Friday, March 07, 2008

Libraries banning sex offenders?

Here is the story: Mayor of Albuquerque signs executive order banning sex offenders from libraries.

A hat tip to LISNews, where some of the comments are worth a look, if for no other reason than to see a few more knee-jerk hysterical reactions.

Here is my take folks. When it comes to sex offenders, I have no tolerance whatsoever. Having said that, I think a little common sense should apply. I also think we should end the hypocrisy. Allow me to explain.

The hypocrisy lies in society pretending that sex abusers don't exist, and when they do appear, that you can simply give them some light punishment, then simply make them vanish after their sentence. You can't hide a problem by closing your eyes, and this is a perfect example of trying to cover the sky with your hand. People who abuse children sexually are among the most hideous criminals. Even other convicts hate them. Society hates them, and with a good reason for they prey on the most innocent in our society. So, if the crime is so grave, as some advocates would have us believe, then you should treat it accordingly. In other words, you think it ranks up there with murder, well, give them the same sentence as murderers. Put them away for 20 to 50 years. Period. No negotiation on this one. No possibility of parole. Anyone who destroys the life of a child should be given the harshest penalty possible. So, to legislators, activists, and other interested parties, have the guts to admit there is a problem and act accordingly. Increase sentencing times and make sure they stick. None of that nonsense of a 20 year sentence, and the guy gets out in five or so for good behavior. He or she serves the whole thing. And this leads me to the next point.

Once a person has served their sentence, they are done. Their debt to society as society has determined has been paid. It means that, whether we like it or not, these people have paid for their crime, and it is time to let it go. They have a right now to remake their lives and get back into society. This includes trying to get a job, find a place to live, and many of the other things we take for granted. For many of them, the public library may well be the place where they go to find some information on said jobs or housing, or maybe find some solace. Should they be hanging around children? Probably not, but again, see my point above. If you don't want them out, maybe you should keep them locked up for longer periods of time. Otherwise, they served their time, it's time to cut them a break. Otherwise, you are simply just adding to a problem by increasing the actual risk the offender may actually offend again. If society gave its sentence, and that sentence has been paid, then it is time to stop being hypocrites by saying, "well, you went to jail, but we still want to ostracize you and punish you more." That is pretty much punishing the person twice. Like or not, those people have rights as well. As a society, we should be better than that.

Now, some may point to the sex offender registry. OK, let's look at that. It is common knowledge that all sorts of offenses will get you on the registry. Anything from actually raping a five year old boy to someone mooning a bunch of strangers for fun. Common sense has not been something found in sex offender registries. Basically, and this adds to the hypocrisy in society, we are equating the two teens who have consensual sex in the back of a car, who had the bad luck to get caught by some overzealous adult, with the monster who rapes his little daughter. The first case should be, at the most, a slap on the wrist; the second should be a very long sentence in a supermax with no parole. This would seem like common sense, but the crusaders who usually yell "think of the children" usually react out of a hysterical moment instead of actually thinking. And of course, legislators and judges who want to be seen as tough on crime to get reelected go along without thinking as well. So, if you are going to use an offender registry, at least have the honesty to make it work and to put in it the people who ought to be in it. Until that actually happens, you can't come with a straight face and say that the list is an effective tool. And until you can prove the list has been made an effective tool, you are not displaying justice.

Which then takes us back to the library. There are a lot of things that no one taught me or told me in library school. Being a police figure is certainly one of them. Yet here is the mayor of a major city, clearly acting in a hysterical fashion, banning a whole group of people from the library under the war cry of "let's save the children." Well, for one, the children would be safe if the parents actually did their job of watching them when they take them to the library. It is not the librarians' job to act as babysitters or "in loco parentis." That's what parents are supposed to do. No stranger is going to nab a kid with the parent right next to them; it ain't happening, and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise. And, if it is the parent who is the offender, this measure will not do anything since the parent can simply do his or her deed at home. See where I am headed with this? The mayor is not really solving anything other than making himself feel good by acting tough. Not to mention all of a sudden he is making librarians and library workers do a job for which they are not qualified, nor is something that they should be doing.

And for those who say, "you bleeding liberal, you want an offender in a library or a school?," reread my first paragraph. You don't want them out there? Keep them locked up. And in the most heinous cases, I will go a step further. I say the death penalty should definitely be on the table just for such extremes. Now, if those who use the "bleeding liberal" label are not actually working for things like increasing sentences and treating the crimes as they should, then they should shut up. Pure and simple. Because hysterical rantings while pretending that somehow sex offenders will simply disappear are not going to solve the problem. Banning them from the library will not solve the problem either, even if it makes a nice feel good measure, and it may end up violating their rights since society, once it let them out of prison, basically told them they can rejoin society.

So, stop the hypocrisy and use some common sense. Then again, politicians are not known for common sense, are they?

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