If you believe in the sex offender registery (and even if you don’t), i’d really like you to read this article in the Atlantic Monthly: Why Is Genarlow Wilson in Prison?
It is the story of a 17 year old “good” kid who will spend 10 years in prison for child molestation and be forever on the sex offender registery for having consentual oral sex with a 15 year old. One of the interesting twists in this case is that this would not have been his fate had he had vaginal sex with her (oral is a felony; vaginal is a misdemeanor). This kid had no prior runins with the law; he was a football and track star, homecoming king, honor roll student. He was your picture-perfect kid who fought the law and the law won. Imagine if he was your kid.
Now, think for a moment about what it means that this sex offender list is being put to other purposes. Does this kid deserve to be banned from MySpace (or the numerous other spaces that are seeking to build restrictions based on this flawed list)? Does he deserve to be limited from living close to a school or park? Does he deserve to have to wear a tracker for life, to be permanently branded? This list is not being scrutinized; it is inherently flawed. We are punishing people over and over again. Double jeopardy was set up in the constitution so that we would not repeatedly try someone for a crime but this list is double punishment all the same. What happened to the belief that people can change that is at the root of our modern prison system? What happened to the Judeo-Christian value of forgiveness for ones sins?
The law has ruined this kid’s lives. They have made him a criminal. It is one thing to believe in justice; it is another to turn people into slaves of the law.
Now every door is closed to me
Another jail. Another key. Another chain
For when I come to any town
They check my papers
And they find the mark of Cain
In their eyes I see their fear
`We do not want you here.’
Look down, look down… you’ll always be a slave.