Civil Liberties

And Who Will Check the Apples for Razors?

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In Texas and several other states across the country, law enforcement officials are engaging in the annual pre-Halloween ritual of corraling and branding "sex offenders" to prevent them from molesting kids while handing out candy. The efforts include arrests (typically for violating registration requirements or residence restrictions), confinement to police stations during trick-or-treat hours, and mandatory posting of signs declaring the homes of sex offenders candy-free zones. In South Carolina, A.P. reports, registered sex offenders "cannot give out candy or have their outdoor lights on." New York goes further, decreeing that sex offenders "can't answer the door to trick-or-treaters, have Halloween candy in their possession or dress in costume" (italics added). When do sweets legally qualify as Halloween candy? Minis presumably are contraband, but what about fun size?

There is little rhyme or reason to this crackdown, which does not distinguish between registrants who have a history of sexually assaulting children and those who have never shown any inclination to do so. Furthermore, as Scott Henson notes at Grits for Breakfast, the sex offender roundup diverts police resources from more pressing concerns to address a hazard that is vanishingly unlikely to materialize:

Such programs are all about playing to the media, not public safety. Kids trick or treating are more likely to be hit by lightning while going door to door than they are to be abducted by a registered sex offender.

There's only one [documented] case in the history of the planet where a child was abducted by a stranger while trick or treating (in Wisconsin in 1973). In that instance, the killer had no prior record and wouldn't have been on any sex offender registry even if it had existed….

By comparison, how many drunk drivers are out on Halloween? How much vandalism and other youth crime occurs that night while police attention is focused on tracking sex offenders?

They can say this is all about protecting children, but if authorities really wanted to protect kids they'd protect them from actual, demonstrable risks that occur in the real world.

Henson's advice to parents:

Let the kids go get some candy and have some fun, for heavens sake, and if you're worried what will happen, tag along. It's called "parenting."  

Jesse Walker noted Halloween hype about sex offenders back in 2006.

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  1. I was thinking about putting one of those signs on my door to keep the kids away.

  2. A friend of mine has wanted*, for years, to go to the grocery on halloween and buy a bag of apples and a box of razorblades just to see the reaction. Ive told him Im willing to film.

    *but not in the sense of actually doing it.

  3. But what if my Halloween costume is “Sex Offender”? What then?

  4. This crap is just mass hysteria.

    When I went begging in ancient times (’60? – ’67) I was told to never, ever, under no circumstances, enter somebody’s home. I was also taught to look before crossing the street every time and to always, without fail, say thank you. Ages 8-12 can go out on their own, age 13 and up go to a party at a friend’s house or you stay home (and munch on the candy you pass out).

    That pretty much covers the rules I layed down for my own kids as well. Halloween safety (and manners) in three short, no nonsense, sentences.

  5. robc,

    Don’t forget the taffy!

  6. Instead of candy, hand out condoms… to the kids’ parents.

  7. When I went begging in ancient times (’60? – ’67) I was told to never, ever, under no circumstances, enter somebody’s home. I was also taught to look before crossing the street every time and to always, without fail, say thank you. Ages 8-12 can go out on their own, age 13 and up go to a party at a friend’s house or you stay home (and munch on the candy you pass out).

    Nah, those were still the rules in my neighborhood, in not-so-ancient times (’84-’90). I think it went topsy turvy sometime during the nineties.

  8. So are these razor totin’ apples socialists?

  9. Nah, those were still the rules in my neighborhood, in not-so-ancient times (’84-’90). I think it went topsy turvy sometime during the nineties.

    Have you had the high school trick-or-treaters show up at your door too? Don’t you just want to jap slap them?

  10. When I was a kid, they forced kids like me to take long bus rides to socialist schools.

  11. This is my costume.
    I’m a sex offender.
    They look like everyone else.

  12. Here’s what I’ve been doing the last few years. I load up a prescription pill bottle with M&Ms. I put on the tie-dye. When the kids ring the bell:

    them: Trick or Treat!
    me: AHHHH! Oh wow man, you scared me.
    What do you want?
    them: CANDY!!
    me: Candy? I don’t think I have any candy
    Oh but wait. I’ve got something just like candy… Only better

  13. When I was a kid, they forced kids like me to take long bus rides to socialist schools.

    Stop it, you’re scaring the home-schooled kids.

  14. uncle pro is mean, he gave us NIGHTMARES!!

  15. The high school kids are probably trick-or-treating just long enough to find a house that sells candy, instead of one that just gives it away.

  16. The fundamental question here is, if these “sex offenders” are so dangerous and present so much of a risk to society that they need to be put on a watch list and/or other measures why are they even allowed out of prison in the first place????

    Wouldn’t we be better off just incarcerating them forever, or better still executing them outright?

  17. What sucks is that in many areas there aren’t any kids trick-or-treating at all any more.

    Last year, I decided to hand out the most expensive chocolate I could find just for the lark of introducing kids to some quality chocolate. Nobody showed up.

    That you have to live in a suburb to find kids trick-or-treating is a depressing commentary on the denizens of cities. IMO, less so the crime than on the hypocritical attitudes of parents who want to live the urban lifestyle, but deny their kids the fun of childhood cause they think the city is an unsafe place for kids to roam around.

  18. Let the kids go get some candy and have some fun, for heavens sake, and if you’re worried what will happen, tag along. It’s called “parenting.”

    Hmm… Sounds tough.

    /First time parent of a week-and-a-half boy. 😀

  19. http://sexoffenderissues.blogspot.com

    Yep, this is nothing but a moral panic and mass hysteria, like the 70’s and 80’s poison candy scare, which turned out to be bogus.

    It does nothing to protect anyone, except further shame and humiliate the offenders.

    Plus, most states, this is only for those on parole or probation, and not for all sex offenders.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_panic
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_hysteria

    If the lights are out at the house, GO ELSEWHERE, and if you are so scared for your children, then BE A PARENT AND GO ALONG WITH THEM! Stop letting the Government dictate your life, and incite fear for political gain!

  20. I just love the sex offender threads at hit and run. I’m going to get some popcorn and read all of the great comments about how sex offenders, children, and candy go together just fine.

  21. Wouldn’t we be better off just incarcerating them forever, or better still executing them outright?

    Don’t worry… sometime in 2010 or so, Congress will pass the Insert Name of Murdered Child Here Act which will allow for this. In order to help with our massive deficit, some cost-cutting measures will be added to the bill, dispensing with trials, appeals and all that jazz.

    It’s for the kids, so no politician in his right mind would oppose it.

  22. It does nothing to protect anyone, except further shame and humiliate the offenders.

    The horror!

  23. So are these razor totin’ apples socialists?

    Racist!!!

  24. I wonder if the new TSA-run airport security X-ray machines do as good a job of catching razor blades in candy bars as they do catching anything else.

  25. /First time parent of a week-and-a-half boy. 😀

    Congrats, Danny. 😉

  26. Wouldn’t we be better off just incarcerating them forever, or better still executing them outright?

    I’m with you…36? of electricity and problem solved.

  27. If we spent half the time we spend inventing new pillorys for sex offenders on preventing rapes and prosecuting rapists, we could do a lot of good.

    How many date rapists and other sleaze go on to lead happy lives? “Sex offenders” are rare, but sex crimes remain depressingly common.

  28. Franklin,
    During the late 70’s and the razor blade, laced candy scare my elementary school provided xray machines to scan our apples and volunteers to examine our candy. The next year they suggested we abandon trick or treating entirely and show up at the formal event put on by our school that offered no candy but “fun and games.”

  29. Publicly and loudly raging against dem damn preverts is a tried-and-true method for a politician to make himself look good for the mouth-breathing public without actually accomplishing anything.

    If I may say something positive about South Carolina (cuz I live here and all), Governor Sanford at least attempted to veto the atrocious DNA collection laws the legislature just passed without him.

  30. This will mean nothing to most of you, but ElectraWoman’s twin sister gave us candied apples for Halloween back in the 70s. I mean her actual twin, not some similar-looking woman. Possibly the most “celebrity” laden apartment complex in a small city in America–Dick Howser and Paula Hawkins lived there around the same time.

  31. the mouth-breathing public

    On a completely unrelated tangent, I’ve always wondered what the epithet “mouth-breathing” is supposed to mean.
    Is there supposed to be something wrong with breathing through your mouth? Are nose-breathers supposed to be superior in some way? What about people who wheeze, or have sinus problems? Where is the justice for them?!!

    Does having a deviated septum automatically lower my social standing?!! And how is that fair?

    Mouth-breathers of the world unite!!!

  32. I always thought a mouth-breather in this context was someone who was overly excited or on edge about something. You know, since people tend to breathe through their mouths when excited.

    It also could refer to the fact that the “de-lites” are more likely to work in the sort of job where you have to breathe through your mouth to endure the stench.

  33. Send all sex offenders to China.

    No one wants them in the neighborhood.

  34. So if I put a giant black-and-orange “REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER” sign out in front of my house, I won’t have to deal with trick-or-treaters, or worry about getting my house egged if I don’t answer the door?

    Sounds like a great idea!

  35. This will mean nothing to most of you, but ElectraWoman’s twin sister gave us candied apples for Halloween back in the 70s.

    So, in other words, you had someone in your neighborhood in the ’70s with whom I would have liked to have reenacted “The Summer of ’42.”

  36. I cannot think of any good reason why pedophiles should be forbidden from giving candy to children. It seems like an activity that they would enjoy, and since they are not the compulsive, drooling, sex-crazed weirdos everyone thinks they are, it wouldn’t cause harm to anyone. An exception would obviously made for that small minority who are aggressive, sociopathic, or have any history of ‘abduction’ crimes.

  37. I’m planning to hand out candy cigarettes to the kiddies. Should make for some interesting conversations from the parents.

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  39. they are not the compulsive, drooling, sex-crazed weirdos everyone thinks they are, it wouldn’t cause harm to anyone. An exception would obviously made for that small minority who are aggressive, sociopathic, or have any history of ‘abduction’ crimes.

    Franklin98, please elaborate. Except for “drooling.”

    Compulsive/sex-crazed seem good descriptors of people who continue to seek others for sexual experiences they know to be wrong.

    So do you think the pedophile doesn’t think seducing children is wrong? That would make him sociopathic, which you deny.

    Or is it that you think having sex with children is not wrong? That would make you sociopathic. No offense meant, just a fact that should adduce to your self-knowledge; a fact that “weirdo” is an unkind way of paraphrasing.

    Seducing children in itself entails aggressiveness, however non-violent or subtle. It also entails abduction, however local and temporary, in that it deprives the child of rightful protection by responsible caregivers.

    So there’s my flat response, which I am fully willing to believe belabored the irrelevant obvious because I missed your meaning, and/or because I have no in-depth knowledge of the subject.

    Perhaps you were addressing a contemporary overdiagnosis of sex-offenders, such as in the homogenizing assimilation of all consensual teen sex to exploitation; if so, I missed the implication. Possibly I was taken in by a joke. At the very least my take on your post signals a predictable misunderstanding, which I’d be happy for you to repair. At a safe distance, thank you.

  40. “Mouth-breather” is a reference to someone who constantly lets their mouth hang open, a testament to their shock and awe at a world they cannot comprehend. It’s a fancy way of saying stupid.

  41. Anarch,

    It hink that franklin98 is saying that most pedophiles are capable of interacting with a child without raping him/her on the spot.

    Thus, children showing up at their house to collect candy as part of the Halloween ritual probably does not pose a risk to the children.

    Most pedophiles commit their assault after a period of grooming their victims. Halloween night does not lend itself to that sort of grooming.

    Of couurse, what we commonly call pedophilia today isn’t all pedophilia, which describes sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Nor are all the people being forced to put up signs sex offenders who have attacked people under the age of 18. Urinating in public, for example, can land you on the sex offender rolls. Gay sex with another man in a public bathroom can get you on the rolls. While pretty icky, and compulsive, these behavors don’t imply that someone is about to start kidnapping little boys and going John Wayne Gacy on their asses.

    It, like most laws, is a stupid law.

  42. Pro Lib,

    Lucky!

  43. Wait a minute — so I’ve been letting people call me a mouth breather all these years, thinking it just means I’m excitable, when it really means stupid?!

    Excuse me, I’ve got a whole bunch of ass to kick.

  44. Of course, my dentist probably doesn’t count for all the times he’s like “cunnivore, mouth breathing irritates your gums! Stop it!”

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  46. Can an unregistered mouth-breathing Electra-Woman fetishist get a little love on Halloween?

    (actually I’m more of Judy Strangis fan)

  47. Last year, I decided to hand out the most expensive chocolate I could find just for the lark of introducing kids to some quality chocolate. Nobody showed up.

    I hate it when that happens, and I’m stuck with bags and bags of top-shelf chocolate.

  48. That you have to live in a suburb to find kids trick-or-treating is a depressing commentary on the denizens of cities. IMO, less so the crime than on the hypocritical attitudes of parents who want to live the urban lifestyle, but deny their kids the fun of childhood cause they think the city is an unsafe place for kids to roam around.

    I live in a city, and get a lot of kids each year. I think last year we gave out 55 preped bags of candy.

    However, since there are over 100 apartments in my apartment building alone, maybe kids just get from their own buildings withoutwandering to other buildings? My kids usually come home with 15 or 20 pounds of candy apiece, and that’s just from our building.

    I always felt bad for the kids in suburbs, who can ring 5 doorbells in the same time a city kid can ring 50 doorbells.

  49. anarch, your knowledge of pedophiles, sociopathy, violence, sexuality, and everything else is way too definite and unambiguous. It leaves no room for complicating and contradicting facts. It is philosophically dead, all law and no human variety and depth. This is the source of bigotry and misunderstanding in the world, and although I could explain a great deal about how things tend to work in society, in the law, and in the minds and lives of pedosexuals, there is really no point in me attempting this with someone who is inclined to call me a sociopath based on ideological differences.

  50. 55 preped bags of candy.

    That sounds ominous. “Prepped” how?

  51. Franklin98, as I wrote, I meant no offense. I’m surprised by the proposition (so to speak) that adults having sex with children might be an OK thing to do. I confess I can’t get my mind around it with my present, admittedly limited, state of knowledge. Since you can’t reasonably expect me to accept on faith your avowal that it could be okay – ie, non-sociopathic – to approve of adults having sex with children, unless you or another spokesman takes the trouble to justify it, I will have to remain stuck in my prejudices, if that’s what they are. I suppose I needn’t point out that my view (just this once) seems to be widely shared. I encourage you, in the interest of truth, to confront it boldly if you believe it’s an oppressive one, and be prepared to encounter at least initial skepticism when your assertions violate conventional morality.

  52. Thanks, tarran. I’m thinking, as I try usually to think, not about the law, but rather [when the gummint lets me distinguish] about ethics irrespective of legal sanctions. Since that’s the order on which Franklin98 responded, albeit to demur, I seem to have been on the right track, or a right track, although in his belief headed in the wrong direction.

    As a practical matter, and the stakes (to provincials like me) being high, since grooming could begin on Halloween – I can’t think of a more opportune public festival – I’d steer my kids away from Mr. P.’s attractive nuisance.

    What I was calling, and what I assume Franklin98 was calling pedophilia, was pedophilia.

    I agree, as I noted in my first post to F98, that many unrelated offenses are misleadingly and damagingly subsumed to others, and I agree that (at least) most laws are stupid. Hence my handle.

  53. eCurmedgeon: “The fundamental question here is, if these “sex offenders” are so dangerous and present so much of a risk to society that they need to be put on a watch list and/or other measures why are they even allowed out of prison in the first place????”

    You and your damn logic. Our whole economy is built on waste and idiocy – we start doing things logically, and we’ll be richer while doing less work, and healther and happier – now what kind of life would that be???

  54. anarch, my opinion is that sexual contacts between minors and adults, within some cultural/familial/sexual paradigms, do not violate the conventional morality therein. My opinion also questions the construct of Childhood Sexual Abuse, produced within the social and legal sciences of the anglophone west, as a fixed and universal category to be applied imperialistically to such contacts across all cultures. As the foundation for the questioning of the Childhood Sexual Abuse category, my opinion opens up a substantial body of narrative and ethnographic evidence that children and adults involved in inter-generational relationships that included sexual contact later described these relationships in positive and non-abusive terms. Finally, my opinion wishes to illuminate, and perhaps question, the power of the political-legal-scientific ‘complex’ to devise and utilize conventional narratives and formulas of knowledge in cases of the perpetrators and victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse.

    My opinion could be characterized as a broadly based but specifically focused interrogation of the entire post-Victorian model of understanding and controlling the sexuality of the population.

    My opinion will not be discussed on its merits, because we are caught up in the pressing concern as to whether holding it constitutes sociopathy. To my knowledge, a political opinion such as mine has never been the basis for a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, but I would love to hear how you intend to make that case. I might even be convinced to turn myself in for thought crimes if you can show how my questioning of social norms is likely to cause imminent disregard for the wellbeing of others.

  55. That sounds ominous. “Prepped” how?

    It’s not as scary as it sounds. Two chocolate candies (e.g. kit kat/milkyway) a hard candy or lollipop, bazooka gum and a tattoo all tied up in a plastic baggie.

    yum!

  56. my opinion is that sexual contacts between minors and adults, within some cultural/familial/sexual paradigms, do not violate the conventional morality therein.

    Of course not “therein.” By definition not “therein.” It would be incoherent if they violated their own paradigms. It’s the validity of a pedophile’s imposing such paradigms on trick-or-treaters that’s in question.

    Franklin98 @ 2:42 pm, again assuming you’re not joking – I do not feel caught up in any concern, pressing or otherwise, about the sociopathic quotient of your opinion, precisely because that quotient is to be derived from, rather than determine, the merit of your opinion. Were I to voice an opinion that offended some social norm, I should be prepared to be met by general opposition until I had proven my case to my opponents. Some people regard “Taxation is theft” as a sociopathic sentiment, some regard in analogous light consensual sadomasochism, deep ecology, behaviorist pedagogy, racism, discretionary abortion, euthanasia, and other unpopular views that, clearly having given unpopularity some thought, you can probably list more quickly than I.

    I read your approval of pedophilia not as “political opinion,” but rather as ethical opinion. There are many practices that can merit disapproval-that-doesn’t-translate-into-legislation. I hear you answering rather than questioning social norms; it is I who am questioning yours.

    The ethical case I make for abstaining from sex with children is hardly original nor arbitrary. It builds on respect for a child’s developing autonomy, recognition of the irreducibly interventive nature of erotic contact (an intervention that other contexts can make fruitful and welcome), and the obligation to treat other subjects primarily as ends rather than means. I’m sure you’re familiar with such principles; you seem here to disagree about their application.

    Sexual interest directed toward those who are not autonomous and therefore incapable of reciprocating discretionally is a sign, so far as I know, of an underdeveloped sense of self, one that seeks the low-stakes or no-stakes game of advancing upon those who can’t reject them; that’s victimization, and approving it is sociopathic.

    Many “cultural/familial/sexual paradigms” merit disapproval, including those universally condemned in this forum when the topic of their practice arises. Pedophilia, which you were defending, concerns that younger subset of minors called children – on the other side of any gray area not only in this here anglophone West. Sparing one’s children contact with pedophiles on Halloween is hardly to export one’s reservations “imperialistically to such contacts across all cultures.” The charges of imperialism, that is, opportunistically instrumentalizing those incapble of retreat or defense, would seem better to apply to pedophiles than to people who believe pedophiles have no right to gratify their desires with children. That’s also where I locate an unwarranted “controlling the sexuality of the population,” – namely pedophiles controlling the sexuality of children. I don’t see much ambiguity about their targets’ disproportionate vulnerability; I confess to sensing, in the profession of altruistic motivations for initiating children into sex, a rationalization for extreme selfishnes, but will keep my mind open.

    I don’t know to whom you, or whatever pedophiles whose claims you represent, would turn yourself in to in order to correct uncharitable and self-deceiving thoughts; I wouldn’t recommend the State. I don’t know enough about current psychotherapies to suggest any. My counsel would be to stay away from children you are tempted to engage for sex.

  57. anarch, I remain intrigued by your innovative theories of sociopathy. I am entirely new to this way of thinking, and I wish to be put in touch with your most esteemed colleagues at the venerable institution at which this theory has been developed. Whereas academic psychologists previously labeled as sociopathic certain behavioral patterns, chiefly the lack of empathy and the inability to internalize and act according to social norms, we now learn that ‘sentiments’, ‘uncharitable and self-deceiving thoughts’, and ethical inquiries themselves can be evidence of an antisocial personality disorder. My interest in the genesis of this body of thought is only surpassed by my excitement in considering the opportunity it affords to the elites within criminal and legal psychology to expand the regions of their surveillance and produce new diagnoses of great pertinence to the state.

    After I receive your scholarly elaboration, I would also love to explore your enterprising contributions to political theory, particularly in regards to ‘pedophile imperialism’ and the difference between political opinion and ethical opinion.

  58. labeled as sociopathic certain behavioral patterns, chiefly the lack of empathy and the inability to internalize and act according to social norms, we now learn that ‘sentiments’, ‘uncharitable and self-deceiving thoughts’

    I am unable to envision uncharitable empathy or self-deceiving charity.

    and ethical inquiries themselves can be evidence of an antisocial personality disorder.

    If I thought your inquiry wrong, I wouldn’t have encouraged or joined you in it. I’ve already told you that what seems wrong to me is not your inquiry, but rather certainly particular answers to your inquiry that you’ve produced here.

    My interest in the genesis of this body of thought is only surpassed by my excitement in considering the opportunity it affords to the elites within criminal and legal psychology to expand the regions of their surveillance and produce new diagnoses of great pertinence to the state.

    We share – I suppose – a low opinion of the State, and, I suppose also, a lower opinion of expanding its surveillance. The only way I know of converting statists is by demonstrating that the services they support are unnecessary; that individuals are capable of exercising discrimination (in the good sense) and self-control, and entrusting them to do so will produce results superior to those produced by coercion. Thus, successful private philanthropy must prove more efficient in relieving the distress of the poor than governmental confiscation and distribution of property; an armed citizenry must behave civilly in order to be more secure than a population dependent on state-monopoly of deadly force; and fostering a culture of respect for persons must preserve their dignity better than public surveillance and monitoring. Conversely, shoplifting, by showing the untrustworthiness of liberty, invites the centralization of commodity-transfers, violent gangsters provoke the disarming of the populace, and people who seduce children provide others with the rationale and appetite for external authorities’ regulating adults’ access to their targets.

    I would also love to explore your enterprising contributions to political theory, particularly in regards to ‘pedophile imperialism’

    As I explained, pedophilia is a private, individual, psychological version of imperialism: guerrilla imperialism. Tyranny can be entrepreneurial, and the failure to self-govern at the individual level is what makes hegemonic governance appear an attractive alternative to exploitation, and necessary in the absence of self-regulation through voluntary responses to individual conscience and compassion. These in turn require agents to practice self-honesty regarding their motives for acting.

    and the difference between political opinion and ethical opinion.

    You need to ask this on a libertarian forum?

    Ethical opinion regards choices individuals make, including voluntary associations; political opinion concerns the justification of force or the threat of force by agents holding a monopoly of power to compel compliance. Applied to the case at hand, political opinion would prescribe in what ways pedophiles should or shouldn’t be involuntarily prevented from having sex with children, while ethical opinion addresses whether pedophiles should or shouldn’t seek opportunities to influence children by acting on their pedophiliac impulses.

  59. From your last comment it is clear, then, that you did not understand how my opinion IS in fact a political opinion. It is a political opinion because it offers resistance to forms of power that bear on human sexuality, that construct not just norms and values, but entire frames of knowledge and discourse around the sexuality of people. In fact, the very ‘pedophile’ you seem to know so much about is a (relatively new) social construct, as is the entire economy of sexual deviance that you so unquestioningly reproduce in your analysis. I will not, then, give any credence to your claim that pedophilia is ‘guerrilla imperialism’, because it does not seem to me that you have even scratched the surface of the meaning of of the categories you wish to put into equivalency.

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