This opinion piece masquerading as a public safety announcement has mastered the art of double-speak to a high degree.
The stated purpose of the piece is to inform their reading public that they will be publishing names and information on all registrants who move into the community. Yeah, they know that the info is available online and through the DPS and even to people’s computers if they sign up, but they want to be sure they cover any gap, all in the interest of public safety, of course.
Really? After quoting the standard warning from the website about not using the information to injure or harass, this is their take on it: “In other words, just because you might know there is a convicted sexual offender in your neighborhood, it doesn’t mean you have the right to take the law into your own hands.”
Take the law into your own hands—why? Because someone lives in your neighborhood?
And now the seed is planted. Being a convicted sexual offender, regardless of how rehabilitated, regardless of how law abiding a life is being lived now, regardless of how long ago the offense was, regardless of potential danger to children or other family members, is a reason for someone to “take the law” into his hands. What does that even mean, “take the law”? Surely we can hope that the law doesn’t bully the children of registrants or egg their houses or beat them up or shoot at their cars for no reason whatsoever or ambush them and kill them.
Emboldened now, the article continues, “Many people wonder how the justice system can release predators and pedophiles back into society. Many of us wish they could be locked up forever or sent to an island somewhere … or even more drastic measures be taken.” Even more drastic measures…like bullying children, egging houses….committing murder?
Then, in an attempt to justify their thinly disguised attempts to encourage vigilantism, they continue: “We don’t condone any extralegal actions, though we don’t believe the judicial system is designed to adequately address the problems of sex offenders in society,” and, “Despite how heinous the nature of their crimes might be, they have to be given the chance to prove they can hew to the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, many people with these deviant predilections never reform…”
Even a child could translate this: “The law just turns them loose and doesn’t know how to deal with them, so it’s up to us…they aren’t ever going to change.”
Even if that were true, even if statistical evidence did not abound that, once charged and punished, only a very small percentage of former sexual offenders will commit another sexual offense, the nastiness that seeps through every word of this article is the same sort of nastiness that left two little boys in Washington State without a father and took the life of a wife along with her registered husband in South Carolina and has swept and is still sweeping our nation like a blight, aided and facilitated by a hit list called the public sex offender registry.
And finally, for those of their readers who may have a few compunctions about picking on kids or vandalizing houses or attacking neighbors with baseball bats: “While you are legally restricted from harassing them, we don’t think a friendly reminder that we are watching is out of the question.”
Other than really, really wanting their definition of “friendly,” I wish they would at least look at the research showing that, along with housing and employment, community support for former offenders is essential in creating conditions that keep re-offense at its lowest and public safety at its highest. I mean, after all, this whole thing is about public safety….right?
Ironically, the title of this piece of writing is “Remaining Vigilant.” Thanks to it, registrants struggling to build law-abiding lives and keep themselves and their children and families fed and with roofs over their heads now have another reason to be constantly vigilant for those who would harm them, their property, or their lives.