil of 90% of the current laws is the utter lack of effort to separate out true predators from one-time mistakes. When teenagers sending sexy cellphone pictures to each other or 15 year olds having sex with 13 year olds or 30 year old convictions become lifetime registrable offenses, I think we have a problem.
My proposal then is the following:
- An individual psychological evaluation using a scientifically based objective scoring system should be used to determine likelihood of recidivism. The problem with subjective evaluations by "experts" is that no one wants to be the guy who "cleared" a sex offender who then commits some subsequent act. No system is perfect, objective scoring may allow for a more objective view of the evidence rather than overly relying on the "what if."
- An objective scoring system would take into account, but not fixate, on what the offense of conviction might be.
- Create a public registry and a private registry. A private registry would allow the police to keep awareness of those individuals screened out as "low risk" but not expose these individuals to the same level of opprobrium experienced by the more serious offender. "High risk" individuals would be placed on a public list but some click through screen should be put in place warning of criminal penalties for harassment of individuals on the list. Even "low risk" offenders could be screened out from certain types of jobs but this type of screening is already in place and does not require public exposure.
- The objective evaluation process could allow for the movement, over time and based on objective reevaluation, either from or to the public registry.
- A federal law or interstate compact would make the laws more consistent between the states to allow for predictability for offenders and authorities. Restrictions and registrations should be kept completely away from municipalities or the patchwork of resulting laws would create a compliance nightmare.
- Objective criteria should be used to determine whether offenders are a risk to their own children. Too often offenders commit a crime which shows them to have a certain proclivity (a man who likes underage teenage boys, for example) and that crime is then used as a weapon in the subsequent family law proceeding or child protective case to show that the offender is a danger to individuals that do not fall into the sphere of the offender's sexual desires (like infant female children in the example above). The knee jerk reaction is easy, the reality can be very hard to witness.
RESIDENCY & WORK RESTRICTIONS
- No sex offender should work with children.
- It is not practical to completely prohibit offenders from simply being within a school zone at any time given that roads often travel very close to schools and day-cares.
- Prohibiting an offender from actually having a home within a certain zone may be unopposable but such restrictions should not, as a practical matter, prohibit residency within areas commonly considered residential.
- Exceptions should be made for long-standing family ties to a certain home within a school zone. If the offender gets out of jail after 10 years and has no support system other than mom who lives 1999 feet from a school, it is in society's interest to allow the offender to live there. There should be a way to allow residency within otherwise prohibited zones under similar circumstances.
- Sex offenders should not be arbitrarily denied opportunities for worship or education.
I could be persuaded that each of the above suggestions is not wise or could be supplemented by additional detail. I invite anyone with an interest in the topic to submit away.