Lenore "Free Range Kids" Skenazy talks about the insanity of sex-offender registries, citing the case of two fourteen year olds who sat on some other kids' heads and are now on the registry. For the rest of their lives, they'll have to register with the police four times a year, turn off their lights during Hallowe'en, live a set distance from bus-stops, schools and libraries and every potential employer will know that these people are on a list of "sexual predators" but will not know why. What's more, these kids' neighbors will be forever terrified to know that "predators" are in their neighborhoods. Kids as young as 13 have been added to these permanent blacklists, as have people whose "sex offense" was urinating in public or other minor offenses.
"These lists were originally conceived by most of the voters who cheered them on as lists of people who had some sort of psychological compulsion to sexual predation," explains Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. People assume anyone on it is "a permanent menace."
New Outrage: Sex Offender or Teenage Jerk?
These guys are more like Dennis the Menace, which is why we have to change the criteria that land folks on the registry. These young men were never "predators." And as the years go by, the idea that they pose a danger to children will become even more ridiculous. When you're 20, 30, 40 -- 80! -- you don't do the things you did as a 14-year-old trying to impress your buddies. Why is Megan's Law blind to human nature?
If it were making kids safer, maybe we could overlook how obtuse it is. But a 2008 study found that, in New Jersey at least -- where little Megan Kanka, for whom the law is named, was murdered -- the law showed no effect in reducing the number of sexual re-offenses or reducing the number of victims.
(Image: To Offend, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from vek's photostream)
Forrest Mims is the author of the famous book, Getting Started in Electronics, published by RadioShack for many years. I bought the book in the 1980s, and had a blast making the projects in it. When I was editor-in-chief of MAKE, I asked Forrest to write a column for the magazine, called The Backyard Scientist. […]
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Dog logic! Good boy, Artie.
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