As long as the list includes people that are not sex offenders except on paper, inclusion in a sex offender registry is meaningless and needlessly cruel.
A few years ago someone at my office was upset. Police had been by her house with print-outs of a a sex offender moving into the area. My coworker said she afraid and wanted to get the offender to move elsewhere.
I explained to her how easy it is for false-positives to get on the list. There is a big difference between a rapist and someone who crossed the line of consent with their steady girlfriend 15 years ago when they were both in high school, but both get listed.
To her credit, my coworkers listened, changed her mind, and stopped being so afraid.
Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids fame wrote about a Maine woman who had two sons end up on the list by overzealous law enforcement. The first worked at a carnival and a child accused him of touching her bottom while buckling her in for a ride:
The police come over and ask, "Is that true?" Your son replies, "Maybe. I have to lock the bar around their waists and between their legs. They squirm. It could have happened."The second son didn't even get a job around children:
The next day the police take him in for questioning. They ask him the same thing, this time with the videotape running. He gives them the same answer.
It is considered his confession. He is convicted of "Indecent Assault and Battery on a Child." He goes to jail for nine months. He is put on the Sex Offender Registry -- for life.
He's at the urinal in the school bathroom during a weekend service project. A girl too young to read bursts in and he yells, "Out out out! Get out!" She starts crying and leaves. Her mom is concerned. The police are called. Was he in the men's room with a girl?Skenazy makes a strong point about how terrible their placement on that list really is:
Well, yes. Since everyone agrees the girl was not touched, he is convicted of "Visual Sexual Aggression Against a Child" -- the crime of having a child see his genitals. He does six months in jail. He's placed on the Sex Offender Registry for the next 10 years.
Let us remember this when we look up our local sex offender maps and see two convicts: One who ostensibly exposes himself to children and one who ostensibly assaults them.This isn't justice. It's fear mongering and it's condemning innocent people to a lifetime of dirty looks and tight-fisted barriers. As horrible as sex crimes are, they should not overrule the American idea of innocent until proven guilty.