A Helping Hand for the Insufficiently Hysterical

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Have a pressing need to know the names of sex offenders in your area? Too lazy to google "Megan's Law"? Consider moving to Maryland, where the state brings personal information on your neighbors directly to you, the deeply concerned but incredibly slothful citizen:

Shortly after signing a new law that increases prison terms and reporting requirements for sex offenders, Gov. Robert Ehrlich announced a new phone alert line that will notify people when convicted sex criminals move into their zip codes.

The new hot line goes hand and hand with provisions in the new law that mandate increased registration, prolonged parole, more frequent reporting to parole officers, submission of DNA samples and automatic notification of all schools in the county where the offender resides.

This being campaign season, Ehrlich's wife has taken to the airwaves to pimp the hotline and citizens' "right to know" about the migration patterns of other citizens. The PSAs/ campaign ads are being funded with a $200,000 federal grant.

Whole thing here.

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  1. Is there a way to opt out? Does having your name on the national “do not call” registry protect you from being interrupted at the dinner hour by robot nannies?

    I fear the state will use the “existing business relationship” exemption from anti-telemarketing laws to deny protection from this intrusion – you know the routine, “protection of our children is everybody’s business yap yap yap.”

  2. Somebody remind me why I live in this state again?

  3. Yes, all of the fretful mothers in our neighborhood were emailing each other about this a few months ago.

    It’s just too, too much.

  4. Chris, I’ve been asking you the same question for going on three years now.

  5. Strangely, laws like this probably increase the paranoia of parents and thereby increases the demand for laws like this which in turn will….

  6. What if the state pays for an angry, ignorant mob on our behalf so that I don’t need to get off my arse to support vigilante justice? Let’s just make sure that they understand the difference between a pedophile and a pediatrician this time…

  7. Here is an alternative if you think this violates ‘rights’ – keep the bastards in jail, therefore no need to inform anyone they moved next to you.

    frankly, I’m about as libertarian as can be….but I’m not going to stick up for these ‘citizens’ (as Howley refers to them). fuck pedophiles….and if you spend anytime making life easier for them…fuck you too.

  8. And now that Duncan’s out of the race, there’s not even a pro-ped candidate to stand up to him.

  9. “Is there a way to opt out? Does having your name on the national “do not call” registry protect you from being interrupted at the dinner hour by robot nannies?

    Comment by: Uncle Lumpy at June 26, 2006 06:31 PM”

    From the sound of it, you have to dial a number to activate the service. If you do so, you have no one to blame but yourself if you get calls at odd hours.

  10. If you are getting so many phone calls about pedophiles moving into your area that you need to register on a do not call list, you may want to consider moving.

    Just a tip.

  11. I don’t get it. The information is ok as long as it is difficult to get to? What’s the evil here, the availability of the information, or the method of dissemination?

  12. frankly, I’m about as libertarian as can be….but I’m not going to stick up for these ‘citizens’ (as Howley refers to them). fuck pedophiles….and if you spend anytime making life easier for them…fuck you too.

    Leaving aside the question of whether convicted pedophiles who served their time might be rehabilitated or repentant, what about the guy who slept with a 15 year old who lied and said she was of legal age? Does he deserve this? That guy gets tagged for the rest of his life just the same as this guy.
    Some little hottie lies to you, then for the rest of your life the gov’t is calling your neighbors to tell them you are a pervert. Fuck you.

  13. Wait, what I meant to say was…
    Won’t someone please think of the children?

  14. “Won’t someone please think of the children?”

    It sounds like you are thinking of the children. It just happens to be 15 year old ‘hottie’ children.

    Real men can tell when they are being lied to by a 15 year old. Picking them up from high school should tip you off in the future.

  15. Yes, highnumber, the category of sex offender is far too broad. It encompasses monstrously evil freaks like Goldberg and some surfer who got busted for two seconds of nudity while changing out of a wetsuit on a beach.

  16. It encompasses monstrously evil freaks like Goldberg and some surfer who got busted for two seconds of nudity while changing out of a wetsuit on a beach.

    uhhh….no it doesn’t

  17. Sounds like highnumber’s been doing a lot of thinking of the children…dressed in their Catholic schoolgirl uniforms.

    No seriously, highnumber’s comment was the one I was going to make. A “sex offender” can be a guy wrongly accused of date rape by coeds who drink more than they think. And I’ve also heard of vindictive and bitter ex-wives who wield trumped-up accusations of child sexual assault as a means of slamming the door once and for all on their ex-husbands’ custody cases. The “sex offender” label doesn’t provide enough information about their histories to make it worth violating the civil rights of every single one of them. And the truth is, their histories aren’t our business: protecting ourselves and being a little more street smart, that’s our business.

    I don’t have a warm, fuzzy spot for pedophiles, but I do have a warm, fuzzy spot for telling America’s “I’m-too-busy-to-parent-my-own-kids” parents that there’s really no gubmint substitute that’s ever nannyish enough to make up for a lack of parental vigilance. Um, hello.

  18. When I was 18, I had a 14 year old pick up on me at the after-hours club. I didn’t know she was 14 until I finally visited her at her parents house. This girl was nearly taller than me and fully developed. She didn’t seem like the brightest bulb in the pack, but she didn’t seem to be 14, either.

    We never had sex, only made out and stuff. Funny thing is, her parents were totally cool with us hanging out. However, that first day I visted her at her house was the last day I ever hung out with her. Finding out she was 14 was kinda creepy.

    What’s fucked about this is that the government is going way above the call of duty to notify people of pedophiles. There’s got to be a double-jeopardy problem or something with someone being considered a criminal after they’ve done their time and probation. Here in Tempe, they sent out fliers to notify the neighbourhood about some kid who was supposedly a sex offender.

    Anyway, this kind of treatment of “sex offenders” started after I was a crim justice major in school, so I don’t know what the rationale is behind it. I think, as someone said above, if someone cannot be trusted to be rehabed, then they should remain in jail. Otherwise you should be allowed to live your fucking life.

  19. “frankly, I’m about as libertarian as can be….but I’m not going to stick up for these ‘citizens’ (as Howley refers to them). fuck pedophiles….and if you spend anytime making life easier for them…fuck you too.”

    Yeah. And fuck Fitzroy Barnaby, too.

    http://desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050706/OPINION01/507060334/1035/OPINION

  20. When I create my libertarian paradise, protections for sex offenders will be the last thing on my list of to-do’s.

  21. Even IF the definition of sex offender is overly broad, that would be a definitional problem with the term ‘sex offender’. That has nothing to do with whether or not neighbors have a right to be informed (regardless of method).

    With your argument, if we fix the defintion of ‘sex offender’ to be less broad…we’ve fixed the problem, right?

  22. Duh,

    Real men can tell when they are being lied to by a 15 year old.
    Do you know any real men? or are you speaking from conjecture?
    For the record, I have never committed a sex crime, but in college, I came close. I was 19, she was 15. She told me she was 17. She looked it. She hung around college parties. Everybody knew her. The first time I met her I thought she was a freshman at the university. Luckily, she told me the truth before anything had happened, but how the hell was I to know?

  23. frankly, I’m about as libertarian as can be….

    Why do you believe that all “sex offenders” are pedophiles? And really, if you trust the government to always accurately label someone as a “sex offender” (a guy seen urinating in his backyard, gay men having consensual sex in an automobile, and as mentioned, 19 year olds having consensual sex with 15 year olds have been given “sex offender” status), then you’re really about as un-libertarian as can be.

  24. Huh,

    I do believe that this sounds way too nanny-statish, and that the current treatment of these criminals who have served their time borders on persecution. If we can be sure that there is no hope for a pedophile to be rehabilitated and repentant, wouldn’t it be safer to institutionalize them forever?

  25. That has nothing to do with whether or not neighbors have a right to be informed (regardless of method).

    Why do you feel neighbors need to be provided this information beyond having it available to them? Why do you feel the government should use extra tax dollars to make extra efforts to give people information that is already easily available to those inclined to find it? Libertarian, you said?

  26. then you’re really about as un-libertarian as can be.

    I stand corrected. Ladies and Gentlemen, Les here has the capability to discern my entire politcal stance with the reading of exactly ONE typed sentence about ONE specific portion of ONE specific topic. Bravo, sir.

    Ironic that you make this sweeping judgement while asking me if I’m making a sweeping judgment. Brilliant.

  27. Huh, you’re absolutely right. I should have said,

    “…that position is about as unlibertarian as can be.” That would have been more accurate.

    Now, if you could explain why you want more tax dollars spent to help people who don’t need it and why it is you implicitly trust the state to accurately restrict the freedom of certain people who have been through the criminal-justice system, I might be able to better understand just what kind of libertarian you are.

  28. Why do you feel the government should use extra tax dollars…Libertarian you said?

    So if if didn’t cost anything extra it would be ok?

    What if it were cheaper to blanket e-mail the entire city? Would that make it better?

    Would that be more libertarian?

  29. I hate to do this to you, bro. But I gotta go. I’m not ducking you. Sorry for being crass at times.

  30. the problem with sex offenders is they are like sheep fuckers…nobody is going to stand up and say “My friend is a sheep fucker and he has the right to love his sheep”

    not going to happen

    “My Friend slept with a 15 year old when he was 20 but he served his time and now he has the right to to his privacy”

    Never going to happen

  31. It’s an emotional issue, huh, no worries. I just think the government is handling it the same way it handles most every other issue. It promises to protect people and assures them that it can never do enough to protect them, even when it’s better for the government than for the citizens it claims to protect.

  32. The Horn Dog LOVES this idea:

    1) Horn Dog likes to keep tabs on the competition.

    2) Horn Dog likes knowing who will be throwing the really fun parties.

  33. Remember the 1980s? There are people who, decades later, still believe that there exist organized rings of Satanic child molestors.

    A broad, murky definition of “sex offender” is like liquid opium to such upstanding citizens.

  34. Horn Dog finds roofies to be more practical than liquid opium. Cheaper, too.

  35. “When I create my libertarian paradise, protections for sex offenders will be the last thing on my list of to-do’s.”

    So, Jason, you admit that you favor special protections for sex offenders! What’s wrong with you?

    Kidding aside, the fundamental question is: should the government be spending coerced money (you know, taxes) to call people up to give them vague and prejudicial information about their neighbors?

  36. I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong with being told what crimes my neighbors have committed. I guess “the right to do jail time without anyone knowing about it” must be one of those hidden constitutional rights, probably sandwiched between the right to free medical care and the right to private phone conversations with people in enemy nations.

    Yes, people get charged with crimes they shouldn’t be charged with. That’s a separate injustice in need of redress. But letting child rapists remain anonymous because of the remote chance of innocent people winding up on the list is just silly.

  37. Wow, DB, that’s a strawman smorgasbord! Delicious!

    Who here has said that anyone should have “the right to do jail time without anyone knowing about it?”

    Who here has suggested that “child rapists (should) remain anonymous?”

    What we’re arguing against is the government needlessly spending more tax-dollars to re-supply the public with readily available information.

  38. Here is some food for thought(personally, I’d prefer a phillie cheesesteak):

    Well this is quite an issue. First off, let’s look at this issue through the eyes of the current law and then compare it to the treatment of all other kinds of offenders. It is believed that sex offenders are so out of control that once released, they will continue to commit their sex crimes. The obvious rejoinder is “keep them locked up”. However, are their recindivicism rates that much higher than most other criminals(according to a 2003 Econimist article, no)? If they are not, why are we informing the public about them over murders or other violent offenders? Also, and this is a fact I do not know, does a rapist of an adult, much like a child molester also have to register as a sex offender? If not, then it seems that there is an age bias in the current law. Are we not suppossed to be equally protected?

    Secondly, the broad range of what is considered a sex offender. In broad theory, the 21 year old guy who fucks the 17 year and 364 day old girl and the pervert who molests his 8 year old step child both have to technically register as sex offenders. Those are obviously very different cases. One is a scumbag, the other is just some dude. The only possible argument for them having to share the same shitty boat is,”Listen, you have to draw a line at some age. At a certain point when you keep going lower in age, no one can possibly consent to sexual acitvity, so you must pick a point that a person can resonably be said to have control of their own bodies. Also, you must pick an age that most people who engage in sexual activity with an adult are soley responsible for their behavior. Analogy: A few 16 or 17 year olds may be able to give better reasons than some old folks as to why they would vote for a certain canidate, but the majority of minors opinions are less informed than the majority of the elders. We don’t want a world run by teenagers. Haven’t you seen ‘Over The Edge’ with young Matt Dillion? It’s the one with that bad ass Cheap Trick playing over the credits”

    But there is a fly in the oinment for the above pro-sex offender law arguent: Biology, history, and the various age of consent laws throughout the U.S. and the world. From a purely biological stand point, wouldn’t it make sense that anyone of a certain age where they can produce offspring(and they do show the physical signs of this which make them have more in common physcally with full grown adult than child) could reasonably elicit a natural sexual attraction (assuming they’re not all Jan Brady looking)? The obvious response to this would be “Just because something is natural does not make it acceptable. Didn’t you see the ‘African Queen’? We may have a natural instinct to exact revenge, to punch if we fly off the handle, or even to cheat and steal. This is why have have society. To foster is beneficial and to discourge and stifle what naturally maybe bad.”

    The Glenn Quagmire response could be “We’ll, it wasn’t till recently that people gave a thought to their age of consent laws. Women were having babies in their lower teens for many years, You have to have people to help you tend the farm.”

    The 18+ crowd says, “The world is more complex today. Because of technology, specialization and all the education it entails, the onset of adulthood has been delayed. You can’t possibly hold down a job and make babies in today’s world just be cause you’re naturally of age to. That is why a minor shouldn’t get involved with an adult. They are in two different worlds. 20yo and 15yo were in the same boat back at the farm or in the cave all those years ago, but not now. Too much potential for exploitation due to difference in status.”

    Well, is that true? Why then(beside the legal answer of states rights) does age of consent vary state to state? In the U.S. it’s mostly 16-18? Theft, murder and flat out rape are illegal in all states and in any civilized nation. Looks like the U.S. age of consent is mostly cultural, especially if you consider that it is even lower in Canada and in most of Europe. Are their teens who eff older folk growing up scarred and becoming anti-social deviants? With a lower age of consent do these nations have a decadent and exploitive culture? Is it possible that the U.S., despite all it’s porn and free speech might actually be neuortic about sexually and nudity? Also,keep in mind almost all AOC laws cut it off at a pubescent age. There seems to be no modern culture that legally condones having sex with children.

    What does all of this seem to indicate? If you’re of an age that you can produce children (or beyond it) you are bound to be horny and want to have sex (Marsha Brady totally wanted Davy Jones’junk). The good lord made you that way. Acting upon it is different. It all depends. Even though there should be a legal distinction between adult and minor, there is a distinction between teenager and child. Other cultures outside the much of the U.S. seem recognize this. Why does this matter? Because the Adult male who effs the 17 year old and the pervy,scumbag, pre-pubescent molesting uncle do get jettisoned in the same boat. So does the 18 year old who gets caught screwing his 16 year old girlfriend(his peer!). This was written for anyone who doesn’t care about what happens to “sex offenders”.

  39. Hey Cab,

    Did you see Balko’s link, you fucking moron.

  40. Hey “The Real Bill”

    Yeah, I saw his link. I stand corrected, I thought you said that a surfer changing on the beach and having two seconds of brief nudity would forever be branded a sex offender given the overly broad nature of the definition.

    Waaait a minute. I just re-read your post…..you DID say that. So I’ll say again…..uuhhhhh, you’re wrong.

    Where I am from, exaggeration to make a point is called ‘a lie’.

  41. I guess most of what I would say about this has already been brought up by previous commenters. I’ll just say that this goes to the heart of my qualms about the criminal justice system.

    I don’t think that favoring draconian sentencing for felonies is, in principle, inconsistent with “libertarianism” (not that that is the standard that decides my positions- I don’t claim, anymore, to be a libertarian, exactly- I only claim to lean that way) provided that a narrow range of crimes is considered felonious, and that very few people are wrongly convicted. I don’t expect either condition to hold anytime in the near future.

    I do believe that people who commit certain really terrible crimes should not expect to enjoy many rights beyond a fair trial- in fact, I would have no problem with the death penalty if certain conditions could be met. I just don’t trust the government to classify what constitutes a “really terible crime”, or the court system to regularly administer fair trials.

    I wouldn’t be bothered by the Maryland program much if the categorization of “sex offenders” weren’t so broad. There is a huge difference between someone who forcibly rapes and murders a child and someone who has the bad luck to catch an aggressive proecutor who charges them with a sex crime for taking a whizz behind a dumpster (or, as another commenter mentioned, briefly exposing themselves while changing on a beach). I think the latter should be a misdemeanor- I lived in NYC long enough to be impatient with people peeing on the street- but I certainly don’t want to ruin someone’s life over it.

    The question is- practically speaking, on which side should we err? I’d like to think that people are sensible and alert enough to distinguish, in a statutory sense at least, between the child rapist and the accidental nudist, but the evidence suggests that they are not. I don’t have a problem with local tax money being used to notify people that someone who has committed violent sexual assaults has moved in next door to them.

    By the way, I think that in this context parroting the taunt “… for the children…” is remarkably stupid. The taunt has force in cases where there is a very tenuous connection with the welfare of children (often the case when people invoke “the children”). It has less force when the subject is people who rape children.

  42. wow, Tagore…well wrtitten, well thought out, and well mannered. Are you sure you belong here?

  43. It’s political.
    In my usually,at least on that subject, saner state of WV, the Governor (Manchin, R) recently called a special session of the legislature to get a law similar to Maryland’s passed. It is very populist taking advantage of a misinformed public’s hyped-up anxieties.
    He’s got the Democratic legislature on the run on this one, no way any politician can vote against it, no matter how unworkable or full of questionable tactics the law may be.
    Sex offenders=pedophiles, no PR guy could find a better way to vilify a hapless group of people to the level below Untermensch. Every society needs someone to hate. Continually expand the list of offenses, no better way to control the public.
    Some day we will look back and say: How did this collective hysteria happen? Just like the satanic ritual sex abuse cases of the 1980s.

  44. Tagore,

    The “for the chidren” line is not a taunt, I believe. It is a way of pointing out proposals and measures whose advocates hide behind the children to get their often misguided ways.
    Nobody is for raping children and I don’t believe you wanted to imply that. One point of this thread is that the laws passed often don’t have a thing to do with protecting children.

  45. I just want to put a facial tattoo on child molesters. That would be more effective than some silly registry.

  46. I was shocked yesterday when I passed the Trib building, to see this headline scrolling across:

    “proposal to make it illegal for sex offenders to live near bus stops”

    So there really won’t be any legal place for them to live, soon. Maybe we should just keep them in jail.

    But one more point:
    And I’ve also heard of vindictive and bitter ex-wives who wield trumped-up accusations of child sexual assault as a means of slamming the door once and for all on their ex-husbands’ custody cases.

    Hang on! We’re talking about CONVICTED sex offenders here. Though I’m sure it sometimes happens, it isn’t that easy to be convicted of this sort of thing on false charges. Likewise, all of these “I was 19 and she was 17 and she lied!” cases don’t usually end up as sex offenders if the sex was consensual. Let’s at least debate it honestly.

  47. linguist,

    Though I’m sure it sometimes happens, it isn’t that easy to be convicted of this sort of thing on false charges. Likewise, all of these “I was 19 and she was 17 and she lied!” cases don’t usually end up as sex offenders if the sex was consensual. Let’s at least debate it honestly.

    How many Fitzroy Barnaby’s do there have to be for it to matter?
    And it doesn’t take much digging to find stories of consensual sex leading to a conviction and subsequent permanent sex offender status. I think it is honestly part of this debate, although the issue of how the real pervs get treated after serving their time is also worthy of discussion.

  48. Yo Cabbie!

    Balko’s link shows an example that is similar in degree to the case I brought up. Sorry, but I don’t have a link to the surfer case that occured in California a few years back. Feel free not to believe me. The point is that the category of “sexual offender” is overly broad.

    (Brief public nudity can get you labeled as a sex offender. Try it if you don’t believe me.)

  49. Balko’s link shows an example that is similar in degree to the case I brought up.

    No, it is not similar in degree.

    Sorry, but I don’t have a link to the surfer case that occured in California a few years back.

    Of course you don’t, because it never happened.

    The point is that the category of “sexual offender” is overly broad.

    Probably…but if it is so broad, why make up examples rather than using real ones?

    (Brief public nudity can get you labeled as a sex offender. Try it if you don’t believe me.)

    I surfed yesterday (chest high, choppy, walled up on the inside, but fun)…changed in and out of my wetsuit…I’m fine. In fact, a violation of the pertinent code section would be a class 1 misdemeanor – the equivalent of wearing a thong in my city. Nothing near ‘sex offender’ status.

    FWIW, here are the pertinent code sections for my city (they should be read together). I’d be interested if any other City’s ordinances on nudity are more stringent than this:

    Sec. 22-1. Violations of article generally.
    Except as otherwise specifically provided, a violation of any provision of this article shall constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor.

    Sec. 22-10. Public nudity generally.
    (a) As used in this section, “state of nudity” means a state of undress so as to expose the human male or female genitals, pubic area or buttocks with less than a fully opaque covering, or the showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any portion thereof below the top of the nipple.

    signed

    fucking moron

  50. Wrong. The case did happen.

    Anyway, calling you a fucking moron was out of line.

    (Lucky for you that the public nudity laws in your area are reasonable. This is not true everywhere.)

  51. I could’ve been cooler as well. peace.

    I’m still interested if anyone’s local nudity ordinance has a more severe penalty than a class 1 misdemeanor.

  52. Huh?

    Of course real men can tell when 15 year old hotties are lying to them. Well, mostly they can tell. It’s less in the looks than it is in the conversation.

    You can argue that thrity-something guys shouldn’t be sleeping with teenage girls, but that argument cannot rest upon the inability to give informed consent. OTOH, anybody that diddles a 7 year old deserves to be nuked–or worse.

    Shotgun Sings The Song Regards, TWC

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