Florida Sex Offenders Forced To Live Under A Bridge?

Florida Sex Offenders Forced To Live Under A Bridge?


You may have heard about this before, and one Florida lawmaker is finally doing something about it.

Yes, I realize these laws are meant to prevent repeat offenses, but either up the penalties for those offenses or just leave them be. Once somebody gets out of prison, that should be it. End of story. If they commit another crime it would be tragic, but we have gone WAY too far with these laws and who can honestly defend forcing people to live under a bridge?

Also, let’s not forget that there are plenty of really stupid sex offender laws out there too. People get locked up for doing some fairly innocent things.

The Economist takes a closer look…

In all, 674,000 Americans are on sex-offender registries—more than the population of Vermont, North Dakota or Wyoming. The number keeps growing partly because in several states registration is for life and partly because registries are not confined to the sort of murderer who ensnared Megan Kanka. According to Human Rights Watch, at least five states require registration for people who visit prostitutes, 29 require it for consensual sex between young teenagers and 32 require it for indecent exposure. Some prosecutors are now stretching the definition of “distributing child pornography” to include teens who text half-naked photos of themselves to their friends.

How dangerous are the people on the registries? A state review of one sample in Georgia found that two-thirds of them posed little risk. For example, Janet Allison was found guilty of being “party to the crime of child molestation” because she let her 15-year-old daughter have sex with a boyfriend. The young couple later married. But Ms Allison will spend the rest of her life publicly branded as a sex offender.

The problem is…these laws will only get harsher because what politician in their right mind will try and soften them? This guy in Florida who’s suing the state is certainly a brave guy, but let’s remember that this has been going on for 2 YEARS. That’s how long it took for this to become enough of an eyesore for somebody to make a case that it’s hurting the economy.

What do you think?

  • Mike A.

    Are our laws based on fairy tales? “Who’s that tripping over my bridge?” roared the troll”?

    What’s next, locking harlots in stone towers in the middle of the Black Forest?

  • http://centristcoalition.com/blog/ kranky kritter

    By now, I thlnk we are all familiar with the sorts of sympathetic cases you cite, of folks who probably represent no real risk to others. BUt it seems unlikely to me that these folks represent more than a sliver of the folks on the list, which also includes molesters and flashers and other hardcore pedophiles.

    The sympathetic cases that you cite are evidence of how badly things can go awry when Americans are incited to support inflexible, quick-fix, zero-tolerance style regulations. Conservatives seeking to demonize judges have sucessful convinced people that judges should in many instances not be able to exercise discretion. Judgement, in other words.

    But unless we allow judges to exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis, any law is no better than a fishing net, analogy wise. The fisherman decides how close together the strands of the net are. The closer together, the more likely you catch what you are fishing for. And the more likely you catch unintended things too.

    I am not convinced that the “scarlet letter” approach to pedophiles and other sex offenders has made things much better.Sex offenders must either be incarcerated or if let loose, monitored long-term, due to the high likelihood of recidivism. Forcing them to the shadows and the margins of our culture seems to me likely to make them more dangerous.

  • mike mcEachran

    Another example of how pandering to a frightened base winds up distracting from the cause itself. The economist gave some sobering statistics that show that the percentage of truly dangerous offenders on the list is incredibly small. Registering every 18 year old who had concensual sex with another younger teanager is distracting law enforcement from monitoring the truly dangerous. Not to mention the lives that are ruined for relatively minor offenses. How many issues are like this, where the populous shoots itself in the foot to satisfy over-reaction? Ug!

  • http://ShadowofDiogenes.blogs.com/shadow/ Paul

    I realize that a peeping tom is no where near as bad as a child molester, but a lot of Americans do not make the distinction and I understand their reasoning . The term itself (sexual offender) immediately brings forth a strong reaction or sheer disgust once someone mentions it. Pedophiles and rapists need to be watched and accounted for, but there does need to be some tort reform with respect to the different classifications of “Sex Offenders”.

  • DK

    Even if someone completed their sentence for the particularly heinous crime of child molestation, it is not realistic to forbid that person from living anywhere but under a bridge. If anything, that will make those people harder to track, and perhaps even entice them to re-offend since they will feel that they have already permanently damaged their life and so there’s no point in walking the straight and narrow.

    If we as a society aren’t prepared to have ex-child molesters who have served their time living amongst us, then we should lock them up for life, first offense. Anything else is a half-measure.

  • Eric

    Paul, that is nonsense.

    It is very simple, if the dangerous sex offenders are truly so dangerous as to need public identification, monitoring, being accounted for, limited in place of residence, there is a very simple way to handle this, and that is to keep them incarcerated because it is the most effective, safest way of achieving the stated goals of all that monitoring and whatnot.
    If they are not dangerous enough to require incarceration, then none of the rest applies.

  • DK

    I think the problem is that everyone believes rapists & pedophiles have high rates of re-offending, which freaks everyone out. We don’t believe this about murderers, who don’t suffer these sorts of problems upon release. Basically, released “sex offenders” are treated as if they are already guilty of re-offending, which leads to laws like this one (which probably came about because a bunch of people called their congressman when they found out they lived near a sex offender, due to those public databases).

    But it’s not fair to assume someone will re-offend after they served their time and thus permanently subject them to unreasonable hardships (such as being unable to live anywhere). However, since this appears to be the prevailing mindset, I think right answer is to seperate the heinous sex crimes from the non-heinous ones, and anyone convicted of a heinous sex crime should probably go away for life. Anyone else should do their time, and be released with nothing more than the typical criminal record any non-sex offender will get.

  • http://centristcoalition.com/blog/ kranky kritter

    But it’s not fair to assume someone will re-offend after they served their time and thus permanently subject them to unreasonable hardships (such as being unable to live anywhere).

    Who said fair had anything to do with it? The more dangerous among sex offenders (rapists and pedophiles) have a serious compulsion. The recidivism rate is high enough to cause justifiable concern. It’s a legitimate problem. You really can’t blame folks for being more concerned about protecting innocent folks from being raped and molested than being fair to convicted offenders.

    Think about it, some innocent kid gets molested by a re-offender just released, in a waterslide bathroom. What percent of people react to such news by thinking, well, at least we were fair to sex offenders?

    If we as a society aren’t prepared to have ex-child molesters who have served their time living amongst us, then we should lock them up for life, first offense. Anything else is a half-measure.

    I am struck by how useless and unrealistic such logical absolutism is in the real world. Why? Sex offenders have constitutional rights to due process. Prosecutors face real difficulties convicting various sex offenders, and so they often bargain for a deal to get someone to plead guilty to a lesser charge rather than risk the failure to convict. The reasoning is that it’s better to get, say, a guaranteed 5 year sentence than to risk an acquittal if their evidence is suspect.

    Clearly that’s not ideal. Just as clearly, prosecutors cannot live in the ideal world, but rather in the real one. Let’s face it, if we could just a wave a wand and gain the ability to punish every serious sex offender with permanent confinement without taking the liberty of of those who deserve far less punishment, we’d have already found a way.

    In other words, I think it’s a mistake to suggest that the current system fails simply due to a lack of will on the part of the people. Instead, the problem is that there are serious constitutional conundrums.

    Damn constitution.