Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Embracing the Extreme of Sex Offender Hysteria

by Kyle Michaelis
Despite my meager protests and those of others, many Nebraska communities - especially along the Iowa border, from whence this particular bandwagon set forth - continue to adopt residency restrictions for registered sex offenders.

Although there seems to be quite a bit of resistance in the state legislature to adopting statewide restrictions (for constitutional reasons and those of simple practicality), it's hard to believe the public isn't going to eventually get what it wants on this one. The appeal of the illusional security these restrictions provide is just too strong.

That leaves the main question just how far the people are willing to take this. As we've seen in Iowa, once a government starts down this path there doesn't seem to be a place to stop. You start restricting areas around schools, then around city parks, then around libraries, bus stops, and swimming pools. 500 feet becomes 2000 feet becomes who knows how far.

Well, finally little Dyersville, Iowa seems on the verge of quitting with all the funny business and simply doing this the old-fashioned way (sans rope, tar, or feathers). Yup, they're considering an outright, total ban on sex offenders in general:

The AP reports:
DYERSVILLE, Iowa - The City Council here may take the domino effect on sex offender ordinances to the next level.

City officials of this northeastern Iowa city are considering implementing an ordinance that would ban sex offenders from living anywhere within city limits.

In previous months, several cities and counties across Iowa have expanded on a state law that prohibits offenders from living near public places where children congregate.

But few cities - if any - have gone this far.

"It is about as restrictive as it can get," said Mayor Jim Heavens at a council meeting Monday night.

The council tabled the proposal to allow time for public feedback.

This isn't surprising in the slightest. In fact, it's little more than the logical extreme of this whole poor excuse for public policy.

If/when Dyersville decides to take this step, it won't be long at all before other towns and cities follow suit. After all, no elected official wants to be liable for not having done everything possible to prevent sex offenses...particularly against children. Who can stand up to the criticism that their town (or state) doesn't care about its children as much as they do in Dyersville (or Iowa)?

Once you give in to these fears, they completely control the debate. There's no escaping that. Fear spreads like wildfire and refuses to be tempered by common sense or principles.

And, truly, on principle, there is little to no difference between proposed residency restrictions and city-wide (or even state-wide) bans. The latter are simply more honest and bold in announcing these measures' true intent...which, again, one can't help sympathizing with because of the abhorrent nature of these crimes yet can't possibly support while holding any hope for redemption, rehabilitation, or a functional system of justice.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said!

Blogger 5th Circle said...

I get what you are saying. But if Jessica's Law was in effect, we might not be having this problem. Instead of a sex offender getting small jail time and then probation, we wouldn't have to deal with them for 25+ yrs. Seems like a good deterrant to me. But what do I know, it's just the hysteria controlling my judgement.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am neither hysterical nor living in fear but I have had enough. Sentencing laws are too light. When left up to the individual judge it seems we have too many repeat offenders. I also live in Iowa and should my community want to keep child sex offenders out of town...then let them rehab and redeem themselves out there.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really, How far will we take it? I live in Dyersville and this is the first I have heard about this. So since we are all about reducing the rights of a pedophile, why don't we just kick out, murderers, arsonists, treasoners, adulters, multiple OWI/DUI offenders, and just plain mean people.

The way to keep your children safe is not by sheltering them from the evil but by teaching them right from wrong and having them know what they will eventually be faced with in the real world.

Thanks for the insight!


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