An Excerpt from the New Book "Unprecedented: How Sex Offender Laws Are Impacting Our Nation"
Many believe tougher sex offender laws are the solution to eradicating this plague in our society. But Derek Logue, a civil rights advocate says, “Sex offender laws come with a heavy price; vigilante violence, homelessness and unemployment, social ostracism, and stress are just a few of the negative consequences facing not only those forced to register, but also those loved ones who support the registrant.”
One serious consequence of the get tough on sex offender laws is the effect on families, facing the issue of sexual abuse, feeling they must face the problems by themselves. Instead of seeking and getting help, they crouch in fear of the system. They struggle in silence and as a result, suffer immeasurable pain. They keep it a “family secret.” Large numbers of these crimes never get reported. It is devastating but some are willing to endure any amount of pain to protect the offender and family from the emotional and financial bankruptcy that occurs when the state intervenes. If it is reported, the current laws (or should we say flaws) are so harsh it makes it nearly impossible for a family to stay together. They stand to lose everything – savings, jobs, homes and each other.
In 2010 America is shocked by yet another horrifying crime – this one allegedly committed by a known sex offender in California. Police arrested John Albert Gardner III for the rape and murder of Chelsea King, a beautiful 17-year-old girl who was out for a jog in a San Diego park. Before the ink dried on Gardner’s arrest warrant, Chelsea’s parents were crying out for more laws to protect children. They were demanding increased tracking of sex offenders through electronic monitoring, and within days a draft of the new law was prepared to go before the California legislators. It will be called Chelsea’s law. That law has now passed. The Kings have also vowed to take it to the federal level and, if that failed, go state by state. Of course, the news media and local politicians were all over it. News coverage of sex offenders with any kind of violation flooded the TV screens. State politicians were pointing fingers at each other. Some started to advocate lifetime tracking of sex offenders through GPS.
Chelsea’s murder was devastating, not just for the Kings but for all of us. When something this horrendous happens, Chelsea becomes everyone’s daughter. Each of us feels to some degree the loss felt by the Kings, leading to a sense of greater vulnerability.
All the hysteria surrounding this case is reminiscent of a lynch mob in the old West! No doubt that’s one of the main reasons Judge Danielsen placed a gag order on everyone involved. Anger, hatred, and fear were driving decisions and creating new and harsher laws before the man charged with the murder was even brought to trial.
Andy Kahan, a crime victim advocate from the Houston, Texas area, blamed Chelsea’s death on a system failure. He believes creating more laws won’t help, and he said, “I get sick and tired of naming state laws after victims of child molesters. Think about all your state laws. You have Jessica's Law, Megan's Law, Ashley's Law, the Amber Hagerman Act, etc., etc. It's pretty sad that we continue to name these laws after dead children who were taken by offenders.”
We think those comments just about sum it up for all of us. Indeed, the system has failed. We’re all sick and tired of hearing about little girls and boys murdered at the hands of sex offenders, known or otherwise. Seeing their pictures and their grieving parents all over the media breaks everyone’s hearts. Victims deserve better laws! We all deserve laws that are effective.
Most would agree that they’re sick and tired of living in fear. Americans are becoming afraid to let their children ride their bikes on the street or go out of the house at all. They won’t let them out of their sight for fear they may be snatched up by predators lurking everywhere! No one wants to live this way! That is, no one except those profiting from the mass hysteria and fear. Fear sells books and alarms systems, increases media ratings, and garners easy votes for politicians. At what point do we stop and ask ourselves what we are doing wrong? When you step back and consider that America represents approximately 6% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s incarcerated, it’s obviously time to do something different. Law after law has been passed, so why do crimes like Chelsea’s still occur?
Obviously creating more laws hasn’t prevented them from happening. We’ve created harsher laws and longer sentences to what end? The rapid development of for-profit private corrections facilities might give us a clue. Dr. William Marshall of Canada, an expert on this topic, tells countries that consult him on sex offender issues to do the exact opposite of the U.S. Over fifteen years ago, when all the hysteria over sex offenders was rising to a crescendo, Dr. Jerome Miller, the Clinical Director of the Augustus Institute for Mental Health, warned that as laws become harsher, more and more sick individuals will be pushed further into their own perversion. They will have nowhere to turn for help. Sexual offending will only “grow more dangerous and egregious.”
These monsters kill in an attempt to cover up their crimes. While crimes like Amber Hagerman’s and Chelsea King’s are rare, they may increase, as Miller predicted, because of our own fear and hatred – our drive to hunt down and punish ALL sex offenders!