Wednesday 18 April 2012 17.13 BST
The counterproductive catch-all of supposed sex offenders
"Misplaced anxiety about child protection makes judicial policy on sex offenders a blunt instrument that needlessly blights lives."
"None of these categories of offenders is likely to harm a child. Studies have found that only 1% of men convicted of viewing child pornography have gone on to commit a hands-on sex offense, yet they are among the most severely punished group of offenders.
The money, time, effort and manpower required to keep such broad categories of offenders (and so-called offenders) under surveillance is money, time, effort and manpower that is being diverted from monitoring those who pose a genuine threat. The argument, of course, is that when it comes to protecting children, you cannot take any chances. But there are sophisticated risk assessment tools available, and in use, that are far more effective means of identifying danger than making hundreds of thousands of people's lives unliveable.
"It's easier, though, and politically more palatable, to declare zero tolerance for sex offenders and to keep passing laws that look good on the books. Never mind if they are actually counter-productive when it comes to actually keeping children safe."
What follows, is an insightful response to the piece.
Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:14 pm
Post subject: Here is the 2009 study referred to in the article posted by Stephen above:
A very significant number of "offenders" whose lives have been
irreparably ruined by this vindictively "non-punitive, purely
administrative" measure, it would seem, are not remotely dangerous and
should never have been tortured by inclusion in it in the first place.
By dropping the compulsory derangement and hysteria defining the
dominant discourse of "child pornography" and looking more sanely and
calmly at the issue, it becomes obvious that these people have actually
"committed" something entirely trivial: clicking on a mouse. This, of
course, is the inevitable consequence of "panic law" - laws created on
the back of gigantic, media-fanned moral panics.
The imaginary monsters of moral panics really are only imaginary; but
irrational and delusional laws designed to eradicate them (such as the
poisonous and hysterical PCA 1978, which has seeded so many other
developments in authoritarian populism ever since) will inevitably ruin
harmless, gentle individuals who have hurt no one and never will.
Foolish and naive rather than wicked and depraved, they peeped at
pictures on the Net, quite possibly after having their curiosity stirred
by the campaign against child porn itself, or accidentally coming
across material that would ultimately hang them even though they were
looking for something else. They have violated preposterous and
fanatical statutes rather than human beings; but for that, they must pay
with their futures and lose all of their personal achievements.
They did not realise that the internet, at least as far as pornography
is concerned, has become a police state. Neither did they realise that
that they would be ritually "monstered" and irretrievably ruined by an
out-of-control, unaccountable, and ruthless prosecutorial system
interested only in boosting favourable statistics (i.e., getting
"successful" prosecutions, rather than securing justice).
It seems to me that the myth of prospective danger was actively
constructed by reactionary victimologist campaigners and ambitious
cyber-cops eager to build new empires; grossly biased advocacy research
and briefings to a corrupt and servile media are great ways to spread
useful (and mendacious) propaganda when you wish to build new
ideological state apparatuses.
These saviours of the vulnerable and pure have gleefully destroyed many people on the basis of what the latter might do at some unspecified (and, of course, unspecifiable) point in the future, rather than what they actually did,
with no other grounds for doing so than an ideologically convenient
fiction, repeated enough times to take on the status of a pseudo-truth.
In the UK in 2006, there were 29,973 people on the Violent and Sex
Offender Register (ViSOR), a rise of 4 per cent on the previous year (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6076664.stm). As of March 2012, that total had risen to 60,490 people, of which 31,800 are registered for life (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201212/cmhansrd/cm120322/text/120322w0007.htm).
In just six years, the number forced to register has more than doubled.
The number of life registrants alone now exceeds the total for the entire register recorded in 2006.
Lumping together people who have done no more than click on a mouse with
those who have committed GBH or rape is either insane or corrupt and
serves only to foster the irrational and destructive illusion that
everyone so registered is a malignant menace to society.
As Judith Levine put it, this vicious knavery may well not stop until
everyone personally knows a valued friend or a loved relative who has
been symbolically exterminated by being designated a "sex offender."
With the numbers on that evil register expanding as crazily as this,
that day is fast approaching.