By Sandy….A post recently appeared in our Tales From the Registry. It is in the form of an open letter to those who make–and those who support those who make–public policy and legislation that is contradicted by facts, research, and evidence. It puts forth a case against a public registry from the perspective of the family members of registered citizens.
It poses several rhetorical questions…questions that, at least to the informed, require no answer becasuse their answers are obvious. I would, nevertheless, like to explore some answers to these questions.
“Has anyone bothered to even remotely begin to think about what it might be like living with your address designated as the town’s witching grounds?”
Dr. Jill Levenson and other researchers have verified the fact that the homes of registrants–and the people in those homes–are targets of vigilante actions, actions that range from spray-painting all the way to brutal, violent physical attacks and murder. As valuable as these studies are, no study can capture what each individual registrant and family member must feel knowing that his house has a virtual target painted on it that could result, at any moment and at the whim of anyone who has a computer, in a nightmare of horrors.
“Has anyone given thought to the child in the home who will be reminded of a possibly long ago occurrence that they had nothing to do with?”
One of the greatest ironies of the registry is that its selling point, its mantra used over and over by politicians and registry advocates, is the protection it offers children. The irony is bitter and cruel; the registry is directly responsible for physical, mental, and emotional damage to the children of registrants, much of which has been documented and verified, while the protection it offers, if any, is minuscule. Virtually all sexual mistreatment of children is committed by those NOT on the registry, rendering the registry impotent in providing any safety benefit.
“Did it even occur to anyone that publicly registering every known man, woman, and child–in some states–by widely marking any and all persons convicted of a sex offense, no matter the circumstances and no matter how much time has elapsed since the conviction, would create a lifelong, everlasting gobstopper and prevent what we want criminals to do in the first place? Repent, rebuild, and live a healthy lifestyle?”
Every state, whether directly stating it or not, prizes rehabilitation of wrong-doers as a hopeful consequence of punishment. Research, once again, shows the clearest path to achieve that goal. Meaningful re-entry programs, valid treatment programs, and family and societal support systems are the keys. The public registry and all it has spawned act in direct opposition to these necessities. The very presence of a person’s name on a public sex offender registry shouts to the community that this is a dangerous person, someone who has to be watched and tracked and monitored for life, someone to shun, someone incapable of repenting, rebuilding, and living a healthy lifestyle. The fact that this is vehemently and verifiably untrue for the vast majority of registered citizens is lost in the roar of the uninformed and the willfully ignorant.
To us the answer is as obvious as are the answers to the questions. We as a society must find a way to recognize the inability of the public registry to bring about what is wanted. We must find a way to move beyond it, and a movement to a law-enforcement only registry is indeed a good beginning point.