Thursday, November 03, 2005

So it Begins.....All Aboard Hysteria Express

by Kyle Michaelis
Was only a matter of time. Frankly, though, I'd thought it would take another week or two before anyone jumped the gun with these city wide restrictions on the residence of sex offenders. That should serve as a reminder to never underestimate the pull of a good bandwagon fueled by fear.

The Omaha World-Herald reports:
Springfield has become the first Nebraska city in the metro area to restrict where sex offenders can live.

Tuesday night, the Springfield City Council unanimously adopted an ordinance that prevents registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet - a third of a mile - of schools or child care facilities.

The Papillion, Ralston and Gretna City Councils considered similar ordinances Tuesday night...

The Springfield ordinance effectively bars sex offenders from living within the city limits, with the exception of undeveloped lots near 132nd Street and Platteview Road.

"I think this is a good decision, and we probably should have done it sooner," said Springfield Mayor Larry Goldman. "We haven't had anyone speak against it."

That's the benefit of targeting people who are universally despised - no one's going to speak on their behalf. That doesn't mean it's the right thing to do, and it sure as hell doesn't make such actions sound public policy.

There's no limit to the lengths to which such fear-happy thinking can stretch. It's simply always too easy to go to the next extreme. All it takes is one person to suggest that 2,000 feet isn't enough and - boom - you're either extending that distance or you care more about convicted sex offenders than you do their victims (not to mention THE CHILDREN in general).

How convenient for politicians to have a boogeyman to attack (as close to a real "boogeyman" as is probably imaginable), against whom they can prove their "strength" under the guise of compassion (again, for THE CHILDREN). This will not stop on its own. It will build and become more destructively detached from reality because that's what any good mob mentality does.

Where will it leave us? Unincorporated sex offender colonies outside city limits? Tiny strips of land in poorer neighborhoods that will, for all intents and purposes, be sex offender ghettos - the few children whose families can't afford to move away abandoned by society and left as prey? Meanwhile, of course, sexual abuse will cease entirely in the protected areas - rainbows will come every late afternoon, each one with a pot of gold at the end of it. The children will all hold hands. They will sing, play, and we will all live happily ever after because ALL THE BAD MEN HAVE BEEN DRIVEN INTO THE WILD.

Next stop Gretna....tomorrow, the world.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never forgive, never forget. And what about registered sex offenders who happen to have children?

It's unpopular and uncomfortable to question the hysteria, but it's a very slippery slope we've started down here. After all, there are those in Oklahoma who don't want gays teaching in the schools in order to "protect the children." How long before an ordinance restricts where they can live?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good points, but here are some of the most important ones which were not touched upon.

A) Approximately 70-90% of molested children are molested by someone they know. So 70-90% of the time, these laws have no chance of protecting anyone.

B) The law in Iowa doesn't just apply to those who have actually molested kids or been involved with child pornography. It also applies to those who simply had sex when they were teens. One of the persons in the lawsuit challenging the Iowa law was convicted in another state, when he was 18, of having consenting sex with a 15 year old. Although this is not illegal in Iowa or Nebraska (both these states require a larger age gap before it is illegal), the Iowa residency law still applies. It applies since he was convicted in another state of a sex offense against someone under 18. So if, for example, someone moving from California to Iowa was convicted in California when they were 18 of having consenting sex with a 17 year old (which is not illegal in Iowa, but it is technically illegal in California), they would be banished from most Iowa cities for the rest of their life, because of their California conviction. (See ) The residency restriction has no expiration, the law would apply even if the person in the above example was 60 years old and had never been convicted of anything else since the age of 18.

Sounds more like life under the Taliban than in the US.

Those who support the Iowa law in general know nothing about sex offenders. Those who support applying that law to 18 year old/17 year old consensual sex are simply Nazis. Once again, ignorance on a topic prevails in the legislature and city councils.


D. Finkelhor, "Sexually Victimized Children," Free Press (1979, 1981).

"Albuquerque's targeting of sex offenders challenged," USA Today, May 12, 2003.


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