Is there a limit to protecting children.
November 17, 2002 1:07 PM   Subscribe

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
posted by Beholder (27 comments total)
Xquzyphr: I would imagine that if you were repeatedly raped by strangers for money when you were a child, you might have similar feelings to Ms. Keenan.

It's probably a bad idea for slippery slope reasons, but it's entirely understandable why victims would want this.
posted by boltman at 1:37 PM on November 17, 2002

Umm... what XQUZYPHYR said. I was going to write something here, but he pretty much summed it up.
posted by statusquo at 2:17 PM on November 17, 2002

Calm down, xquzyphr, I agree with you that it's a lousy idea*. I was merely trying to point out that its hardly fair to attack victims for wanting this sort of thing. Attack the government for acting on their suggestions.

Still, one could argue that implanting microchips to track their movements is more, er, humane then posting their mug shots on the internet and notifying all their neighbors. Certainly seems less likely to provoke vigilantism anyway.

* although I certainly don't agree that child sex abuse is morally or legally indistinguishable from the other crimes you mention
posted by boltman at 2:35 PM on November 17, 2002

If I thought that only sex offenders would be tagged, then I'd have no problem with this law.

The problem is that once the government gets a taste of this technology, then sex offenders will only be the beginning. Then comes Alzheimer patients, or anyone suffering from a life threatening illness. Think about the number of lives saved from heart attacks, if a monitor was inserted into the chest, allowing hospitals to detect early warning signs.

Of course parents would love this new technology, because they could scan for chemicals, in their children's bloodstream. Wow, what a great way to stop teenagers from doing ecstasy or drinking alcohol.

Making this technology voluntary, is also a slippery slope, because it would lead to an impression of illegal behavior, for anyone refusing to be tagged. After all, why decline to be chipped unless you have something to hide.

We now see where this will start, but no one can predict how it will end.
posted by Beholder at 2:48 PM on November 17, 2002

Can't we just dart them with tranquilizers and then tag their ears like polar bears? Or how about radio collars that self-destruct if tampered with? Ankle cuffs?

I think this is creepy because it's under the skin. Also, how does knowing only where a dangerous sex offender is help to prevent crimes if you don't know what said offender is doing? Surgically implanted mini sex-offender-cams would be much better.
posted by hama7 at 3:01 PM on November 17, 2002

Is there a difference between being those who use racial fear to dehumanize, and those who use crime fear to dehumanize? Or between Dr Frankenstein's reanimation of dead tissue and the generation and ownership of (98%)human-animal crosses for testing purposes?
Every evil, vile thing that has been condemned is now being embraced. There are no longer limits to war, no ethics in government or business.

What is prohibited?

And who has the power to say "No!" "Not!" "Never!"

What has made us such monsters?
posted by kablam at 3:56 PM on November 17, 2002

Is there a difference between being those who use racial fear to dehumanize, and those who use crime fear to dehumanize?

I'm not sure what you mean. It depends on the issue, I guess. More often, than not, liberals and conservatives can agree on the problem, but are at odds on the solution.

I'm against implanting tracking chips into the general population, but I'm willing to accept profiling, as a tool against terrorism. There are no easy answers, and I'm afraid deep down inside, most of us are very concerned about the future of humanity, although for strikingly different reasons.

It's safe to say, that illegal immigration is a hot button issue to me, because I feel it adversely affects almost every other major problem facing the US, but I'd still oppose chip implants, even if it meant an end to people entering the US illegally.

On the other hand, if I was told by doctors that I had a heart condition, and that an implanted chip might give the hospital prior warning of my heart attack, I'm not sure what I'd do, to be honest. I don't know if I could surrender my complete privacy, in order to live a few years longer.

God, what a hellish decision, especially if you have children. That's what makes this technology, so thoroughly evil, because it's incredibly seductive.
posted by Beholder at 4:24 PM on November 17, 2002

Kablam: What has made us such monsters?

Well I for one don't see myself or any genetic researcher as equivalent to a child paedophile in the monster stakes but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we're all irredemibly wicked.

If that's the case and there's no chance of rehabilitating paedophiles then as XQUZYPHYR said why release them at all? If we can never safely release them why not save us the money and just execute them on conviction?
posted by pots at 4:25 PM on November 17, 2002

If I thought that only sex offenders would be tagged, then I'd have no problem with this law.

why is a sex offense inherently worse than murder? Why is it even inherently worse than 1st degree assault? If you're attacked and suffer great bodily injury, stuck in a wheelchair or with significant facial scarring, or with mental impairment or whatever, is that really not as bad as being raped? I've never experienced either, but I don't understand the logic.

Then comes Alzheimer patients, or anyone suffering from a life threatening illness. Think about the number of lives saved from heart attacks, if a monitor was inserted into the chest, allowing hospitals to detect early warning signs.

I'm not sure exactly what the downside of this is... I mean, I guess the worry is that hospitals will then give this info to the government and then because the gov can monitor your heart rate they will, and that will feel creepy - but I think people overestimate the interest the gov would have in watching you.

I dunno, it seems like it could be maintained as voluntary in that you could e.g. control the needed password to access your info, so that you could choose to only provide that info to family / a friend / your internist / whoever. Then if you were convicted of a crime, the judge could use it as an additional mode of punishment, or a condition of release from prison, so you could choose to stay in the cell or to have your monitoring available to security. Maybe it would be too invasive to be in regular use, but spouses are able to respect one another's diaries, for instance, so I don't know that reasonable people would take too much advantage of it, and the medical & criminal pluses seem worthwhile...
posted by mdn at 4:31 PM on November 17, 2002

the Guardian rules. i've read the BEST articles there. i would link to them, but i can't find the right link now AND i have company coming over and they hate it when i am sitting in this chair.
posted by prescribed life at 4:58 PM on November 17, 2002

Emphatically, what XQUZYPHYR said.
posted by boredomjockey at 5:00 PM on November 17, 2002

what a waste of time. (having just lost my last post to this thread due to an IE crash, i am familiar with wasting time)
i saw the newsnight programme referred to in the article, the message that came across was that uk society is not ready to deal with this issue. when Karen repeatedly ran away, the police took her back to claridge's.
In a statement Ms Keenan said: "This nightmare has lasted for 35 years and it should never have been so difficult for me and all the other victims of these perverts to bring the truth out."
what we need is support for people like Karen/Shy. real, useful and reliable support. social workers are overworked, underpaid and blamed when things go tragically wrong (as in the climbie case). as ever, those 'in the front line' are scapegoated by the management (fairly unsuccessfully, in this case) they have no support either.
what support is there in your town for victims of abuse?
posted by asok at 5:28 PM on November 17, 2002 [1 favorite]

In the interest of fairness, it must be pointed out that is the UK, not the US, and the Constitutional issues that XQU noted don't really apply.

However, seems a bad idea. Will it catch on in parts of Europe, where vigilante violence as related to sex crimes has existed in a far more widespread manner than stateside? Possibly.
posted by Kevs at 6:22 PM on November 17, 2002

A well known Canadian science fiction writer wrote an essay defending the use of this new technology, but I can't remember where I saw the article, and I couldn't find it on Goggle, either. He seemed pretty gung ho on this new technology, and seemed to imply that only people with criminal intent would oppose being chipped.

Has anyone seen this article? It might be an interesting addition to this thread, though I'm getting the impression that most meta filter readers, agree, at least on this one issue, that chip implants are best left to pet dogs, and not humans.
posted by Beholder at 7:05 PM on November 17, 2002

The tags...would also be able to monitor the heart rate and blood pressure of the abuser, alerting staff to the possibility that another attack was imminent.

...or that the abuser had just gotten cut off in traffic, of was watching a horror movie, or had been spending too much time on Metafilter. The technology is tempting, but impractical. Ditto XQUZYPHYR.
posted by hippugeek at 7:16 PM on November 17, 2002

I, for one, am right royally sick of "victim's laws"--policy created not because of actual damages, but because someone is offended and screams their head off. Elected officials, the courts and judges and prosecutors all exist so that there can be calm and logical disposition of the law; that there NOT be laws based on the whims of "victims".

And because the state has such advantage when doing this, *rights* to the accused must exist to ensure justice. And whether these rights are written or traditional, they are a de facto set of rules under which society operates. The contest is between the state and the accused, the "victim" must and should stand back.

No one should be convicted because they are ugly, but people are. No one should be convicted because of prior offenses, not the current accusation, but people are. No one should be convicted because they are poor or ignorant, but many, many people are.

And the same applies to punishment: the state can administer death, prison, parole or freedom--nothing more, *because* anything else smacks not of punishment for an offense against the law, but as *revenge* for offending a particular "victim".

Since the offense is against the state, then the state must pay for the punishment. Efforts to escape from this debt, with early parole, for example, leave the "victim" feeling a sense of injustice--and rightly so--the prisoner has not served his time--the social contract has not been met. But efforts to "extend" punishment beyond the law also smack of unfairness, of revenge.
posted by kablam at 7:18 PM on November 17, 2002

Er, that last bit came out fuzzy. I meant I agree with XQ, not that he is "tempting, but impractical." That goes without saying.
posted by hippugeek at 7:22 PM on November 17, 2002

Paedophilia and child killing is portrayed in the media as the one crime that is beyond rehabilitation, beyond the reach of redemption. And though I instinctively want to agree, I think that such a society-wide attitude makes any hope of preventing recidivism unlikely and thus deeply unhelpful.

But there's not much we can do about such thinking.

Instead we have to deal with the reality that paedophiles are statistically more likely to re-offend than any other criminal group and the huge risks that go with release. If the alternative to controlled (tagged) release is life imprisonment/death then I think society should give them a chance to change in safe way.
posted by pots at 7:37 PM on November 17, 2002

why is a sex offense inherently worse than murder?
It's usually not worse than murder, but one could imagine cases where it is. A husband killing the guy that murdered his wife, for example. Or a bank robber killing his accomplice to get his share of the loot. Both these actions are bad, obviously, but the fact that the victim was also blameworthy makes the murder less bad than "lesser" crimes committed against wholly innocent parties (e.g. children).

But I think the real issue with these types of tracking systems is that sex abuse is more like a psychological compulsion whereas murder is often more of a one-time deal. While their are serial killers out there, the typical murderer is driven to murder by some fairly specific external stimuli rather than a psychological need to kill. There are many murders who are unlikely to ever kill again. For those that are likely to kill again, it is fairly easy to keep them in prison for life (or execute them) given the gravity with which the criminal justice system treats murder.

Sex offenders are much tricker to deal with because their crimes, while having horrendous effects on the victims, are generally seen as stemming in part from a psychological problem rather than an evil heart. Throwing them in jail for life is viewed (probably rightly in most cases) as too punative. It would be sort of like throwing an alcoholic in jail for life for drunk driving, since he is likely to do it again if let go. Since you can't keep them in jail longer than is necessary for them to "pay for" their crime, society looks for other ways to prevent them from striking again. Commonly, they are either transferred to psychiatric hospitals are held their against their wills indefinitely (basically life-in-prison-lite), or they are released and Megan's Law kicks in, notifying everyone in their community that they are a sex offender, and basically making it impossible for them to start over. One advantage of this tracking system is that (if it works) it accomplishes the same purposes that Megan's law and involunary commitment, but it does so in a more or less non-punative way.

Assuming that we all don't like this because of the potential for it to be used for other, less worthy, government purposes, what ought we to do about chronic sex offenders? Do they all really deserve to be locked up for life because they might strike again even if life imprisonment is not warrented by their actual crime? If not, do we just release them with no strings and then cross our fingers and hope they'll be good, despite high rates of relapse? I don't necessarily have any answers, but I do think it is a far more difficult problem than some of you are making it out to be.
posted by boltman at 7:48 PM on November 17, 2002

Here's one solution, boltman: castration. Quote: "...a well-known study conducted in Scandinavia over a 30-year period ... demonstrated significant results. Among the more than 900 sex offenders in that country who underwent surgical castration, the recurrence of sexual offenses was less than 3 percent."

Chemical or surgical castration is a solution that makes people cringe. But it's something that works, probably far better than this would.
posted by acridrabbit at 9:12 PM on November 17, 2002

I read an interesting science fiction book titled "Emergence" by Ray Hammond a few months ago. While the book isn't explicitly about this topic, it does have an interesting discussion of the use of implanted technology controlled by the novel, the Tye Corporation has sponsored the adoption of LifeWatches, a watch that is always worn and detects a person's changes in health and can adminster adrenaline shots or morphine or whatever in the case of an emergency, and automatically summon help. All via satellite. At the end of the book, the satellite system fails and many people inadvertently die when wrongly injected with drugs from their LifeWatches.

It's a case of technology becoming too pervasive and humanity being too reliant on it.

My concern here (and I must assume, Ray Hammond's) is how far is too far. If we allow pedophiles to be tracked like this, how long will it be before other criminals (or "criminals") are also tracked. How long before Ashcroftism (the new McCarthyism) is so rampant that our government enforces the tracking of its citizens. It's a scary premise.
posted by at 9:59 PM on November 17, 2002

I'm pro tag, provided it's of the "toe" variety.
posted by UncleFes at 10:12 PM on November 17, 2002

Chemical or surgical castration is a solution that makes people cringe. But it's something that works, probably far better than this would.

It undoubtedly would work better than a hundred implants, at considerably less expense. There are growing numbers of sexual predators who are requesting castration as the only way to prevent future attacks.

Keeping them in the slammer would work too.
posted by hama7 at 11:38 PM on November 17, 2002

Straight outta Brasseye. And that goes for most of this discussion too.
posted by Hogshead at 2:37 AM on November 18, 2002

sorry to piss on your chips but this is just Captain Cyborg at it again.
posted by col at 2:57 AM on November 18, 2002

Screw it. Everybody gets an implant, period.
posted by alumshubby at 6:08 AM on November 18, 2002

What UncleFes said. If they're dead, it won't matter.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:08 PM on November 18, 2002

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