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A Facebook friend (someone I went to high school with) recently joined the cause "Keep Sex Offenders Off of Facebook," which is what inspired this post. I discovered the comment fields on FB are too limited for what I had to say, thus I am resorting to my long-unused livejournal account.

Why would I object to keeping sex offenders off Facebook? It is a reflection of the larger issue of how America labels and treats these people. This cause assumes a lot of things about sex offenders, almost all of which are wrong, it seeks to punish someone who has presumably already served their time in prison and should thus be allowed to move on with their lives, and it further ostracizes a group of people we should be trying to bring back into the fold, for our own safety as well as for their benefit.

First, let's talk about who sex offenders are. Many are not the predators of parents' nightmares, but just idiots who got busted for public urination, mooning, "sodomy" (which includes oral sex in some states), and consensual teenage sex. (http://www.oncefallen.com/SOFactGuide.html) Putting these acts in the same category as child molesters and rapists is ludicrous and requiring them to register as sex offenders 1. ruins their lives for no productive purpose and 2. muddies the definition of sex offender, making us less able to identify those who actually are dangerous.

Once you are on the sex offender registry, many communities forbid you from living anywhere within 2,000 feet (distances vary) from a school, church, library, bus stop, etc. (locations vary), effectively banishing them from the community. Why do we continue to punish people who have already paid their debt? Not only is this deeply unfair, it does no one any good. Sex offenders are forced to form squalid ghettos, can’t contribute to society by holding a job, are completely hopeless of ever improving themselves, and thus have no stake in the social order. We give them little reason to follow the rules. Residency restrictions and public shaming destabilizes offenders who have already served their time, makes them far more likely to abscond (http://sosnet.bravehost.com/stats.htm#stats), unfairly punishes their families, and only gives the public a false sense of security. Here is an article is about a lobbyist who dedicated years to enacting the 25,000 foot rule in various communities, until he witnessed its unintended consequences: http://current.com/192464c.

I’ve heard the argument that we should continue to punish and monitor them because they are so likely to reoffend, but the truth is recidivism rates of sex offenders are actually quite low, between 5-13% compared to 75% of property theft. (http://sosnet.bravehost.com/recidivism-facts.htm#FactsMyths). There are great many myths I would like to debunk but I don’t want to stray too far from my point about why excluding sex offenders from society (and Facebook) is detrimental to all of us.

Given the wide spectrum of offenders from harmless to irredeemable and the deeply flawed nature of the sex offender registry, is it fair for us to deny all of them homes and jobs within the community or even access to Facebook? Given that the 25,000 foot rule and its kin remove necessary support structure from a released offender, does it make sense for us to continue instituting it in more and more communities, driving them deeper and deeper into desperation? Is it right for us as a community to continue to penalize a person when the courts have decided they have paid their debt, especially when the risk of relapsing is so low? Obviously, I say no.

This is such a huge topic, I can’t begin to tackle it all, so I will simply encourage people to visit these sites for more information:

So this is livejournal...

Well. I now have a livejournal account. I never intended to get one, but if I wanted to read pixelsocks's friends-only blog, I had no choice. Don't expect to see anything else in this journal section.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.




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