Mimesis Law
27 September 2020

The Sex Offender Registry: Destroy a Person, Save a Kitten

Aug. 12, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — So there’s this kid, Zach Anderson. 19 years old. Lives in Indiana. Did something stupid, which is what kids do at 19. He went on line, to a dating/hook-up site. He met a girl that way. She was 17, she said. Lived just across the border from him in Michigan. Where he went to pick her up one day last December. So they could have have sex. Which they did. Consensually, enthusiastically even. Yes meaning yes and all.

Except, wouldn’t you just know it, she wasn’t 17. She was 14. And her mother called the cops. Who called Zach. Who turned himself in and then entered a plea to misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct. Which got him a 90-day sentence and 5 years of probation.

Which is an awful lot for being a dumbass.

He was planning to study computers and cybersecurity at Ivy Tech Community College. Nope. They took his computer. And his smartphone. He can’t have those. Not for 5 years. Can’t have them, can’t use them. No internet. His family used a screwdriver to pry the camera off his flip phone.

Oh, and he can’t be around anyone under 18, except his siblings. And then only when their parents are present. And he can’t live at home because the family lives too close to a school. And sometimes the parents aren’t home. Good parents, though. They got him a place to live by himself.

He served his days. The 5 years of probation are running. So, as it happens, are the 25 years of registering as a sex offender. Plastered on the internet. Those residency restrictions lasting that whole time. And his life?

The judge didn’t have to do it. Zach was eligible for the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, a Michigan law that would have allowed the conviction to fade away. And would have meant he wouldn’t have to register as a sex offender once his probation was over. The judge, Dennis M. Wiley, refused.

You went online, to use a fisherman’s expression, trolling for women, to meet and have sex with. That seems to be part of our culture now. Meet, hook up, have sex, sayonara. Totally inappropriate behavior. There is no excuse for this whatsoever.

It’s not like what Zach did is praiseworthy. Hell, his parents agree he deserved to be punished. But they say this is too much. Even the girl’s parents, you know, the ones who got him in trouble in the first place, think the punishment is over the top.

On the other hand, think of the children. I mean, Zach had sex with a 14-year-old girl. Oh sure, she said she was 17 (which is a year over the age of consent in Michigan), but he should have known. Probably did know. After all, he had sex with a 14-year-old. Which means he’s a pedophile. Which means he’ll rape any child, male or female, any time he sees one.

And he’ll be searching for them constantly. On the internet. On the playground. At the bus stop. Everywhere. We know that. Just know it. Ira Ellman explains.

Proponents of criminal justice reform never talk about sex offenders. They’re political untouchables subject to lifelong restrictions that continue long past their confinement, restrictions justified as necessary to protect the public from their propensity to re-offend. Two Supreme Court decisions established that justification. But they rely on a scientific study that doesn’t exist.

A study that doesn’t exist?

In McKune v. Lile, the Court rejected Robert Lile’s claim that Kansas violated his 5th Amendment rights by punishing him for refusing to complete a form detailing prior sexual activities that might constitute an uncharged criminal offense for which he could then be prosecuted. The form was required for participants in a prison therapy program; refusing to join the program meant permanent transfer to a higher security unit where he would live among the most dangerous inmates and lose significant privileges, including the right to earn the minimum wage for his prison work and send his earnings to his family. Justice Kennedy explained the treatment program helped identify the traits that caused “such a frightening and high risk of recidivism” among sex offenders—a rate he said “has been estimated to be as high as 80 percent.”

Except, well, there’s in fact nothing to it. The source, it seems, was no peer-reviewed scholarly study. As Ellman explains, the 80% was a made up number in an article in Psychology Today touting a prison counseling program cooked up by one of the article’s authors to support the other part of the claim (again made without any actual data backing it up): His program led to a vastly lower recidivism rate.

On such lies.

In fact, there is real data. Not data made up by cranks like me, but from studies by reputable scholars – and by the Department of Justice. And the prison systems of state after state. And it’s clear. Sex offenders have among the lowest rates of recidivism of any criminals. Child sex offenders? Lower still.

On such lies, we build systems that destroy lives. It’s possible to do some risk assessment. We’re not great at it, but it’s something. The law increasingly says not to bother. Risk is irrelevant to how long one must register and how onerous things must be. Put it on the internet for the world. Tell the neighbors. Everyone is equally dangerous, after all, or so it seems to those who don’t care about facts. Those like, say, Rick Jones, a state senator in Michigan who helped write the registration law that applies to Zach. Julie Bosman in the NY Times.

The law requires people to be responsible for determining the age of their sexual partners, he said, and in a case like Mr. Anderson’s, the punishment seems appropriate.

“A 19-year-old knows that you have to be very careful, and you certainly should not be having sex with a 14-year-old,” Mr. Jones said in an interview. “In my opinion, society, over several decades, has become looser. People are meeting online, and that creates all sorts of problems. Now, people have all these crazy apps where you can locate people in your vicinity where people want to have a relationship. You should be very careful.”

He said he was not bothered by the terms of Mr. Anderson’s probation, which require him to stop using the Internet for five years.

“There are lots of jobs that don’t involve computers,” he said. “There are all sorts of trades. Truck drivers, welding. There are other opportunities.”

You’re a fucking criminal. Why would you think you should be able to go to college? Don’t try to get an education. Take up truck driving. That’s the kind of job, Jones thinks, criminals, or at least sex offenders, ought to have. (Think of the opportunities at service plazas on the interstate where, by the way, the cops say there’s a lot of sex trafficking with underage kids.)

And then there’s this, reported by Maura Ewing:

On Tuesday, lonely for some company, Zach applied to the Humane Society of Elkhart to adopt a kitten. Wednesday he reported to his parents that he had failed to pass a background check.

You know, he’d probably have raped that kitty.

5 Comments on this post.

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    14 August 2015 at 7:40 am - Reply

    […] So, which of these (not to mention others) rights are you willing to give up?  The outcome of this adjudication could destroy a life. A student could be expelled from college, his transcript marked with a scarlet letter. His tuition payments, hundreds of thousand of dollars now reflected by a future debt payment, lost forever.  And a future as a physician, astro-physicist, statistician, replaced by the possibility of becoming a truck driver. […]

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    31 August 2015 at 8:30 am - Reply

    […] Fault Lines contributors, Jeff Gamso and Ken Womble, in analyzing registries’ less than savory unintended consequences, have […]

  • Lucas Beauchamp
    31 August 2015 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    Of course, his desire at age 19 to have sex with a girl who’s 14 but might look 17 means that he will have the same desire when he’s 40.

  • Jeff Gamso
    31 August 2015 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    Sure. Because everyone who’s 40 wants exactly what they did when they were 19. And at 60 and 80, too.

    Oh, and they all do the same things, also. Nothing ever changes in either desire or behavior.


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