Is It 'Very Offensive' for Sex Offenders to Demand Just and Sensible Laws?

uslawyersdb.comuslawyersdb.comThe New York Times notes a recent conference in Los Angeles aimed at calling attention to the excesses and injustices of laws aimed at sex offenders. The Times reports that the 100 or so attendees—sex offenders plus their girlfriends, wives, and mothers—"hope to convince judges, lawmakers and the public that indiscriminate laws aimed at all sex offenders are unconstitutional and ineffective." Illustrating the mentality they are fighting, Nina Salarno-Ashford, a lawyer with Crime Victims United, tells the Times:

I find it very offensive that registered sex offenders are trying to defeat the measures we have put in place to protect children. They created their own issues. In trying to find sympathy, they're forgetting that somebody was assaulted, in many cases a child.

As is typical of activists who argue that sex offenders deserve whatever they get, Salerno-Ashford elides several important distinctions:

1. She implies that all "registered sex offenders" are child molesters, when in fact they include many people who have never committed crimes against children, who nevertheless are often covered by "the measures we have put in place to protect children," such as laws forcing them to live more than a certain distance from schools, playgrounds, and other places where children gather. These laws can be so restrictive that they effectively banish registrants from entire cities or counties. The premise that predators will somehow be deterred by residence restrictions is dubious to begin with and surely makes no sense when applied to people who have never shown any inclination to abuse children.

2. Salerno-Ashford implies that holding sex offenders responsible for their actions means defending every penalty legislators have ever imposed for those actions. "They created their own issues" is an all-purpose excuse that could justify any punishment, no matter how severe, for any crime, no matter how trivial. It abandons any pretense of concern about proportionality, which is essential to justice. That is how we end up with laws that send people to prison for life (or longer!) because they looked at forbidden pictures.

3. Salerno-Ashford says "somebody was assaulted" in every sex offense, which is simply not true. If someone hires a prostitute, pees in an alley after leaving a bar, runs naked through the streets, or has sex with a girlfriend who has not quite reached his state's age of consent, he may have committed a sex offense, but he has not assaulted anyone. Likewise someone who merely views or possesses child pornography, although it's true that "somebody was assaulted" to produce those images.

The Times also interviews Susan Kang Schroeder, spokeswoman for Orange County, California, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who says "we recognize that there is some argument that these [residence restriction] laws don't work." Although "the jury is still out," she says, "I think they're good laws." It would be more accurate to say there is no good evidence that residence restrictions work. So in what sense are they "good laws"? Because they express the blind outrage of politicians who think any precaution is justified in the name of protecting children and hindering molesters, even if it does neither of those things?

As further evidence of the shallow thinking behind the indiscriminate crackdown on sex offenders, consider Schroeder's take on the debate about recidivism: "The pro-sex-offender lobby likes to bandy about percentages, as if even 1 percent is acceptable." Actually, it is the supporters of ever-harsher laws who like to bandy about percentages, claiming that sex offenders should be treated as an especially worrisome class of criminals in part because they are especially likely to commit new offenses after they've served their sentences. Since the evidence suggests that is not true, surely it is relevant to say so. Questioning hyperbolic claims about recidivism hardly amounts to saying recidivism is "acceptable."

I discussed these and related issues in my 2011 Reason article "Perverted Justice."

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  • WTF||

    Alt-text fail. Even the obvious "Very Offensive" would have been better.

  • Baldur||

    Extremely obvious. Mr. Salarno-Ashford needs a haircut and some fashion advice - or perhaps just a bag over his head.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I find it very offensive that registered sex offenders are trying to defeat the measures we have put in place to protect children.

    WHY DO YOU HATE THE CHILDREN?

    I envision a day when the registry is going to be so large and inclusive that it will be rendered almost useless.

  • Redmanfms||

    I envision a day when the registry is going to be so large and inclusive that it will be rendered almost useless.

    Like it is now?

  • Baldur||

    +1

  • Being Waterboarded||

    The children belong to the community (MHP, right?). Sex offenders are part of the community. Therefore, children belong to the sex offenders.

    Seriously, though, I've heard of people being put on the list for peeing in the woods near a football stadium when the porta-potties were all full.

    I think the biggest problem here is the universal term 'sex offender' being applied in any way, shape or form to those that are not a threat to my kids. That's what I care about. I was looking to buy a house at one point and checked the registry only to find that the nearest neighbor was on the list. Unfortunately, I had no way to see from the details whether he had sex with his 17 year old girlfriend when he was 18, or if he is really a threat. That makes the system largely useless due to too many false positives.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    I don't care if the portable toilets are full or not. I'm not going to use them.

  • Matrix||

    peeing in sight of the public should be, at most, a small fine.

    We're such damned prudes.

    Sure, I don't want to see someone pissing in public, but I am not a victim because someone chooses to.

    Damned dogs pee and shit in public all the time. Do we flip the fuck out and start shooting them over it?

    (Officers, please don't take that last sentence as a suggestion)

  • Rasilio||

    "I think the biggest problem here is the universal term 'sex offender' being applied in any way, shape or form to those that are not a threat to my kids"

    No, the biggest problem is that we have a sex offender registry and think that by labling the icky people, no matter how accurately we identify them, with a scarlett letter forever that we will somehow make kids safer.

    The simple fact is if the person is so self evidently a danger to society then we must either permanently banish them or kill them, if not then we have no fucking business hounding them for the rest of their lives once their punishment has been served.

  • jdcllns||

    Is that a photo of Geddy Lee?

  • Hyperion||

    It's Geddys sister, Giddy, she's so hot right now!

  • Almanian!||

    I wish she'd fly by night away from here.

  • SIV||

    Likewise someone who merely views or possesses child pornography, although it's true that "somebody was assaulted" to produce those images.

    So when some piece of jailbait takes a selfie in front of the bathroom mirror she is assaulting herself?

  • SugarFree||

    "Stop molesting yourself, stop molesting yourself."

  • Rasilio||

    Or all of those under age digital animee girls, getting caught with those is just as much of a crime as pictures of real humans. Is someone assaulted when someone else looks at a drawing?

  • Loki||

    No, company that made her smart phone is assaulting her. Steve Jobs is truly history's worst serial pedophile. We must DO SOMETHING to put a stop to the marketing of smart phones to children!

  • Rhywun||

    Steve Jobs is truly history's worst serial pedophile.

    Well, god did give him pancreatic cancer so there's some small justice.

  • Number 2||

    Don't laugh. It was only a few years ago that some dipshit prosecutor in Pennsylvania threatened to prosecute 12-yr-old girls as "child pornographers" for texting pictures of themselves in their skivvies.

    And a pair of irredeemably stupid former prosecutors in skirts on Fox News actually applauded the move. ("They were only trying to get the girls some help")

  • SomeGuy||

    i have to agree the whole sex offended thing is garbage and so much is considered a crime it gets nuts. It is probably one of the most abused laws in this country.

  • Baldur||

    I have come across a credible claim that at least two fifths of the imagery traded by aficionados of juvenile erotica is imagery created by those juveniles themselves: "selfies", webcams, and the like.

    Of course, nudist imagery is regularly prosecuted successfully (in the current "Azov" cases, nudist videos that had previously been declared legal to possess by a U.S. Federal court are nonetheless being used to successfully prosecute a number of men). Pictures of clothed "child models" have also been successfully prosecuted, and in one notable case (U.S. vs. Stephen Knox) even a video of fully clothed teenaged cheerleaders taken in a public venue was successfully prosecuted as child pornography.

    There is a clear pattern here. Prosecutors and cops will say whatever they like, and they will get away with it because it is illegal to even discover the truth on one's own - and most of the public is not even *interested* in the truth.

    And that is how the Rule of Law falls in the United States....

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I find it very offensive that registered sex offenders are trying to defeat the measures we have put in place to protect children.

    People like this control this country.

    We're fucked.

  • Juice||

    Well, I find it very offensive that so many stupid little things can get you put on the sex offender registry.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Buddy's son peed on a building and when the female security guard saw his weenie - bam! Sex offender registry.

    So, yeah, it doesn't really mean anything.

  • Loki||

    Judging by her picture I think Nina Salarno-Ashford is just pissed at sex offenders because none of them ever attempted to assault her. Not even Warty or STEVE SMITH would rape that.

  • Aresen||

    Actually, I more tend to wonder what acts she has performed that would get her on the registry.

  • Almanian!||

    I hear she's a very kiny girl.

    The kind you don't take home to mother.

  • D.M.||

    Yes, she's like Meg Griffin with the burglars.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    I find it very offensive that registered sex offenders are trying to defeat the measures we have put in place to protect children. They created their own issues. In trying to find sympathy, they're forgetting that somebody was assaulted, in many cases a child.

    Prostitutes are children? The only kind of people who can be unlawfully surveilled are children?

  • Being Waterboarded||

    No doubt NSA has surveilled communications that included risque 'selfies' from teens.

    I support the movement to have all NSA operatives put on the sex offender registry.

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    Nikki Sixx became a lawyer?

  • Hyperion||

    2 problems. These laws are unconstitutional.

    Next problems, laws that law makers create, no longer apply to them, only to the serfs.

    We no longer have a functioning system of law. We live in a lawless society where us serfs can be punished for anything, forever, and where the ruling elite cannot be held accountable for anything.

  • Number 2||

    ""The pro-sex-offender lobby likes to bandy about percentages..."

    The WHAT???

    Objecting to ridiculously excessive criminal sanctions makes you pro-criminal?

    Scumbags like this should be locked in a colonial-era stockade and made the subject of intense public ridicule.

  • ||

    We could all line up and flash her. :)

  • Number 2||

    Why give her a cheap thrill?

  • ||

    I take it that you haven't seen some of us.

  • Number 2||

    I take it you haven't met her.

  • John||

    Notice how irrational her arguments are. It is not so much that they are untrue as it is they are completely based in emotion and invective. People have stopped thinking rationally about these issues. Of course if they hadn't, we wouldn't have these laws.

  • Beezard||

    Not to mention $1,000,000 bail when attempted murder gets $200,000.

  • Aresen||

    If you are a cop, murder gets you a commendation, unless it makes the MSM, in which case it gets you a paid vacation.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Alt-text: I wouldn't hit it.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    That's no woman! That's a man, baby.

  • Long Range Boredom||

    Everytime I see someone use the 'Mrs. Lovejoy argument' in real life I die a little more on the inside.

  • Once Fallen||

    I happen to find Nina Salarno-Ashford's comment equally offensive.

    The irony of the lack of empathy from Victim Industry Advocates like Assford is never lost on me.

  • LarryA||

    Dear Nina Salarno-Ashford,

    Look, stupid, if you take the 95% of the people on the list who aren't dangerous and never were off the list, you'll have a much better chance of monitoring the 5% who are dangerous. (If the percentage of dangerous people is actually that high.)

    Meanwhile, your draconian offender restrictions mean that lots of people on the list can't find a place to live, which makes them much harder to track.

  • richarddozier@gmail.com||

    It is interesting to note that the U.S. government, as well as an increasing number of states, is trying very hard to further restrict the movement of registered sex offenders so that even very brief travels, e.g. vacations, going home for the holidays, traveling to Europe, etc. will require providing advanced notice to authorities and even the jurisdictions of those places to be visited - well in advance of their travel - and regardless if it is foreign or domestic travel. Failure to comply will be to commit a new felony.

  • D.M.||

    Great article--the only mistake is that someone is not always assaulted in cases of child porn either. Minors have been prosecuted for sending indecent pictures of themselves. Two minors can be legally married in a given state, but if they videotape themselves having sex and transport the tape across state lines, it's a federal child porn violation. The victimization of children labelled as sex offenders by the law, even when they are considered too young to consent to be sexual partners, is one of the more sickening things about our current system, and has been documented by many websites and books over the years.

  • Wizard4169||

    It does seem a little odd that the same individual can lack the maturity and judgment to give consent, yet at the same time can be sufficiently responsible to be criminally charged.

  • Baldur||

    As our culture has changed, we have lost the original meaning of "Age of Consent" laws.

    The Age of Consent was never meant to protect children from adults who wanted to have sex with them - it was intended to protect children from *the law*. A person who engaged in sex who was under the Age of Consent was considered innocent; a person *above* the Age of Consent was considered guilty - of fornication. (This also explains why Southern states long had a lower Age of Consent, hence a lower Age of Responsibility, than Northern states.)

    In the most telling perversion of law, minors under the Age of Consent are now sometimes held responsible for Rape when they only had consensual sex with another child about the same age - which is to say that we are holding responsible children we claim can not be responsible for committing a crime that would not be a crime if we considered the children responsible. What the hell kind of logic is that?

  • Baldur||

    As our culture has changed, we have lost the original meaning of "Age of Consent" laws.

    The Age of Consent was never meant to protect children from adults who wanted to have sex with them - it was intended to protect children from *the law*. A person who engaged in sex who was under the Age of Consent was considered innocent; a person *above* the Age of Consent was considered guilty - of fornication. (This also explains why Southern states long had a lower Age of Consent, hence a lower Age of Responsibility, than Northern states.)

    In the most telling perversion of law, minors under the Age of Consent are now sometimes held responsible for Rape when they only had consensual sex with another child about the same age - which is to say that we are holding responsible children we claim can not be responsible for committing a crime that would not be a crime if we considered the children responsible. What the hell kind of logic is that?

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