The above is a spoof on the original Tim James video, which has since been removed by Tim James from YouTube. Wonder why? Anyway, we created this one, from the original, before it was yanked. See this blog post.
By Lenore Skenazy
If anything, the sex offender registry is making our kids LESS safe.
Recently I consulted my local Serial Killer Registry and found out I'm living next door to a guy who killed three lunchroom ladies when they refused to give him seconds on the chili!
Oh please. I'm kidding. There's no registry of murderers out there. There's no armed robber registry either. Not even one for drunk drivers. No, the only easily available registry for all Americans to consult is the Sex Offender Registry.
Because ex-sex offenders are so much scarier than murderers?
No, the reason there's now a sex offender registry in every state--most of these lists dating back only to the 1990s--is that sex offenders have become the focus of intense parental fear. Who could blame us moms and dads, when we hear about kiddie kidnappings 24/7 on the news? The problem is not with nervous parents. The problem is with the registries. Turns out, they're worse than useless.
They are making our kids LESS safe. How? Well, there are three big problems with the registry.
1. The first is that we have not decided, as a country, which crimes we really want to see registered. And so, in five states, a man can end up on the registry for having sex with a prostitute. In 13 states, it is a registerable offense to urinate in public, and in 32 states, it's just as bad to be caught streaking. Yes, streaking. That means that when we look at a little map of our neighborhood and it's covered with red “Sex Offender” dots, there's often no way of telling whether the guy down the block is a child rapist or a jerk wearing a headband (and nothing else), bent on re-living the Carter years.
Seeing a bunch of dots is enough to make us lock our kids inside, where they get fat, bored and addicted to "Halo 3," because we think it's "Halo 3" outside. Goodbye, any sense of community! Which is ironic because community--knowing and looking out for each other--is exactly what makes neighborhoods safer.
2. These lists waste our cops' time. Police are unable to concentrate on the very worst offenders when they have to keep track of ALL offenders, even the ones who once peed on a tree.
There are almost three quarters of a million people on the sex offender registries now. But according to a study done by the hardly soft-on-crime Georgia Sex Offender Registration Review Board, only 5% of the 17,000 sex offenders in that state were “clearly dangerous” to children, and among them, only 100 could be classified as “predators.” (See spreadsheet here)
So here's an idea, says Adam Thierer, president of the Progress & Freedom Foundation, a market-oriented think tank: Why not make a “Scum of the Earth List” featuring only the scummy 5% and let the other 95% go streaking on their merry way? Save time! Save money! And, oh yeah: Save lives!
After all, maybe one of the reasons Jaycee Duggard was allegedly imprisoned for 18 years by a known sex offender was that an overburdened police force couldn't concentrate on creepy Phillip Garrido and the hut behind his house. They were too busy with the 100,000 other Californians on the registry.
This brings us to the third problem: The list keeps growing.
3. Perhaps the gravest danger posed by the Sex Offender Registry is how very easily your own child could end up on it. Consider the case of Ricky.
Ricky was 16 when he met a girl named Amanda at a teen club. She said she was about his age. They hit it off, started dating and ended up having sex, twice. A while later, Amanda ran away from home. When she thought the better of it, she went to the police. They questioned her and found out about Ricky.
Amanda, as it turns out, was only 13. So when the police tracked down Ricky and he admitted they'd had sex, he was arrested. Though Amanda's parents did not want to press charges, the district attorney did. In the end, Ricky took a plea to avoid jail time. Now he is registered as a sex offender. For life. There are thousands and thousands of teens like him on the list.
It is hard to get anything--an education, housing, job, even a pew in church (because offenders are forbidden to step foot anywhere children congregate)--when you're a registered offender.
An 18-year-old senior who has sex with his freshman girlfriend can end up on the list. A 19-year-old who sleeps with his underage sweetheart can end up there, too, even if they plan to get married. In a blink, boys go from normal, horny teens to official sex offenders on the registry--a registry that sounds so helpful.
But is all screwed up.
Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and founder of the book, blog and movement, Free-Range Kids.