Wednesday, January 6, 2016

International Megan's Law

In case you are not aware, the United States House of Representatives was in the process of considering an 'International Megan's Law', HR 515. You can view its status here. Essentially, the point is to prevent 'sex tourism', and the way that lawmakers intend to prevent it is by stamping 'sex offender' on the passport of anyone who has ever been convicted of a sex offense. It does not matter what the sex offense was, when it was, what the person's risk is, or anything. If they have violated statue X, they will get the stamp.

I have read two opinion articles about it already- here and here. One likens the bill to Hitler and Germany's labeling of the Jews in WWII, and the other rips the idea of putting further punishment on a certain class of criminals with a low recidivism rate and low risk to the general public. While I agree with both articles, I think more must be said. That is why I am writing a post, in the middle of the week, after I have already worked an 8-hour shift.

This issue cannot be taken lightly for a host of reasons. The biggest reason in my mind is that sexual offending- of any kind- thrives on secrecy. I have written about this recently, and hinted at it many times. However, I think it stands repeating. The beliefs that lead to the thoughts and decisions that are sexual offending will only do so in secrecy, without running those decisions past support people and without anyone knowing about it.

This begs the question- just what is it that drives this secrecy? I believe that the stigma against where the thoughts lead to, what the thoughts are, and the social sanctions against it are a large part of the reason these secrets are kept. Without a safe environment to share them in, regular Joe- sorry Joe- becomes a sex offender. Without a support system, Joe's thoughts about children become action. Without anyone to say to Joe, 'I have been through that, and there is help, and you can manage this with that help', Joe will be that much less inclined to get that help.

How can someone seek help if they do not know it exists? Why would they seek that help if they believe people will see them and treat them as a monster for being honest? Why be honest when it means being a monster?

The issue with sex offender laws- particularly this blatant labeling with an International Megan's Law if it is passed- is that it drives people into secrecy, away from feeling a part of their community, and away from help. In addition, the text of this law would require forced speech, of the same kind that successfully changed California's DOC mandate to probation/paroled offenders to have signs up during Halloween. A lawsuit and constitutional challenge would be inevitable if this law is passed.

Currently, this bill is sitting before President Obama for signature or veto. I can only hope that our president is wise enough to see the implications of this bill.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated to ensure a safe environment to discuss the issues and difficult content in this blog.