Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lenore Skenazy says sex offender laws are "Taliban-esque"

Well, aren't they? Lenore tells the story of two young men who had sex with underage girls, faced the same judge, and ended up on the registry for life. Zach Anderson's story was given front page coverage by the New York Times. That gets noticed. (I blogged about Zach Anderson's story here.)
At last America is realizing how Taliban-esque our sex offender laws can be.   
Ordinary teen behavior, sex!, has become a crime punished harshly.
Judge Dennis Wiley, the same judge who sneeringly told Anderson, "That seems to be part of our culture now: meet, hook up, have sex, sayonara. Totally inappropriate behavior,” presided over Yoder’s trial and sentenced him to the same draconian fate. 
Is he sentencing the guy for having sex or for hooking up online?
Yoder, like Anderson, is now officially a sex offender, for life. As such, he cannot be around anyone under the age 18, as if he were some insatiable child molester. That includes his younger brother and sister, whom he has not seen since he was sentenced. His devastated family has been torn apart. 
Families torn apart are all too common when sex offenses are involved, even when the offense used to be something for which parents grounded the kids and law enforcement was only rarely involved.
According to Fox28: "I know I'm not a sex offender," said Yoder. "Had I known her age, I never would have even talked to her." 
Notice the young man's words: "I'm not a sex offender."

Before the advent of the sex offender registry, he would have been a guy with poor judgment. With the registry, he needs to defend himself against not only the tsk-tsking about his poor judgment but against the charge of being a sex offender.

There is no crime of sex offense. That is not what he is charged with but that label has been given such Psycho-music accompaniment that being labeled a sex offender is worse than being known for the crime--having sex with a willing partner--that got him there.
Yoder was a teen who had sex with another teen—one he thought was his own age. If there’s a predator in this story, it’s the judge who keeps ruining the lives of these young men. 
The registry keeps us focused on imaginary predators while the real danger lies in a criminal justice system wearing the sheep's clothing of protecting children.
That is the power we give judges and prosecutors with our all-encompassing definition of what constitutes a sex offender. There are hundreds of thousands of people on the sex offender registry who bear no resemblance to the monsters we fear. Of the 800,000 registered sex offenders, roughly a quarter of them were added as minors, because young people have sex with other young people. 
That is 200,00 young people, "roughly." Pretty damned rough, if you ask me.
The sex offender list is a dungeon we can throw people in on the slightest pretext. Politicians and grandstanders exhort us to fear those on it. But it’s a lot scarier to think about how easy it is for our sons to end up on that list themselves.
That is my emphasis added all over the place. I'm sure Lenore won't mind.

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