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Danger! Idiot Judge Lives Here!
May 21, 2001 9:23 PM   Subscribe

Danger! Idiot Judge Lives Here! In Corpus Christi, Texas, a judge has ordered 21 sex offenders to post signs in their yards that read "Danger! Registered Sex Offender Lives Here," and bumper stickers on their cars that read "Danger! Registered Sex Offender in Vehicle." Many people are reacting favorably, such as the person who believes "I think the judge is correct and he should make the signs bigger." But if these people are truly dangerous, why did they receive probation instead of jail time?
posted by jameschandler (23 comments total)

 
What worries me the most about this judge's action is that it appears he applied the new condition wholesale. Even those convicted of statutory rape must register. That means the 18-year-old who was convicted of having sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend has a sign on his lawn.

I hope that isn't true, and he used a little more judgement. So to speak.

I also question why truly dangerous offenders didn't receive jail time. I suspect there is a lot more to this story.
posted by frykitty at 9:35 PM on May 21, 2001


if these people are truly dangerous, why did they receive probation instead of jail time?

Because signs are a lot cheaper than keeping people in jail.
posted by kindall at 10:10 PM on May 21, 2001


It's neat these days to take everybody's freedom away these days to show off how tough on crime you are. Hard Fast Rules, I love it. Instead of Measured Justice. Hand cuff 'em all. Run their name through the mud in public. Invest and profit from your local penitentary.
posted by crasspastor at 10:40 PM on May 21, 2001


Should I write "these days" again? These days. Gah. . .
posted by crasspastor at 10:42 PM on May 21, 2001


silliness and justice are not synonymous. however, they do mix well on occasion. in my mind, there are 2 purposes for sentencing a convicted sex offender. 1) punish the person for his crime: this is controversial, but i stand by it. (Freud wasn't complete, but he wasn't a moron either. i by the reward/punish hypothesis to an extent) 2) protect your own neighborhood/wife/children (aka: rehabilitation and prevention) it is granted that the two reasons given above can be juggled about. however, numero dos is, in my mind, the most importante. sex offenders are not after money, drugs, or even sex. they are after something that is much less tangible: power. sex offense crimes are emotional crimes. they must be catered to accordingly. jail time for a sex offenders does nothing to prevent recidivism; the offender can easily satisfy his emotional desires in his cell or in his communal shower. however, the punishments prescribed by this judge are emotional punishments, aimed at the source of the crimes (the criminals brain). jail time will not achieve the ends prescribed above. the judges signs and bumper-stickers will.
posted by spontaneo at 1:28 AM on May 22, 2001


These guys in Texas should get better writers. This has totally been done. On Mr. Show, Bob Odenkirk had the sign in the yard, yeah, and the RAPIST license plate, and a guy had to walk with him everywhere yelling, "Rapist here! Rapist coming through!" And he was a telemarketer, and he had to introduce himself on the phone as a rapist! So cra-zay!

Wait, this is really happening?
posted by luser at 1:32 AM on May 22, 2001


Why just sex offenders? If this makes sense for them, it makes sense for other offenses:
• Drunk driving - The bumper sticker could save your life! Recidivism rate very high.
• Burglary - Don't you have the right to know you're living next to a convicted burglar?
• Drug dealing - Imagine the sort of people that attracts to the neighborhood! What sort of friends does this guy have? Run him out of town!
• Tax evasion - The guy's a crook who can't be trusted with company assets or even to tell the truth. Employ him? I don't think so.
• Speeding - Dangerous to all mothers and children. Recidivism almost 100 percent.
• Shoplifting - Keep him out of your store!
• School bully - They all have problems when they grow up. We have a right to know who they are now, before it's too late!
etc.

No. Once you've done your time, you are supposed to be free. A court system that encourages vigilantism is rotten. Find another way. Don't settle for simplistic solutions from cretinous politicians.
posted by pracowity at 1:52 AM on May 22, 2001


I agree with Pracowity. The whole reason that sex offenders are easily targeted is that they carry some of the shortest sentences in the criminal justice system. I don't think, however, that they are any more likely to be repeat offenders than anyone else that serves time. (I haven't seen statistics on this, so that's just a guess.)

My point being that stuff like Megan's law came about simply because the criminal justice system wasn't doing its job by keeping sex criminals of the street. All too often, they'd serve minimum time, get off early for good behavior, and be out again in no time. If sex crimes would garner more serious sentences in the first place, we wouldn't have to overcompensate by painting scarlet letters on people's heads.
posted by dogmatic at 4:47 AM on May 22, 2001


jail time will not achieve the ends prescribed above. the judges signs and bumper-stickers will.

If true, then that should be the punishment prescribed by law or at the time of sentencing. These people were "signed" later on -- in violation, I believe, of their basic rights.

This is similar to Kansas' law that allows the state to force sex offenders deemed mentally ill into mental institutions after they serve their prison term, basically at the whim of the prosecutor. The Supreme Court narrowly upheld this as Constitutional in 1997.
posted by jameschandler at 5:41 AM on May 22, 2001



spontaneo: that's skinner, not freud.

this sort of thing frightens me most when i consider that there are mainstream groups out there who've told me rapists should be guilty until proven innocent.
posted by dagnyscott at 6:17 AM on May 22, 2001


Proceedings of the 1998 National Conference on Sex Offender Registries--haven't had a chance to go through it much yet, but it includes two things of interest (so far):

First is the background of the cases that spurred on the three main S.O. registration acts (search on "October 1989") (Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act of 1996, and the "Megan's Law" amendment to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994).

Second item is the results of a study on sex offender notification efficacy in Washington state, suggesting that notification doesn't affect recidivism rates, but does affect when rearrests occur (2-2 1/2 years after release for those with notification, about 5 years after release for those without). (Search on "schizophrenic".) (More info)
posted by claxton6 at 6:19 AM on May 22, 2001


Valdez said the act doesn't go far enough. "What the legislators were afraid to do, this judge is doing," he said.

I cannot, for the life of me, imagine that Texas lawmakers would be afraid to impose this sort of punishment. Obviously, they didn't think it was a good idea, or it simply didn't occur to them (because it's not a good idea). This goes far beyond judicial interpretation into judicial activism, and I can't imagine that an appeals court will let it stand. Of course, the damage will already have been done by then.

jail time for a sex offenders does nothing to prevent recidivism; the offender can easily satisfy his emotional desires in his cell or in his communal shower. however, the punishments prescribed by this judge are emotional punishments, aimed at the source of the crimes (the criminals brain). jail time will not achieve the ends prescribed above. the judges signs and bumper-stickers will.

I don't see the logic here. Surely jail time affects the criminal's brain at least as much as having signs posted. Sexual offenders are not a monolithic group of people, and there is no one approach that works for everyone. If you're talking about statutory rape, having been arrested is probably enough to make sure that the guy checks id the next time he wants to have sex.

If, on the other hand, you're talking about pedophilia, you are dealing with a disease that has proven nearly impossible to cure. A sign in the front yard isn't going to affect a pedophile's behavior. There are essentially two proven ways to deal with pedophiles. Castration, and keeping them locked up away from children.
posted by anapestic at 6:44 AM on May 22, 2001


I think Americans are just the worst you can get. I mean as soon as you come to whatever concerns law and all, it's shameful.
posted by tootsie at 7:07 AM on May 22, 2001


I think Americans are just the worst you can get. I mean as soon as you come to whatever concerns law and all, it's shameful.

If Americans were "the worst," we would not have the ability to speak out against stupid laws/judicial rulings, nor the ability to change them through the political process.

I know its easy to bash America whenever something like this is reported, but I doubt the nation you live in never passes stupid laws or abuses the rights of its citizens.
posted by jameschandler at 7:29 AM on May 22, 2001



Was the judge elected? If so, let's see if he's re-elected.
posted by holgate at 8:56 AM on May 22, 2001


Judges in Texas are elected. And they need not recuse themselves from cases where one of the litigants donated a large sum of money to the judge's campaign.
posted by jameschandler at 9:24 AM on May 22, 2001


Once you've done your time, you are supposed to be free.

Seems to me that they are free...they are not imprisoned. Are you arguing that information inhibits freedom? Is it better to censor potentially helpful and important information, or to disseminate it to those it may help? Is it the scarlet "A" that is bad, or the society that deems it necessary and relevant?
posted by rushmc at 10:42 AM on May 22, 2001


One clarification: someone on parole or probation has not "done their time", and they are not completely free. Parole and probation are part of the sentence.
posted by frykitty at 10:54 AM on May 22, 2001


Am I the only person who just wishes they'd leave these people alone?

I mean, really. Doesn't this constitute "cruel and unusual punishment?" Is anyone else reminded of "The Scarlet Letter?"

I thought the registry was bad enough, considering that some people who qualify as sex offenders, depending on local laws, probably don't deserve to be hounded for the rest of thier lives. Some of these people actually have "learned their lesson," probably because whatever crime they committed was a mistake in the first place, done in a blind rage or a moment of incredibly poor decision making. Plenty of them just want to move on and live a normal life, but they will never be able to. I can tolerate the registry for now, though, in the hopes that they'll refine the system (if they haven't already, I admittedly am not too familiar with it) so that the lesser offenders can actually get their lives back.

They already have to register with the local police wherever they live, and will have to do it again if they move out of the area. If it was a severe enough crime, all their neighbors get notified before they move in. How's that for a first impression? Forget making friends in the neighborhood. Now this judge is making them display signs in their yard as well? And on thier cars?

Well judge, all I have to say is this: you missed a vital area of these people's lives where they might actually be able to go around without getting stared at. You're actually permitting these people to go out for a walk with no indication that they're a sex offender! For shame! I suggest you issue them all jackets -- a heavy one for winter and a lighter one for summer -- with "RAPIST" across the front and back in big red letters, and down the arms as well. And just in case any of them enjoys going to the beach, you should consider manditory four-inch tall tattoos of the same across their chests and backs. This will also alert other people in, say, gym showers.

Personally, I'd rather see them kept in jail. I think they'd be safer that way.
posted by CrayDrygu at 11:25 AM on May 22, 2001


Jeez, it's a shame some of these people weren't around at the trials of these scumbags, they could have used some character witnesses.

I don't care of these "people" have to carry around signs for the rest of their lives. They're sex criminals, and if they don't want to have a rapist sign in their yard, then maybe - just maybe - they should consider NOT RAPING ANYONE.

Personally, I think rape and child molestation should be death penalty crimes. But that's just me - I have a wife and a child, and the thought of them becoming victims of these pieces of human sewage makes my blood boil. If it were up to me, I wouldn't hang a sign on them, I'd give them the needle.

In the meantime, as for the signs, I got two words for them: tough shit.
posted by UncleFes at 2:39 PM on May 22, 2001


> ... these pieces of human sewage makes my blood boil.
> If it were up to me, I wouldn't hang a sign on them, I'd
> give them the needle.

You see human beings as nothing, as offal; you lose control, go into a rage just thinking about them; and you imagine killing them. You sound much worse than some of the people you would murder.
posted by pracowity at 12:09 AM on May 25, 2001


UncleFes, I'd say you haven't been at trails for kidnapping, assaut and battery, drug offenders, DUI, etc. If you did you'd be smarter and realize that we need to make these capital offenses too. Tough shit is right, lets get cracking on crime.

Unfortunately, its this puritanical reactionary mindset that keeps interrupting any impartial discourse about sex offenders. If anything this shows the failure of rehabilitation of incarceration. Prisons aren't geared to provide rehabilitation for sex offenders so we put the barcode on them and let them loose.

The sad part is when emotional outcry shapes opinion, like UncleFes's remarks we can end up with a pretty unbalanced criminal justice system. If sexual crimes were a capital offense it would be pretty funny to see kidnappers who don't rape their victims get a few years while some date rapist is getting ready for the chopping block.
posted by skallas at 12:14 AM on May 25, 2001


"...much worse than the people you would murder"?

"...puritanical reactionary mindset"?

I think you guys are trying to hurt my feelings.
posted by UncleFes at 8:32 PM on May 25, 2001


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