According to the Union Leader this week, Manchester is currently debating whether or not to ban sex offenders from being able to live near schools, playground or other places children would gather. Sounds great, but is it actually a good idea? For that matter, is the sex offender registry even a good idea?
As a parent I certainly appreciate knowing who in my town or near by towns are sex offenders, but just because you know Mr. Smith down the road is a sex offender doesn't mean Mr. Jones down the other side of the road may not also be someone dangerous we should keep our children away from. The lists only point out known sex offenders yet it is the ones you don't know who you should be most worried about.
Also there is the question of when has a criminal done their time? The 5th Amendment states, "nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb". In other words if you've already done the time the court has given you that's it, you cannot be re-punish for the same crime twice. Yet that is what we are looking to do in many cases. Criminals who have done their time and since been released are later sentenced a second time by being told they must "register" on a list. And now as in what is being discussed in Manchester, they are being told they must sell their homes and move from where they live.
The 5th Amendment also states however, "nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;". So someone convicted of a crime can be put to death if that is what is deemed correct punishment for their crime. But that's just it... once punishment is given, that's it.
Ideally then when someone is released from jail we consider them having adequately being punished for their crime. In some cases we continue the punishment after jail with probation and yes the sex offender registry but that was given as part of the sentence when the person was punished. However, those who were sentenced and punished before the registry was created are now being given a new punishment for a crime they've already done their time for. And as more and more towns seek to enact bans such as the one Manchester is looking at, that too is creating even more new punishments on top of what was already given.
There are also people who irresponsibly use sex offender lists to target ex-criminals for harassment and tormenting as was the case Gloria Hout in Manchester who had a mob of 15 people show up outside the apartment building she lives in shouting out names and even lighting a scarecrow on her wood front porch nearly setting the entire apartment building on fire. While I'm of the mind that a bullet in the back of the head is correct punishment for many of these offenders, I'm also of the mind that regardless of the crime, once someone has done their time that's it... they did their time. And in this case there were children living in that same apartment building. Who was the greater threat to those children I ask you, the known ex-criminal or the angry mob who nearly burned the building down while the children were inside?
And now if Manchester does pass the ban, Gloria and others like her will be forced to move and in some cases to sell their homes after they've already done what the court has ruled as the correct sentence for their crime.
Re-sentencing someone who's already done their time, regardless of the justification for it is not just. And in doing so as I already pointed out, it does nothing but create a false sense of security. Sex offenders are out there. Forcing those who are identified and known about to move away doesn't prevent new unknown sex offenders from moving in. The other fear is that forcing more and more restrictions on those who are known will only drive them underground. Think about it, if someone is a known criminal and they wish to continue committing the same types of crimes they were already convicted once for (or worse crimes) do you really think they would hesitate breaking others laws as well? Of course there are those who think that stopping someone doing nothing wrong simply because they choose to use their second amendment rights actually accomplished something as well. News flash, it doesn't. It makes you FEEL safe but that's it... you feel safe. Just like those at Virginia Tech felt safe because the campus banned guns. Lots of good that did.