Public mapping and shaming of sex offenders has no redeeming social value
Patch, a local electronic news outlet, has continued its annual, indefensible, fear-mongering practice of publishing the names and addresses of people in the communities they cover who are on the sexual offender registry. Ostensibly pushed as a public safety courtesy in preparation for Halloween, after being called on the inadequacies in their promotion by the National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (NARSOL) and Connecticut’s One Standard of Justice, it is now simply an October shaming exercise with no redeeming value.
On top of that, Patch outlets falsely promote a previous NARSOL letter by presenting it as written by sex offender advocates objecting to the mapping of registered offenders. No reasonable person advocates for sex offenders in the sense that this statement declares and/ or implies. No sane person defends the acts of any sex offender. Sex offenses are crimes, and conscientious citizens condemn crimes of every kind, including sex offenses; they do not advocate for them.
More precisely, those who object to the publication of the local mapping in question are motivated by principles of justice and equity. In disputing the unjust targeting at Halloween of those registered for the conviction of a sexual crime, they do so based upon studies which conclude that no benefit is derived by the communities in which they dwell, while substantial harm is inflicted on the offender and innocent family members.
Therefore, the public mapping of sex offenders in this way not only fails to serve any salutary purpose but also is a callous and cruel exercise of the power of the press. By claiming to signal virtue, it furnishes an excuse for imposing pain. That was the habit and practice of the righteous hypocrites who burned witches in times long past. It is to discourage and denounce that barbarous conduct that advocates rally. It is the defenseless, the marginalized and the ostracized who most need protection from the wanton power of the media.
Moreover, the practice enacts a regimen which does not distinguish the disparate natures of the offenders, the extent of their offense, whether the crime was solitary or multiple or evinced a perverse savagery or not, the degree of their culpability, or the likelihood or lack thereof that they will offend again. Not all sex offenders are equally culpable, but they are tarred, indiscriminately, with one brush.
It is inhumane to treat any individual as an interchangeable unit on an assembly line. The publication serves no useful purpose. If it does not make children safer – and it is proved by empirical evidence that it does not – then its only function is to add a unique layer of punishment upon those already adjudicated and severely penalized. It is a desecration of the human person.
The targets have no adequate remedy at law, and so prior to next Halloween, the victims of this hoax, about to be subject once again to exquisite harm, ought to seek a court injunction to prevent this recurrent transgression of their dignity and violations to their rights to equal protection and fundamental fairness. Or the journalists and publishers of this demonstratively odious denigration ought to unilaterally cease and desist in the spirit of decent respect for the most vulnerable among us. In so doing they would not be advocating for sex offenders or their offenses but would rather refrain from becoming their executioners.
Timothy C. Moynahan is an attorney in Waterbury.
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