December 16th, 2009

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Sex offenses

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

In light of the DUI mugshots, Mutt suggested I look at the Hawaii Sex Offender Registry. You can enter in your address and find out if there are any sex offenders living next door. Turns out there are 20 living or working within a mile of my address, but none on my street. If you move the cursor over their names, mugshots pop up. They were all scary-looking guys.
But are they dangerous? A “sex crime” includes such things as mooning or streaking or public urination (which sounds like a drinking problem), and if your mate sends you a suggestive snapshot on your cell phone, you both may be guilty of producing and distributing pornography. Something like one-fifth of American teenagers admit that their friends have sent them photos involving partial nudity, which don’t necessarily involve sex. The law makes no such distinction however. Once labeled a sex offender, the status never goes away.
There are understandable public concerns about sex offenders. Many of them cannot help themselves and are likely to commit the same offenses, or at least think about them. There is no distinction between dangerous offenses and stupid offenses, however, and the sex-offender registries are larded with hundreds of convicted offenders. You can’t sort out the truly dangerous from the one-time knuckleheads, and states with money problems have cut back on tracking sex offenders, making the registries outdated.
The Department of Justice estimates the recidivism rate of sex offenders is 3.5 percent. The recidivism rate for drug-crime offenders is 25 percent, and 50 percent for property criminals, the guys most likely to burgle your house.
So — if the city insists on doing such things, let’s see mugshots of the neighborhood burglars. They are more likely to be a problem.