Sex Offenders Living in Society

Hello all- glad to be here. For my first post, I want to bring up the story of Somer Thompson, a 7-year old girl who went missing the other day and whose body was found this morning in a landfill, 55 miles from where she disappeared.

The police don’t have a suspect yet, but the fact that she was murdered is beyond question at this point. Yesterday, the police announced that as a part of their search, they had questioned something ike 45 of the 75 registered sex offenders living in a 4-mile radius of the disappearance.

That number just floored me when I read it. 75 sex offenders in a 4-mile radius? Maybe that’s just my naivete talking, but I had no idea there were so many sex offenders living out there.

So, my question is this: how should society balance the need to protect children from harm with the rights of criminals to serve their sentence and be released? To be more specific, if a man fondles his young niece and serves a year or two in jail, what should happen to him at the conclusion of his prison sentence? What about a man who rapes a child?

I’ll chime in with my thoughts soon, but I bring this up because these kind of stories just break my heart. I live in Vancouver, the opposite end of the continent from where this story takes place. We have our problems up here with sexual predators too, and it just makes me wonder whether the rights of criminals and the public should be equal to begin with, or whether we’ve reached a point where the rights of the public should trump those of criminals.

Eager to hear your thoughts.

PS- here’s a link to the story:

As sad and tragic as stories like this are, it is an accepted fact that sex offenders have lower rates of recidivism than many other types of criminals (the same is true of murder; in general the more serious the crime, the lower the recidivism rate). The registries and all that, as far as I know, have not been shown to actually help prevent these crimes or to catch the offenders. As much as my visceral response is to put every possible restriction on sex offenders, rationally we should go with what has been empirically shown to work, not just everything we can think of because we hate them.

Define sex offender though. I can understand rapists and child molesters, but I think the term is thrown around heavily so that people who have voluntary sex with 15-17 year olds are put in the same category as people who forcibly sodomize 4 year olds. And they are not comparable. Both are crimes, but they are leagues apart. Streaking and public urination could get you labeled a sex offender too in some areas.

Plus something like 90-95% of all true sexual predators are never brought to justice. Most people never report the crime due to shame. And honestly I tend to think these heavy handed tactics might discourage people from coming forward. Most cases of sexual abuse seem to involve someone known to the victim. So if the only 2 options are to report it and watch your life and your families life as you knew it end, or pretend it isn’t happening many people will choose the latter route.

So those sex offenders who have been caught are the smallest tip of the iceberg. The other 90-95% will not be reported.

This group tries to take a more balanced, effective approach to the problem. The problem is sexual abuse incites moral panics and strong emotions, neither of which is going to be effective at protecting people.

Sex offender registries are a terrible idea for two big reasons, both of them having nothing to do with the rights of the convicted (which I don’t even need to appeal to in order to show how bad an idea sex offender registires are).

  1. When you let someone out of prison, the goal is to get them to properly reintegrate into society to become a productive member. This reintegration is vital to reducing recitivism, since the new life they’re building is something for them to lose if they commit another crime. By making life on the outside as unapealing as life on the inside was, you leave them with no incentive to not repeat their crimes.

  2. If someone is so horrifically dangerous that you have to keep them monitored, tell everyone in their neighborhood to keep an eye on them, survale and interview them constantly, WHY DID YOU LET THEM OUT OF PRISON IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Originally posted by Cesario

This. Exactly this. Either they’re fit to have a new productive life in society, or they need to stay locked up. It shouldn’t be the job of the public at large to monitor and keep track of people. That’s the whole point of prisons and jails.

And they really do need to redefine the qualifications for “sex offender”. I have a friend from high school who is on the list for taking a leak behind a bar. Not realizing that some moron inside the bar drinking had left his kids in his car behind the building. Guess what, no charges on the idiot who left his kids in the car to go drink, only to come out drunk and drive them home, but my buddy was spotted, kids were questioned, and he was brought up on charges of public nudity in front of a minor. Great…thanks legal system, doing a wonderful job on that one.

I had a buddy in college that had to live outside of town with a sign in his yard because he was driving between New Boston, TX and Sulphur Springs, TX at 2:30 AM on a Wednesday, and he was taking a leak on the side of the highway on the otherside of an overpass, so he was a sex offender for exposing himself in public…

He had a red metal sign in his yard that said “Warning: A Registered Sex Offender Lives Here”

I think he only had to be on the list for 8 years. :confused:

Cite? I’m not angling for an argument, I’ve just always heard the exact opposite and I’d like to get to the bottom of this

Ditto. One of the “selling points” for sex offender registration drives is that the supporters claim that sex offenders have greater (not lesser) recidivism than other crimes. What’s the Straight Dope?

While it’s true that sex offenders have a lower recidivism rate overall, they are far more likely than other criminals to be arrested for the same offense. (Cite: USDOJ)

Thanks for the link.

Excuse my ignorance, but what’s the difference?

Recidivism “counts” even if it’s for a different offense. So, if I served time in prison for shoplifting, then after I get out, I mug you and get put back in prison for that, that counts as recidivism, even though I’m now in prison for something else. Think of recidivism as someone who’s been in and out of prison going back in.

OK. Thanks for clearing that up.

I’m just concerned that a lot of the hounding of sex offenders just manages to endanger poor children. If nice neighborhoods are allowed to conduct harassment campaigns to get rid of sex offenders, where are they going to go? To the crappy neighborhoods with parents who aren’t as involved and don’t have the time and the kids are a lot more vulnerable in the first place.

Not to mention that those places where they have no choice but to live under bridges is nothing but cruel. If that’s what’s necessary then they need to be locked up, not driven under a bridge.

Or let go

If you start with the premise that a registry for dangerous sex offenders is a good idea (a topic I’d debate), that still does not negate the fact that it’s so easy to wind up on the registry that the registry itself becomes basically meaningless.

Just resettle them in Alaska and make them work in the mines or something.

I’m not sure that a sex offender registry is a good idea, either. I agree - please keep them in jail if they’re still dangerous.

At least in some states, though, the sex offender registry does include information about the crime for which the individual was convicted. So it is at least theoretically possible to identify convicted child molesters as opposed to offenders who were convicted of some other sex crime. I don’t know if there are cases in which offenders commit a sex crime against a child but are convicted of a crime that doesn’t include the word “child” in the named crime.

Amen! As is evidenced by the presense of Ceserio, rapists and child molesters have such distorted thinking that they NEED to be locked up forever! And quite frankly, they need to be put in one of those mental insistutions for the criminally insane.
And to whoever posted that sex offenders have a higher rate of same offense revidism…doesn’t surprise me.

On the bright side, their great great great great grandkids would be better off.