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March 10, 2013 11:22 AM   Subscribe

"From the metropolis of Miami to the small town of Sapulpa, Okla., communities are building pocket parks, sometimes so small that they have barely enough room for a swing set, to drive out sex offenders. One playground installation company in Houston has even advertised its services to homeowners associations as an option for keeping sex offenders away."

Other stories of sex offender housing and the law:

"Greenpoint is bearing the brunt of tons of things but do we have to carry all of it?"

The case of Wendy Whitaker.

The infamous sex offender colony beneath the Julia Tuttle Causeway bridge. It was disbanded in 2010, but the problem does not go away.
posted by Countess Elena (112 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's like I don't even know you, Leslie Knope!
posted by box at 11:25 AM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


A world of ugh, all around. "Megan's Law"-type laws do nothing useful, but the inertia is too strong to roll them back.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:28 AM on March 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


Sad
posted by C.A.S. at 11:28 AM on March 10, 2013


Ostracism in America is older than the republic itself. Maybe we can just send them all to Rhode Island.
posted by R. Schlock at 11:31 AM on March 10, 2013


I realize that sex offenders who live in an apartment building probably can't afford the best attorneys, but isn't there a legal argument to be made that if you live somewhere first, this sort of thing shouldn't force you to move?
posted by Etrigan at 11:37 AM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The law seems to be based on the assumption that sex offenders sit out on their balconies with big fishing rods and try to reel in children.
posted by w0mbat at 11:54 AM on March 10, 2013 [30 favorites]


I read the title and hoped it would be a nice piece about urban regeneration. I was sadly mistaken.
posted by arcticseal at 12:00 PM on March 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


Parents here, where state law prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or a public park, are not the only ones seizing on this approach.

What if a similar law was passed prohibiting people with guns from living within 2000 feet of a school or public park?
posted by three blind mice at 12:01 PM on March 10, 2013 [48 favorites]


Parents here, where state law prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or a public park

2000 feet is a 8 minute walk. If you lived 10 mins walk away from a public transit station, would you not use the public transit for your daily commute? And if you had a car?

I can see the negative effects of this law, Im having trouble understanding the claimed positive effects of this law aside of making parents feel irrationally safer and getting politicians who exploit public law & order panics elected
posted by Bwithh at 12:02 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Put a park in your child's pants! That'll keep the pedophiles away.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:04 PM on March 10, 2013 [15 favorites]


Coincidentally, this is all happening in swing states.
posted by hal9k at 12:05 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's good to know that New York Times headlines are now completely indistinguishable from what Chris Morris barks at the start of every episode of The Day Today.
posted by Len at 12:07 PM on March 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Coincidentally, this is all happening in swing states.

The first example in the first link is from California. The second link is in Brooklyn. The third is in Georgia. This isn't anywhere near an Overton Window case.
posted by Etrigan at 12:09 PM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


From the first link:
While the pocket parks springing up around the country offer a sense of security to residents, they will probably leave more convicted sex offenders homeless. And research shows that once sex offenders lose stable housing, they become not only harder to track but also more likely to commit another crime, according to state officials involved with managing such offenders.
Of course, if you actually made that point at a community meeting, someone would retort that sex offenders should be given life in prison without parole. And he or she would look like a moderate next to the guy who shouts that they should all be executed.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:12 PM on March 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


Coincidentally, this is all happening in swing states.

At first I thought this was a pun, and said "Oh ho! Swing. Good one." Then I started to wonder if you were serious, and hasn't read the article very well.

Either way, ho HO!
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 12:15 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's this idea that if you can chase away the registered sex offenders, somehow everything is hunky dory. What about the unregistered ones? It's not like the problem goes away just because a community has shunned the sex offenders it knows about. Both people who haven't been caught, and people whose convictions pre-date the sex offender registry law will still be out there.
posted by ambrosia at 12:17 PM on March 10, 2013


I'm having trouble understanding the claimed positive effects of this law

Property value. Not a positive for *you,* or the sex offender. But positive for the homeowners.

After all, a person will look up information about a house and its surroundings before electing to purchase. One of those searches will be for sex offenders. In fact, that search is now offered as a default package by realtors. I'm not ashamed to admit that I looked it up before buying the house I'm in now. I didn't find anything troubling, but who knows what decision I would have made if I knew a two-time loser lived down the street.

Plus, parks are cool.

Here's the issue, though. This won't deter crime. Nobody out there looks at a kid and thinks, "Man, I'd like to break me off a piece of that. But if I do, and I get caught, years from now, I might have trouble finding another apartment." People with illnesses aren't exactly into long-term planning and consequences.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:19 PM on March 10, 2013 [16 favorites]


The law seems to be based on the assumption that sex offenders want children in the first place.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:20 PM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wendy Whitaker was eventually released from her registration requirement. After only 12 years.
posted by localroger at 12:22 PM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


What do we do with them, though? I think that's the frustration everyone feels. The research that I've seen discussed suggests they are not curable. Even if 90 percent of them don't re- offend, no one is going to be ok with that 10 percent risk being near their kids. Sexual assault devastates kids and is, short of death, the thing parents are most afraid of for their kids.

It does seem that if we are not ok with execution, which I am not, then a restricted mode of living is the only answer. If not jail, then a designated and monitored place to live, with options to work remotely or in other ways that allow them to safely be productive, and be fairly compensated (so not slave labor).

But many people would argue its easier to just keep them in jail to get the same result.
posted by emjaybee at 12:23 PM on March 10, 2013


A comic book nerd I went to high school with is now on the sex offender list for ordering hentai from Japan. Drawings.

A few years ago, someone went on a spree murdering people on the Maine sex offender list, including one person who was on the list for being one year too old for his girlfriend.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:25 PM on March 10, 2013 [18 favorites]


Not all registered sex offenders committed acts against children under the age of 14.
posted by rtha at 12:26 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


But one of the other new parks, which will be three acres, will cost the city about $6 million, including buying the land.

$6 million to exploit a loophole that ultimately pays for an entry in a restricted area database. What do you bet the GPS ankle bracelet manufacturers are considering branching out into park development and construction?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:28 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sex offender is not synonymous with pedophile. Is this hard, or something?
posted by Jilder at 12:29 PM on March 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


I thought this was going to be about parks so small that an adult sex offender couldn't fit in.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:32 PM on March 10, 2013 [15 favorites]


They are clearly a bunch of scumbags with limited rational decision making ability who don't care about society, only about getting their own needs met. I certainly wouldn't want to live near one. (the parents building these parks, obviously).
posted by jacalata at 12:37 PM on March 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


A comic book nerd I went to high school with is now on the sex offender list for ordering hentai from Japan.

A published author I went to Harvard with is now on the sex offender list for ordering, "Dog Penis, Malibu Style" at McDonald's when intoxicated. That, and his pants came partially down when the staff forcibly removed him.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:37 PM on March 10, 2013 [18 favorites]


The scare over sex offenders is ridiculous. But adding thousands of (tiny) parks to local communities is a funny thing to get outraged by.
posted by DU at 12:38 PM on March 10, 2013


Wait, do these laws apply to ALL sex offenders or just those who committed crimes against young children? Because it seems pointless keeping someone who targeted men in their early 20s or women they pick up at a bar away from a playground. Surely it would not be that hard to add a field to the database.
posted by fshgrl at 12:44 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought this was going to be about parks so small that an adult sex offender couldn't fit in.

Too small for a park bench, no Aqualung.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:46 PM on March 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


What do we do with them, though? I think that's the frustration everyone feels. The research that I've seen discussed suggests they are not curable. Even if 90 percent of them don't re- offend, no one is going to be ok with that 10 percent risk being near their kids. Sexual assault devastates kids and is, short of death, the thing parents are most afraid of for their kids.
Here's the thing, tho: The vast majority of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they know: a family member, an adult the family trusts or another child. The chances of being abused by a stranger are vanishingly small when compared to the odds of sexual abuse at the hands of a stepfather, uncle, or priest.

If people re-apportioned their fear in line with the odds, they would be terrified of their families, not strangers. But of course for most people that's unconscionable, so they focus on ridiculous talismans like pocket parks.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 12:47 PM on March 10, 2013 [72 favorites]


I have some friends who live in a great area. Their street is the type where everyone knows everyone, the kids play in each others' yards, and everyone gathers together for monthly street parties. A great place, and they've been there now for maybe 25 years, so they've got a lot of money in their house by now.

Two doors down, a woman and her kids packed it up and left, leaving the husband by himself in the home. It turns out, he was charged with molesting several young boys. To be clear -- this is not some sort of edge case, this is a man full-on sexually assaulting children. They whole street shared the information with each other, in part because it was juicy gossip but also in large part to keep kids safe. Flyers went up. Monthly street parties were cancelled. Nobody knew what to do.

Nobody can sell their house for any reasonable price. That guy's presence is driving the home prices down because everyone looks it up and decides that no, they really don't want to move their family next door to Chester the Molester. I can see wanting to put in a swing set to protect your home value not to mention your kids (who also, hey, might like a park).
posted by Houstonian at 12:49 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even if 90 percent of them don't re- offend, no one is going to be ok with that 10 percent risk being near their kids.

At the risk of faux-Godwinning this thread: this reasoning doesn't always hold. For example, lots of people remain church-going Catholics, despite the nonzero probability that their priest is a sex offender.
posted by Nomyte at 12:51 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


When people talk about locking pedophiles up and never letting them out (even after their sentences have been served), they're thinking of the Coalinga State Mental Hospital where men who have served their prison sentences, but are deemed unsuitable to be released, are warehoused.

And yet... what does a civil, humane society do with some of these guys?
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:52 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, do these laws apply to ALL sex offenders or just those who committed crimes against young children?

Here's the list of offenses for which a convicted person must register as a sex offender. State law prohibits anyone on the list from living within 2000 feet of a park, school, or daycare center.
posted by rtha at 12:53 PM on March 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Maybe we can just send them all to Rhode Island.

Rhode Island?! How 'bout Australia . . .
posted by flug at 12:54 PM on March 10, 2013


The vast majority of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they know: a family member

And finally, the real solution appears. We need to remove all children from their families, permanently.

Normally, you know, such an extreme solution wouldn't have any traction. But when it's for the children, anything becomes possible.
posted by flug at 12:56 PM on March 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


So the idea of tiny , semi-permanent or temporary (for a day, month, or longer) "pop-up parks" or "parklets" that can be built on sidewalks, empty lots, even parking spaces or scaffolding is one of the latest urban planning trends.

So a politician or parent group might not even need to lobby for a permanent proper park to invoke this law, I'd guess.
posted by Bwithh at 1:00 PM on March 10, 2013


And finally, the real solution appears. We need to remove all children from their families, permanently.

Finally, you can understand the society in The Hunger Games. They were trying to keep their children safe, the only way they knew how.
posted by Nomyte at 1:04 PM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Even if 90 percent of them don't re- offend, no one is going to be ok with that 10 percent risk being near their kids.

I'm a parent, and you're right that I would be uncomfortable with living next to a convicted sex offender. But laws like this are predicated on the idea what we have caught and convicted the bad guys, and such convictions are fair and just. And if you don't believe this is so, then you can't support giving more power to a system that is already too often abused.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:04 PM on March 10, 2013


Yeah, this is the whole "what are we doing about x" when y is hugely more probable. As pointed out up-thread, non-strangers are the vast majority of sex offenders. It's a bit like worrying about a meteor hitting your town while you're simultaneously driving, texting, and eating a bacon-double-cheeseburger.

Then again, doing something about the real problem is hard, building pocket parks and feeling like your kids are now safe is easy.
posted by maxwelton at 1:14 PM on March 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


The research that I've seen discussed suggests they are not curable. Even if 90 percent of them don't re- offend, no one is going to be ok with that 10 percent risk being near their kids.

I have a small child, and the concept that I'd move because a registered sex offender lives a few blocks away is totally weird to me. I don't even understand how physical distance is a metric in your risk profile.
posted by odinsdream at 1:15 PM on March 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Houstonian - that's all well understood. Here's the problem, though - what do we do with these offenders once they are out of jail? A public registration makes it near impossible for them to get a good job. Housing restrictions make it extremely tough for them to find a place to live. When people who already have issues can't make money or get a stable roof over their head, crime often becomes one of the few options they have left. If you were in that predicament, you'd also probably start thinking about ways to get around the registry so that you couldn't be tracked.

In a lot of cases the public should not have access to the registry. Only the police, probation and parole officers, the courts, etc. For the minor cases, like a couple linked above, society should not destroy a person.
posted by azpenguin at 1:16 PM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


what do we do with these offenders once they are out of jail?

In my opinion? In my opinion, for true child molesters we start doing things differently while they are in prison. I'm not sure how you rehabilitate someone who says there's no fixing them short of chemical castration, but what we're doing now is not working. For those abuse-of-the-system cases where it's a 15 year old having sex with a 16 year old or something, clearly we stop allowing crap like that.

But there's pretty much zero chance of those things happening. So given that, maybe we have designated areas just for molesters. It's terrible, and it really means that they pay for their crime forever, but then again.... That's happening anyway, according to an earlier NYT article.
posted by Houstonian at 1:24 PM on March 10, 2013


The first and biggest problem with the registry is that it is useless precisely because it draws no distinction between actual pedophiles, sex workers, idiots who urinated in public, and kids who were a year too old for their teenage paramours. If the list only listed those whose crimes suggested an actual danger to kids, it would at least make sense, but as with so many other things once it's created the temptation to fling everything at it becomes irresistable.

And even if it wasn't useless the distance requirements and making it public are both invitations to abuse. The usefulness of registration should be that if a crime occurs the police will know to knock on your door first and go over your life with a microscope, something to consider if you are tempted to re-offend. But making it impossible to find housing or get work or practically inviting the public to make vigilante runs at you are all just evil, and I'd rather live with the convicted pedophile next door than in a society run by the kind of idiots who think this is a good idea.
posted by localroger at 1:26 PM on March 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


America will never shed itself of these Puritan fantasies, I'm afraid. Treating mentally ill people with corporal punishment and then as second class citizens is shameful. It's unfortunate that none of the self-righteous ideologues that push for these nonsensical solutions are capable of that emotion.
posted by tripping daisy at 1:28 PM on March 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


I first became aware of sex offender maps in the mid-2000s and found out that for the previous few years I'd been living in an apartment building with several of them. I remember seeing some of them in the hall and elevator. I'm not sure what I would have done if I'd known while I was living there; I'm a petite woman who lived alone, and at least one of the men had been convicted of rape. I'm certain I wouldn't have moved in if I'd known ahead of time.
posted by desjardins at 1:28 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, Wisconsin must not have that same law, because this apartment building is within spitting distance of a huge public park.
posted by desjardins at 1:29 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what I would have done if I'd known while I was living there; I'm a petite woman who lived alone, and at least one of the men had been convicted of rape. I'm certain I wouldn't have moved in if I'd known ahead of time.

And that's really the heart of the matter isn't it? Say that no such registry existed and you moved in to a place right next to such a person and you or your child became a victim? You'd be pretty damned outraged to know that this sort of information was being withheld from you and that's the sort of embarrassment that politicians want to avoid.

American prisons don't work. They don't rehabilitate. The people who come out are more messed up than when they went in. That's not right, but it's reality. Given that reality, do you really err on the side of the ex-con?

In the effort to protect the rights of all sex offenders do you accept that individual members of the public may become victims of sex crimes as a result?

That's a tough calculus in a democracy.
posted by three blind mice at 1:34 PM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rhode Island?! How 'bout Australia . . .

Australian here. You can keep your own criminals, thank you very much. You break 'em, you bought 'em.

Anyway, people with 'substantial criminal records' are excluded from our fair land.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:37 PM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Washington has an interesting way of dealing with predatory sex offenders. Once they have finished their sentence, they can be committed to McNeil Island for an indefinite period of time. Maybe even forever.
posted by leftcoastbob at 1:38 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Australian here. You can keep your own criminals, thank you very much. You break 'em, you bought 'em.

Actually, we just throw them away.
posted by tripping daisy at 1:49 PM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Two doors down, a woman and her kids packed it up and left, leaving the husband by himself in the home. It turns out, he was charged with molesting several young boys. To be clear -- this is not some sort of edge case, this is a man full-on sexually assaulting children.

Do you assume everyone charged with a crime is guilty, or is that something you only do with accused sex offenders?
posted by layceepee at 2:49 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know what's more sad, the fact that they think this is a solution or the fact that they are unwilling to build actual parks. There are three within 2000 feet of my house. All you have to do is dedicate public space at the expense of maximizing housing stock.
posted by Muddler at 2:57 PM on March 10, 2013


It's great to see people working together to solve a problem and make it someone else's.
posted by orme at 3:02 PM on March 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Parks cost money to maintain - tax money paid by everybody in the community. Somebody cuts the grass, somebody prunes the hedges. How many of these parks - many of which no doubt have very limited real utility or reason to exist - will the taxpayers tolerate paying for? Also, after the parks have had their desired effect and all the registered sex offenders have been pushed out to greener pastures, who will want to maintain these parks? I predict a lot of closed parks in a few years. But, hey; they served their purpose, so close 'em down and maybe put in a Dunkin' Donuts. I (seriously) don't think there would be a push to move registered offenders back into those neighborhoods after the parks have fulfilled their purpose and been shut down. (Said by someone who lives in one of the least-green, least-park filled neighborhoods in Chicago, and also near a bunch of sex offenders, but who would not under any circumstances propose construction of a new pseudo-park for this invidious and pointless end.) Tiny, sad little parks.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 3:16 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The law seems to be based on the assumption that sex offenders want children in the first place.

Or aren't children themselves.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:29 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am a lawyer - ENVIRONMENTAL law of all things, and certainly not a constitutional law expert - but I was taught enough in my Con Law classes 20 years ago that I am having all kinds of bells go off over this whole scenario. What purpose does the "registry" serve? What purpose does a prohibition of any and all registrants living within X feet of a public park serve? Is there a narrower prohibition that could obtain the desired protective result (i.e., within the police authority of the state)? Are there any lawyers/con law scholars out there who can throw some perspective on why it is that all this crap is being allowed to happen in the first place?
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 3:43 PM on March 10, 2013


I find this maddening.

Sex offenders usually offend against family and step-family, not strangers.

America, land of insane sexual paranoia and unreasonable fear of the uncommon, makes a habit of doing the wrong thing. I have seen examples of societal hysteria around this topic sufficient to make me sick. People advocating prison rape, dismemberment, murder against sex criminals while screaming about law and order.

Sure, it's a problem. I personally think we should ban Catholic churches, considering how much of this they seem responsible for, but really, when these people get out of prison, they are out. Once the sentence has been served, that's it. This registry crap seems destined eventually for the 'unconstitutional' bin, as there are cities in this country where post-penal humans are living under bridges.

It's our responsibility to rehab these people while they are in prison, not to torture them when they are out. Is this the kind of society we want to be? No one is capable of redemption? No one is capable of forgiveness? No parent is held responsible for protecting their kids in the first place?

Thoughtful citizens changing the world? No. Vindictive, fearful, hysterical witch hunters. Nothing to respect about that.
posted by FauxScot at 3:44 PM on March 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Can any lawyers comment on the legality of these laws? I don't see how it could be legal to pass a law saying anyone on a registered sex offender list is not allowed to live in your town. But if you pass a law with restrictions on where they can live which do not include anywhere in your town, isn't that the same thing?

How can this be allowed?
posted by Justinian at 3:54 PM on March 10, 2013


That'll teach me to leave a comment unposted for 15 minutes. JimInLoganSquare did exactly what I just asked for 10 minutes ago.
posted by Justinian at 3:55 PM on March 10, 2013


Border crossing is a big part of JustFaith, a program started by Catholics seeking social justice, and it is a big part of the movement because it pushes one out of the comfort zone to really face, talk, and get familiar with social problems. As part of this program I met, talked, and became friend with several "sex offenders".

I have learned that the same term covers predators and non-predators. I learned that a mentally retarded 18 year old who molested his 16 year old sister spent 15 years in jail and was released on the streets without support and unable to live with his family because the house is less than 2 miles from a school. I became a friend to an engineer professor who was accused of having "child pornography" on his computer. I saw it, it was not pornography, but $50,000 and three lawyers were unable to convince the judge to look at it, and Michael spent 5 years in the federal jail. I met a 25 year old sentenced to 10 years for statutory rape of his 17 year old girlfriend when he was barely 18, I met a rapist who was sorry and ashamed for what he did, and another one who was not.

Apparently a sex crime, no matter what type, is a crime for which there is no possibility of atonement.
posted by francesca too at 4:04 PM on March 10, 2013 [16 favorites]


I'm from Sapulpa, OK, and I work in the Parks industry. I was disappointed to find that this post was actually about neither.

That being said, as a Parks and Recreation professional, I hate seeing park development used in this way. Those are scarce dollars that might be a lot more useful elsewhere in the budget.
posted by Shohn at 4:19 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Didn't they spoof this sort of thing in Brass Eye? Where's Ted Maul when you need him?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:21 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Clearly, the only way to keep everyone safe is to jail everyone.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:28 PM on March 10, 2013


Is this the kind of society we want to be? No one is capable of redemption? No one is capable of forgiveness?

of course - as the law and order types keep telling us, this is a CHRISTIAN country
posted by pyramid termite at 4:33 PM on March 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


"Sexual assault devastates kids and is, short of death, the thing parents are most afraid of for their kids."

Well, the thing about the parents being most afraid of it is right, but there's been a fair amount of pushback in the last few years about the idea that abuse necessarily devastates kids. It can, and I'm not minimizing it, but I seem to remember some Slate thing on how the actual long-term outcomes for kids who have been abused isn't that much worse than a host of other factors. I'm looking for the article now, so if anyone else has it handy, maybe my memory is wrong on it. But I think it goes along with the general move of advocates for victims of sexual abuse, including both child abuse and rape, away from the narrative of the sexual abuse being this insurmountable trauma.
posted by klangklangston at 5:37 PM on March 10, 2013


It can, and I'm not minimizing it, but I seem to remember some Slate thing on how the actual long-term outcomes for kids who have been abused isn't that much worse than a host of other factors. I'm looking for the article now, so if anyone else has it handy, maybe my memory is wrong on it. But I think it goes along with the general move of advocates for victims of sexual abuse, including both child abuse and rape, away from the narrative of the sexual abuse being this insurmountable trauma.

Are you thinking of Susan Clancy's The Trauma Myth?
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:06 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ostracism in America is older than the republic itself. Maybe we can just send them all to Rhode Island.

What? Keep 'em where you raised 'em, I say. As a Rhode Island resident, I object to being everyone's psycho-social Yucca Mountain.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:15 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I know a young woman who has had a hell of a life because, when she was 17, she had a (sexual) relationship with a 16 year old young woman of a fully consensual nature.

The 16 year old's mom had issues with the fact her little princess didn't like boys, and reported the acquaintance for statutory rape.

The acquaintance is now labelled a sexual offender and has lost job opportunities and had to move several times.

So, this is right then?
posted by Samizdata at 6:26 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't have much to add, except that obviously there's a larger problem with the very concept of a sex offender list, as so many people have pointed out. At a previous job, one of my coworkers got drunk at a work party and ran naked out onto the field at a Mariners game. He narrowly escaped having to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, because there were kids at the game.
posted by skycrashesdown at 7:32 PM on March 10, 2013


Australian here. You can keep your own criminals, thank you very much. You break 'em, you bought 'em.

Anyway, people with 'substantial criminal records' are excluded from our fair land.
Irony Alert.
posted by delmoi at 7:45 PM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is so shortsighted. What are they going to do when the sex offenders start dressing up as parks to better lure their prey?!
posted by cmonkey at 9:04 PM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


cmonkey: "This is so shortsighted. What are they going to do when the sex offenders start dressing up as parks to better lure their prey?!"

Easily enough. Just get a chubby kid to jump up and down a lot in the park and listen for "OOF!" Barring that, mandatory steel cleats/golf shoes for your kid before they go out to play.

(NOT CHUBBY KIDIST!)
posted by Samizdata at 10:00 PM on March 10, 2013


five fresh fish: "Clearly, the only way to keep everyone safe is to jail everyone."

Ummmm, prison rape? Just sayin'...
posted by Samizdata at 10:01 PM on March 10, 2013


A comic book nerd I went to high school with is now on the sex offender list for ordering hentai from Japan. Drawings.

A published author I went to Harvard with is now on the sex offender list for ordering, "Dog Penis, Malibu Style" at McDonald's when intoxicated.

This happens every time! It always gets blown way out of proportion, whether it's pedophiles or witches or Dungeons & Dragons or alcohol or Halloween candy or homosexuality or the Japanese or Communists or marijuana or any of dozens of other bugaboos that have at one time or another infested the national psyche. If there isn't a threat, large numbers of people will convince themselves there is one. If there is one, they'll believe it to be dire. The history of the United States is largely that of the things we've convinced ourselves we should be afraid of by sure-sounding demagogues. The biggest thing to be wary of is, and has always been, charisma.

America will never shed itself of these Puritan fantasies, I'm afraid.

Never is a long time. We shouldn't give up hope, but instead keep working to educate people and get them to see reason.
posted by JHarris at 10:18 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a Rhode Island resident, I object to being everyone's psycho-social Yucca Mountain.

That's Bangor, ME. Last homeless shelter on the Greyhound line.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:36 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It must be because that I'm not a parent that a) this and b) those who don't give their children inoculations because of whatever crazy reason drives me just barking mad.
posted by angrycat at 12:56 AM on March 11, 2013


This happens every time! It always gets blown way out of proportion, whether it's pedophiles or witches or Dungeons & Dragons or alcohol or Halloween candy or homosexuality or the Japanese or Communists or marijuana or any of dozens of other bugaboos that have at one time or another infested the national psyche. If there isn't a threat, large numbers of people will convince themselves there is one. If there is one, they'll believe it to be dire. The history of the United States is largely that of the things we've convinced ourselves we should be afraid of by sure-sounding demagogues. The biggest thing to be wary of is, and has always been, charisma.

I couldn't have said it better myself. It's like you took the words right out of.. my... head....


WITCH!!

WITCH!!!!
posted by odinsdream at 4:27 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


angrycat: "It must be because that I'm not a parent that a) this and b) those who don't give their children inoculations because of whatever crazy reason drives me just barking mad."

Barking mad?

Flagging as obviously STOLEN LOGIN!
posted by Samizdata at 4:53 AM on March 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's a shit ton of uncited hysteria in this thread. There should be a rule that if you are going to do handwringing about the injustices people on the sex offenders list face you should link to the case. I know there are a lot of them out there, but I need some links for all these "one year apart" cases. A lot of these stories don't pass the smell test. "I saw it, it was not pornography, but $50,000 and three lawyers were unable to convince the judge to look at it, and Michael spent 5 years in the federal jail." Let me get this right...guy does five years in prison and not only keeps the images that put him there, but also uses them at show and tell? I know a young woman who has had a hell of a life because, when she was 17, she had a (sexual) relationship with a 16 year old young woman of a fully consensual nature. All because the mother wanted her daughter to have sex with boys instead? I don't buy it.

Consent laws generally require there to be an age difference as well. There isn't this idea that one day your girlfriend is legal, then you have a birthday and she's not.

Example: Christopher Handley Sentenced to 6 Months for 'Obscene' Manga
Example: Teens, Sex and the Law: Genarlow Wilson

I'm not saying the cases people mention didn't happen, but without links no one can read the nuances or the laws used to convict them. In Iowa there has to be more than a four year difference in age to be convicted of statutory rape. I'm smart enough to know other states differ, but again, need the cites please.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:34 AM on March 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


All because the mother wanted her daughter to have sex with boys instead? I don't buy it.

You don't believe that a homophobic parent would report their kid's....same-sex partner, hookup, whatever they call it these days - to the cops? Why?

The Genarlow Wilson case is interesting mostly because if he and the girl had had PIV sex, it would have been a misdemeanor and he wouldn't have been required to register as a sex offender. Ditto Wendy Whittaker (old fpp), who has to register as a sex offender because she gave a blowjob instead of having PIV sex.

Here's a list of statutory rape laws, by state. In several states, the age difference is two years. This list is more explainy; in DE, it seems to be 4th degree rape if you have intercourse with someone who is under 16.

I dunno. It's funny that you point the hysteria accusation at some people in this thread and not at parents who seem to firmly believe that any time their kid is within sight of strangers the kid is at high risk for being sexually assaulted by a stranger.
posted by rtha at 6:26 AM on March 11, 2013


Irony Alert.
Now now.
We aren't all fucking prisoners or descended from, chummer.
Some of us are boat people (all illegals), Aboriginals (soon-to-be-crims) or accountants.
posted by Mezentian at 6:45 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't buy it.

You don't have to buy it. It doesn't cost anything whether you believe it or not.

Of course, if you want to gamble on the probability of the truth or falsity of the statement, that one's on you.

I'm sure you'll invest wisely.
posted by Wolof at 6:53 AM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, they're building parks to spite sex offenders, and because they're too small to be functional, to spite children and families who might actually benefit from a public park, and because they use limited public funds to do so, to spite everyone who isn't willing to pay a premium to fund an illusion.

Maybe instead of finding smaller and smaller jars to put sex offenders in, maybe we can build a big Disneyland "Main Street USA" style settlement where we can put all these people and they can live out their lily-white fantasy lives like 1950s television was real life, and the rest of us can talk about rehabilitation, and spend tax money social programs that actually work.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:11 AM on March 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


You don't believe that a homophobic parent would report their kid's....same-sex partner, hookup, whatever they call it these days - to the cops? Why?

Not that part. People do fucked up things. The part where it would progress far enough for someone to get put on a sex offenders list. That would take cops willing to make an arrest for something that's not a crime, a prosecutor willing to take the case, a monumentally stupid plea bargain or amazing incompetence by some lawyers, a judge without ethics and a jury unable or unwilling to look at the facts. Again, not saying it doesn't happen, but I'd like to imagine a case like this would have been news. A link isn't too much to ask I think.

It's funny that you point the hysteria accusation at some people in this thread and not at parents who seem to firmly believe that any time their kid is within sight of strangers the kid is at high risk for being sexually assaulted by a stranger.

But that's what the post is about, and guess what? There were links.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:14 AM on March 11, 2013


A lot of these stories don't pass the smell test.

That's a really effective way to frame "I don't know anything about any of these cases, but I have a strong opinion none the less".
posted by spaltavian at 7:30 AM on March 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


guy does five years in prison and not only keeps the images that put him there, but also uses them at show and tell?

No, Michael did not keep the images on his computer: he gave me the name of the website. He also had to convince, after he was out of jail, both universities for which he worked that it was not pornography in order for his retirement to be reinstated and he succeeded in that. Call me naive, but when a man cries in telling his story with his longtime wife trying to console him, I believe him. Call me stupid, but when that same wife trashes everything she ever bought in Oklahoma, because this happened here, I believe him. Call me credulous, but when I see his grown children lavishing love and support on him, I believe him.

He calls himself a lucky man because he had enough money for his defense, making me wonder on how many people were jailed for lack of resources. His life work now, and he finally was permitted back to California, is helping prisoners. There is a lot of injustice out there.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for keeping children safe, but not by totally indiscriminately destroying the lives of people who could still be be a valuable part of society. I have given enough clues for fact checking.
posted by francesca too at 7:41 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Asking for more solid evidence when it's available is a really good habit to have. cjorgensen makes a good point.

As much as I think the onus of public doubt needs to be directed against NIMBYism, I really hope that doesn't mean that that means it's taboo to examine my/our own assumptions too. I want my beliefs to be justified. I do not want deserved backlash.

So unless the purpose of this post is not to inform but to entertain, lets please be less critical of someone asking for solid information.
posted by tychotesla at 7:47 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


That would take cops willing to make an arrest for something that's not a crime, a prosecutor willing to take the case, a monumentally stupid plea bargain or amazing incompetence by some lawyers, a judge without ethics and a jury unable or unwilling to look at the facts. Again, not saying it doesn't happen, but I'd like to imagine a case like this would have been news.

It's fun being white, isn't it?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:50 AM on March 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


That would take cops willing to make an arrest for something that's not a crime

Well, it may well have been a crime at the time, if the time was pre-Lawrence v Texas (2003, so not that long ago) when sodomy laws were still on the books. Both the Wilson (your link) and Whittaker (I linked to it) cases went the way they did in large part because both defendants were charged with sodomy because they had oral sex with someone under 16 when they themselves were 17. If it had been intercourse, it would've been a misdemeanor. Whittaker still has to register as a sex offender because even though the law was changed after she was convicted, it's not retroactive and so her conviction stands.
posted by rtha at 8:21 AM on March 11, 2013


That's a really effective way to frame "I don't know anything about any of these cases, but I have a strong opinion none the less".

You're wrong. My point is that when one side says, "These super shitty things happen to people!" without citation it does nothing to further a position. A better reading would be, "Show me the story you are talking about so I can read it on my own and decide if you're take is accurate." The only strong opinion I have is to having facts before making up my mind on an issue. You're standard may vary.

It's fun being white, isn't it?

Are you saying the women in this referenced uncited case were non-white and railroaded by an unjust system? This case just keeps getting more horrible. Please link to this story of underage lesbians being placed on the sex offenders list.

Once again, I never said this shit doesn't happen, but you're pretty fucking lazy if it's easier for you to lob accusations of privilege than to link to a citation supporting your position.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:00 AM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Please link to this story of underage lesbians being placed on the sex offenders list.

If they were both minors, wouldn't the case be sealed? Sometimes citations just aren't possible.
posted by desjardins at 9:10 AM on March 11, 2013


cjorgensen, you didn't ask for more information. You said they didn't pass the smell test: you cast doubt on the stories. That's not a neutral reservation of judgement before you get the facts. If there was any confusion about your opinion, you made sure to recite your imagined scenario of things that your presume would have to happen in an incredulous tone. (The irony being how likely your speculation sounded to those who have dealt with the criminal justice system and institutional bureaucracies.)
posted by spaltavian at 9:14 AM on March 11, 2013


I am doubtful. I am a skeptic. I doubt it happened. This is especially true since it's presented as a personal anecdote. I'm not the one maintaining it did happen. I'm also not saying it didn't. I do maintain when someone claims something did happen the burden is on that person to show their work. I'm not sure why this is a hard concept.

If they were both minors, wouldn't the case be sealed?

It would have still made the news somewhere. Court cases can be sealed and still covered.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:25 AM on March 11, 2013


I don't know anything about the case in question (obviously), but I think you're being naive to think this particular case would have necessarily been covered. Hundreds, probably thousands of people* have been convicted under Romeo and Juliet laws (Juliet and Juliet here, I guess). There aren't articles on all of them.

*I'm extrapolating from Florida, where several hundred men appealed to be removed from the registry. It seems pretty likely that many more were convicted but have not appealed, in that state alone.
posted by desjardins at 10:52 AM on March 11, 2013


I want to build a pocket park next to the prison. Then they'd have to build a new prison, no?
posted by Fezboy! at 11:20 AM on March 11, 2013


Even from your link:
Florida's age of consent is 18, though the law contains a provision allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to consent to having sex with someone age 16 to 23.
Many states have such provisions, and perhaps I am being naive, but I highly doubt someone wouldn't have shown a spotlight on the case of a minor being placed on a sex offenders list for having sex with another minor only one year apart in age. Seriously, that's the kind of case the Daily Mail would have been all over and every activist group lining up to defend.

A kid can't sext another teen without it making the front page of CNN.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:23 AM on March 11, 2013


And two cases like that (at least) have already been linked - the Wilson one (a two-year difference) and the Whittaker one (another two-year difference). So if you're skeptical that these cases can exist at all, then I don't know what to say; if you're skeptical that the specific case mentioned by whichever mefite above actually happened, I still don't know what to say, since there are examples of similar cases linked here.
posted by rtha at 11:34 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The first and biggest problem with the registry is that it is useless precisely because it draws no distinction between actual pedophiles, sex workers, idiots who urinated in public, and kids who were a year too old for their teenage paramours.

Not true in CA, at least. I can see that 3 blocks away there's a funny looking white guy who was arrested for LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS ACTS WITH A CHILD UNDER 14 YEARS OF AGE, and hell, on the street across from my local elementary school there's a large guy with PRIOR CODE - RAPE BY FORCE - and then, yes, over by the park is a burnout with ASSAULT WITH INTENT TO COMMIT A SPECIFIED SEX OFFENSE, etc. etc.

Ah: "Currently, all sex offenders, even those whose crimes were not violent or against children, must register for life in California, but only those on parole are prevented from living near parks and schools."

And yeah, as somone trying to buy a house, Megan's Law offenders on the street is not high on my list of concerns. There's a far, far higher chance of my daughters and I being killed by a car driver while walking or biking.

“I think it’s great,” said Patti O’Connell, 58, who lives a block from the park. “I just feel sorry for wherever they’re moving to

*facepalm*
posted by mrgrimm at 12:21 PM on March 11, 2013


Google glasses and facial recognition software, crossed with public records, is going to take this all to the next disastrous level.

What a reprehensible culture.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:28 PM on March 11, 2013


cjorgensen, you are being "that guy". Please stop.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:29 PM on March 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


My position is that this:

That would take cops willing to make an arrest for something that's not a crime, a prosecutor willing to take the case, a monumentally stupid plea bargain or amazing incompetence by some lawyers, a judge without ethics and a jury unable or unwilling to look at the facts. Again, not saying it doesn't happen, but I'd like to imagine a case like this would have been news.

Is something that happens all the time to poor people, people of color, rape victims, immigrants, and countless others, and you presenting it as this unlikely Rube Goldberg style miscarriage of justice to justify your "sorry guys, I'm not buying it" argument regarding other people's experiences is pretty goddamn comical to anyone not living in Just World.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 2:05 PM on March 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, beyond the Just World fallacy, it's also worth remembering that in any sufficiently large system, there will be some horrifying edge cases. The sheer volume of the US justice system means that miscarriages are all but assured and more effort needs to be put into both preventing them initially and providing remedies after the fact.
posted by klangklangston at 2:21 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Asking for cites on cases which have been specifically mentioned as shock-value "here's how bad things can get" scenarios is now considered "being that guy?"

Sheesh.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:30 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Study: Many sex offenders are kids themselves
More than a third of sex crimes against juveniles are committed by juveniles, according to new research commissioned by the Justice Department.
---
"I've seen the whole spectrum," from serious and even sadistic crimes to 16-year-old boys having sex with 13-year-old girlfriends, says psychiatrist Fred Berlin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic. He says research shows the vast majority of juvenile sex offenders don't become adult ones.

He says too many end up on sex offender registries. "They shouldn't be stigmatized for the rest of their lives," Berlin says.
So the guy who founded the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic thinks it's a widespead problem.
posted by localroger at 3:03 PM on March 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


When discussing boogeymen issues you have to use facts, you have to specific provable examples, otherwise you have a war on terror, drugs, pedophiles, and drunk driving. The US is supposed to be a country of rights. If you are going to roll these back it better be for damn good reason and not just because there's stuff that can't be cited or no one is allowed to know about.

And two cases like that (at least) have already been linked - the Wilson one (a two-year difference) and the Whittaker one (another two-year difference).

And go back and see who linked to the Wilson case. I also linked to a second travesty. I wasn't demanding a higher bar than I was willing to meet. If you are going to discuss specific policies and their desired effects it only makes sense to me that you show the reality of the laws by also using specific cases.

cjorgensen, you are being "that guy". Please stop.

And with that I am out of here. Carry on how you see fit.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:54 PM on March 11, 2013


The US is supposed to be a country of rights. If you are going to roll these back it better be for damn good reason and not just because there's stuff that can't be cited or no one is allowed to know about.

I think you're confused. You were expressing doubt that teenagers have had their rights rolled back by putting them on the sex offender registries for behavior that is fairly common and normal and not at all indicative that they will forever be dangeorus. This is what you doubted. Two specific examples were given, and I found the Justice Department itself figuring out that a third of all convicted sex offenders are kids. The majority of those, of course, end up on the registries.

So it's a big problem, and the reason you don't see a lot of specific cases is that it's such a big problem that it's like asking for specific cases of drunk driving. It happens all the time, which is why it's a problem. It only makes the news when it's especially egregious and the "perp" cum victim of the system decides to make a stink about it instead of going along quietly.

Anyway it's terribly convenient that you bowed out of here without commenting on the USA Today article I found.
posted by localroger at 4:12 PM on March 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am a lawyer - ENVIRONMENTAL law of all things, and certainly not a constitutional law expert - but I was taught enough in my Con Law classes 20 years ago that I am having all kinds of bells go off over this whole scenario. What purpose does the "registry" serve? What purpose does a prohibition of any and all registrants living within X feet of a public park serve? Is there a narrower prohibition that could obtain the desired protective result (i.e., within the police authority of the state)? Are there any lawyers/con law scholars out there who can throw some perspective on why it is that all this crap is being allowed to happen in the first place?

I'm late to this thread, but it doesn't look like the questions about legal status of sex offender laws ever got answered. For those who are curious, this Wikipedia post provides a decent overview. Basically, sex offender registries are considered nonpunitive civil penalties, as opposed to punitive criminal penalties. So they are analyzed under a different framework than traditional criminal laws.

Interestingly, one federal appellate court recently held that a prohibition on use of social media violated offenders' First Amendment rights. So perhaps there will be some possibility of challenging very restrictive laws under other parts of the Constitution. And as the Wikipedia article explains, state constitutions may play a role as well.
posted by Carmelita Spats at 7:16 AM on March 12, 2013


In terms of reporting minors engaged in consensual sex, in California, at least, all consensual oral and anal sex between minors 14 and older is required to be reported as child abuse (pdf, best explanation I could find). Oral and anal sexual activities are treated differently from intercourse.
posted by jaguar at 9:06 AM on March 12, 2013


This website indicates that in California, being convicted of oral sex with a minor (even if the "abuser" is also a minor) would require being added to the Sex Offender Registry, along with a year in prison. It links to the relevant codes.
posted by jaguar at 9:12 AM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wanna stop a sex offender?

Integrate them into the community where you can watch, control, educate them.
Sex criminals who are integrated are less likely to re-offend.

Wanna make a monster?

Ostracize, reject and attack someone, force them out of their homes, make them impossible to employ, shame them forever with no hope of redemption, lump the most benign of them with the most heinous, deprive them of benefits, legal protection, freedom, comfort, support and help.

Wanna be an American?

Spend your money on sht that doesn't work. Be fearful at every turn. Scream for blood and see that you get it. Vote for politicians who convince you that you are living in an evil world populated by evil people like politicians and other unpunished miscreants. Pray to a non-existent god for personal forgiveness while denying it to your fellow man.

Wanna be decent?

Accept that life is hazardous.
Do good.
Help others.
Forgive.
Be generous.
Turn some goddamned cheeks.
Kill your ego.
Put your own life in perspective.
Set the moral tone for society by demonstrating it.
Don't outsource your fear and hate to politicians and laws.

And for crissakes.... if you have kids or loved ones, help them develop the skills to protect themselves. Prudent, realistic, risk reducing behavior goes a long way to avoiding tragedy. Passing laws does not. The individual has personal control over the former and none whatsoever over the latter.
posted by FauxScot at 6:09 AM on March 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


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