So apparently the supreme court of the great state of Kentucky has just struck down a law that requires sex offenders, convicted prior to the enactment of the 2006 law prohibiting them from living and working in certain areas (near schools, daycares and the like), to abide by the same set of laws restricting those convicted after the law was passed. In a 5-2 vote the justices ruled that it was unconstitutional according to both the Kentucky (I know, I know, I couldn’t believe they had one either) and U.S. constitutions for punishment to be meted out retroactively for crimes already committed. Attorney General Jack Conway swiftly reacted to the ruling stating that the opinion rendered creates “serious concerns about the impact on public safety” and that his office would consider taking this fight as high as the U.S. Supreme Court because, as he said, “as a parent, I am concerned that this ruling could open the door for sex offenders to be living next door to our schools and day care centers.”
Although the five justices who were successful in overturning the ban had other concerns as well (such as the laws rather broad language, grouping sexual crimes together without any sort of differentiation in regards to severity) it found that the 2006 statute was punitive in nature, thus violating the constructional ban (that’s not a typo) against retroactive punishment. The two dissenting justices, Justice Lizabeth (remember, it’s Kentucky) Hughes Abramson and Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. appalled by the decision reacted accordingly noting that in ruling as such the majority had “substituted its judgment for that of the General Assembly … with respect to a most difficult social problem,” and also that the ruling would allow “registered sex and child offenders to be completely free to live, work and participate in the community.”
Now granted, I am not a parent. But as a radically liberal individual who, like any other rational person, has at least a remote concern for humanity I was admittedly unsure what to think about this decision. I mean although I may not have any children (and although I may mostly despise them with their slow-moving school buses and habit for screaming in restaurants) I still would like for them to be able to live in a place where they aren’t exposed to copious amounts of undue harm (a joke considering how many schools in the country have become infested by gang culture). However, and I know it’s not a popular argument, we should also ask ourselves at what cost. The public ostracization of sex offenders has resulted in convicts being forced to reside in isolated housing developments (The Palace Mobile Home Park outside of St. Petersburg, FL is home to 200 residents, 95% of which are registered sex offenders) far from the lynch mobs who reside within “normal society”. And while “sex offenders” are those who download child pornography, sexually abuse children and also commit rape and statutory rape they can, in much of the United States, also include those caught urinating in public, mooning, streaking, and those who fail to prevent their own teenage children from engaging in otherwise consensual sexual activity all of which result in being designated as a sex offender, and being required to register as such on publicly available, online lists. Not to mention that grouping such individuals together, while it can be mutually beneficial for those seeking to rehabilitate and (unsuccessfully) move back into normal society, can also reinforce said perversions resulting in a community teeming with sexual violence and deviance creating an environment where recovery is all but impossible to realize.
Don’t get me wrong, I get it. These people fucked up (and fucked up royally, I know) and now nobody wants them around. Is it a safety issue? Is it punishment? Is it just a desire to get people of this ilk, the fuck out of our lives? It’s probably all three. But the fact remains that we live in a so-called democracy where the purpose of the legal system is to rehabilitate people. And by painting all offenders with the same, very broad brush, and creating forced leper colonies where they are unable to engage with any type of normalcy whatsoever I just don’t think we’re doing ourselves any favors. I understand that they’re unwanted. I can totally see the perceived threat. I know it’s easier to ship them off to the GULAG and throw away the proverbial key. But that’s not the America we live in. And it’s not the one I’d ever want to.