Wednesday, September 26, 2007

High school streaker faces jail and sex offenders list.

In Pleasant Grove, Utah the High School was holding a Homecoming Pageant. One of the students decided to pull a prank. An old prank done for years at sport’s events, parades, or any public gathering. He streaked.

He ran across the school stage in the nude for a few fleeting seconds. People no doubt laughed. A few were shocked. And a few no doubt were horrified.

So was the student suspended? Expelled? Fined, even? No! He’s facing serious charges of lewdness in front of children. Since he did this at school many of the audience members are under 18 years of ago. He could be jailed. And worse!

Now what is lewdness? It means something preoccupied with sex or lust or something obscene. Is mere nudity now conflated with lust? It appears that the more anti sexual a society is the more it sees the human body as inherently lust provoking. Some Islamic nations are so repressed sexually that they think a woman’s bare face is lust provoking. And I suspect for the men produced by such values that may be the case.

Of course the problems for this boy are just starting. America has been in the grips of two conflicting major revolutions at the same time. On one side Americans are obsessed with sexuality. People rent porn, Senators toe tap in toilets. prostitution is all over the place. Teen pregnancy is high. VD is high and everyone preaches chastity, virginity and Jesus.

But then some of the most sexually suppressed people around are also some of the most sexually obsessed around as well. So you get people passing all sorts of stupid anti-sex laws in order to prevent others from doing what they are doing themselves. Up until a few weeks ago I bet Larry Craig would have supported entrapment schemes like the one that caught him. Mark Foley could be prosecuted for sending sexy messages under legislation he proposed.

And this kid who thought he was pulling a funny stunt is now facing criminal charges for acting lewdly in front of minors. And for that, if convicted he can be forced to register as sex offender.

His name, address and photograph will become publicly available to “warn” people about the threat he poses. What threat? There is none.

The description of his crime won’t be “streaked at school”, which people will realize is harmless. It will say engaged in public lewdness in front of minors. The legal description will make it sound like he was a wank in front of some pre-schoolers. And he will be hounded for the rest of his life. He will be denied many types of jobs because of it. Every time a child is raped near his area the police will come see him about it. He will find that many parts of the country are entirely off limits to him. He won’t be allowed to live there as a registered sex offender.

When money is inflated politicians print up more money driving down the value of the money already in circulation hence causing higher prices. Politicians also inflate in other ways. The sex offender status has been inflated to such a degree as to be almost worthless.

I wrote about Matt Bandy who was convicted for showing a copy of Playboy to another boy at school. He was made to register as a sex offender but a judge, thankfully, found that so absurd he threw it out. When two kids were found to have had sex with each other they were accused of mutual molestation and would have registered as sex offenders if another court didn’t intervene. There are teens who took naughty sex photos of themselves and were arrested for exploiting a minor (them self) and forced to register as sex offenders.

If you think the sex offender list is filled with rapists and violent offenders it is. But it is also filled with people who did nothing violent and are a threat to no one. And it can be damn hard to tell the difference.

Vigilantes can’t tell. There have been a few cases of vigilantes using these public records to hunt down and murder sex offenders. I know of one case where the “offender” who was killed had been convicted for having sex with his girlfriend. She was slightly under the age of consent and he was slightly over. She didn’t want him prosecuted. But he was and had to register since he “molested” a child. She was no child except in the legal definition of the term.

But the state put his picture and home address on the internet for anyone to find. And one man who decided to randomly kill sex offenders found this information. He drove to the man’s home since the state gave him the address. He knocked on the door and asked the young man’s mother if he could see her son. He knew the name, again provided by the state. And he had a picture of the man so he cold recognize him. Again provided by the state. And he shot the man to death. The state was considered an accomplice to murder.

One “sex offender” I read about was a man who had a sexual experience years ago with his girl friend. Again she was under the magic age and he was above it though they were almost the same age. To this day he is forced to register every where he lives as a sex offender. His victim is now his wife. They have been married for years and are raising a family. His kids need to be near a school But under new anti-offender laws most of his town is off limits to him. It is a crime for him to live near a school. So his wife and kids live by the school and every night he has to retire to a rural apartment alone.

The other thing this does is make it difficult for offenders to find employment. Now contrary to a widespread myth sex offenders actually have a lower rate of reoffending that other criminals. They are more likely to get out of jail and stay out of trouble than most former prisoners. But what increases the likelihood of reoffending? Stress, is high on the list. So the government forces them to keep moving, as the laws are put into effect in more places and makes it difficult for them to find employment. In other words it increases stress levels. Real smart!

And there is also evidence that the number of offenders who are simply hiding out from the system is going up dramatically. As the social cost of being on the list goes up the reward for not telling police where you live goes up. And more and more offenders are disappearing off the radar screen. Police are saying that it has actually become hard to find the offenders which is the complete opposite of what the law was intended to do. But then so many government solutions actually make the problems worse.

The sex offender rolls are being filled with the names of people who shouldn’t be there. It is not limited to serious, violent offenders. The term has been inflated. It has lost much of its value. And more and more innocent people are filling the list.

As the public learns that the value of the list is being eroded by this inflation they lose confidence in it. That will be good the many people on the list who shouldn’t be there (and it is questionable whether this ever should have been a public list at all). But this means that people will also not take seriously the listing of some serious offenders. And that can lead to over confidence in people they shouldn’t be confident about and harm may result.

In addition with this inflated list of offenders police are going to spend more and more time tracking down harmless individuals every time a sex crime takes place. The more harmless individuals on the list the greater the odds that the really serious threats will escape notice. The true dangers to others actually benefit from a list that keeps growing like Topsy.