April 30, 2013 at 8:11 AM, updated April 30, 2013 at 8:13 AM
Is Sex Offender Registry evil gossip or public safety? Ethics and Religion Talk
"This week's Ethics and Religion Talk considers whether Michigan's Sex Offender Registry is an appropriate public safety tool or a form of evil gossip.
“Given that a sex offender registry list does not give a lot of useful information about the individuals on the list and, in fact, may give false and misleading impressions about them, is it ethical to keep such a list and make it public?"
Rabbi David Krishef consults an attorney in this week's column, then shares his thoughts along with the Rev. David Christian.
Given that the Public Sex Offender Registry is the law in Michigan, I consulted an attorney, Susan Gellman, who has experience working with sexual offenders and practicing in constitutional law. Here's her response:
"We don't have registries for arsonists, con men, thieves or even killers. Having them for sex offenders is based on pandering to people's emotional but irrational feelings, not facts or probabilities.""
"The Sex Offender Registry might be ethical if it only listed individuals who have been determined by a professional to constitute a high risk to society. Only a small percentage on the list (pedophiles [sic]) have a high recidivism rate [sic]. The vast majority, however, have a recidivism rate comparable to or less than that of other crimes.
"The Sex Offender Registry, as currently constituted, lumps all sex offenders together as if they all pose the same risk. A sexual predator is placed alongside a 17-year-old who had consensual sexual relations with a 15-year-old. The average person who doesn't read the list carefully or understand the nature of the degrees of the offense is likely to think that everyone on the list is a danger to society. In this Internet era, the reputation of a person on the registry, even one who has served his time and properly repented, will be forever smirched. This is lashon hara, evil speech."