What Is The Sex Offender Registry?

A question that we all must ask ourselves is, “what is the sex offender registry?” The answers that we provide in discussions are quickly assessed usually based on no fact or merit rather personal opinion or belief. Typically, a majority of replies may suggest the registry “is a tool for the community.” To me, that sounds like a safe way of skirting the question. On the one hand, some groups and advocates support registry to inform its community about violent offenders in the immediate area. On the other hand, the registry in its current form is a mish-mash of public urinators to brutally violent rapists. So we return to the question “is the registry an educational and informative tool for the community?”

Typically any individual charged with any crime in America would receive a fair trial and punishment or fine. That individual either serves time and is released to rebuild his/her life. However, for registered offenders, the balance of justice scales are entirely different. Public opinion based upon high profile issues tilt the justice scale away from the accused and punishment instead it is prison or probation carries an additional life sentence of registry requirements. Yes, it is a life sentence because even if an offender is removed from its states registry, he/she must report to any new state they move to and reregister. Additionally, if a former or active registrant decides to leave the USA for any nation, federal SORNA offices immediately alerts that nation of a known sex offender entering its country.

A fundamental problem with the current registry is that it is used for additional punishment purposes by police and prosecutors. After all, the registry was developed by those two parties which additionally tilts the scales of influence over a system that is intended to create fairness for all. I would suggest that if police and states want to save money and resources only to place violent repeat offenders on the registry. Doing so will quickly reduce a million registrants to only the most violent and chronic. The registry shouldn’t have been created as a form of additional punishment or atonement. This is why the registry in its current form is not an educational or informative tool for any community. Instead, it has been developed to be the “virtual boogieman” creating a sense of fear and costly for America and communities.

To be quite candid about the most valuable tool and resource to educate and inform communities is the internet itself. The average person doesn’t rush to a registry to look up an individual. He/She enters a name into a search engine to look at social media or other news items. If you see a few mug shots too many, then perhaps a bit of caution or discretion is suggested. It is ironic that a majority of American fear someone listed on the sex offender registry than an individual on an FBI wanted poster. That should indicate how messed up and confusing the sex registry has morphed over decades.

Wall of Misinformation

Over the past year, our news has been filled with information and misinformation ranging from alternative facts, fake news, to downright bizarre statements. An interesting observation is that such information bias has been going on for centuries. If nobody has learned lessons from the Trojan Horse, Bill Clinton’s Affair, or The Watergate Scandal then perhaps the ordinary citizen has become desensitized and accepting of half-truths.

In fact, our attention to half-truths is palpable when we watch the evening news. The first indication of our prejudices and preconceived bias is when an accused is splashed across the television screen. No matter how small or insignificant the issue the belief we have adopted is “they must be guilty because they were arrested.” At no point do media, journalists, or the public identify a segment dedicated to whereas those accused are mentioned as pardoned, dismissed, or exonerated. Doing so could bring discredit upon journalism or perhaps adjust future news feeds as after the fact. However, many countries report only guilty findings well after trials. I am not suggesting that method would be acceptable. What I am suggesting is that perhaps we need to take a step back in how we as a nation embrace innocent until proven guilty. The current scheme that society adapted is insinuating people are guilty by arrest, outrageous bond assessments and merely being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Perhaps the worst part of fake news and half-truths is when someone accuses another individual of a crime that didn’t occur. There are numerous protections both from law and media that place anonymity to those that claim to be victims. But a Trojan Horse moment is when the Duke Lacrosse players were exonerated after spending tens of thousands of dollars to prove their innocence. It was only then that the “victim” was mentioned but was never criminally charged. The wall of misinformation didn’t suddenly collapse. A reason it didn’t crash is that we are desensitized and accepting of half-truths. Instead, more half-truths and false allegations began to increase because the scales of justice protect the victim with no consequences when bogus and fictitious information is presented to police, prosecutors, and the public. The only occurrence where the wall can crumble is when the accusation affects you personally. That is when you begin yelling in a room to be equally heard and provide a rationale defense only to be silenced by numb and disinterested parties.

In today’s social media world it doesn’t take a sex offender registry to make an innocent person guilty in the eye of public opinion. In fact, a look at those accused without trial is immediately detached from the public view never to be mentioned again; unless it’s about allegations. The victim either quietly builds a coalition under the protection of anonymity or leaps into stardom without challenge or inquiry from journalists or hosts as to not bring additional scorn, discomfort or backlash from overly sensitive viewers. Prosecutors and police typically thank victims for being brave and courageous despite only taking the individuals word rather than profoundly investigating for potential holes or irregularities. Prosecutors and police are protected from immunities as well even if there is no evidence whatsoever. But if police or prosecutors discover an impropriety or issue that could exonerate an individual, it is quietly and conveniently omitted to shield its agency or division from further liabilities or internal review.

A lessons learned moment is that the general public doesn’t give a rats ass about the accused versus victims. Society enjoys entertainment value even if it has harmful effects on others.  The notion is that our judicial system is fair despite gripe about overload and cumbersome bureaucratic systems usually embraces a dark message of “you cant fight government” or “government always operates like that”. Again, we have become numb, desensitized, and far-removed from what doesn’t affect people directly because we accept wrongs as a norm. It is not uncommon for people to interject idioms such as “if you lie with dogs you will catch fleas.” However, the lowest level of humanity is slowly becoming the normative behavior as anyone can say anything without proof, evidence, credibility, or inquiry. We are quickly becoming an anarchy society with an absence of fair and reasonable government combined with a complete loss of basic rationale.

I predict a future where the sex offender registry will no longer be relevant. Instead, we will live in a world where social media and the internet will decide who is allowed to engage. There will be no need for a criminal background check because Facebook, Yelp, Google, Microsoft, and phone apps will best determine with its analytics who fits the mold of acceptable behaviors. This is not to meant to sound like a conspiracy theorist or alarmist. It is a fact that these social media indicators are already relevant and working today. With the over fifty different and propriety offender registries and police records managed differently by each state will eventually become a crazy mishmashed data service connecting to Facebook or other media providers.

Why do I say this? Because ordinary citizens have become desensitized and accepting of just about anything that sounds like the truth. We are products and no longer people essentially because some rushes to social media to voice outrage yet do nothing to actually make a difference.

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