Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Who do we protect?

In the past two decades, Congress has passed myriad laws purporting to protect the children, and proposing punishments for those who transgress against them. While the intent was good, perhaps the targeting has fallen away from the mark. We, as a people, and our children deserve better.

Perhaps the greatest measure of efficacy of new legislation should be, not "how harshly are people punished?", but "how often are people required to be punished?" Given the nature of the laws passed, I would actually question if the expressed intent hasn't had far more detriment to the children than the danger to which they were purportedly exposed.

Government legislation cannot reach those who are intending crime. The criminal intent negates all intention of government legislation. Would it not be better to see that the crime never occurs in the first place? Would it not be better if, by the nature of the act, the criminal act never occurs at all?

How would we create this outcome? Would it be less or more expensive than the continual assaults on the rights of all? Law cannot bind the lawbreaker, only the law-abiding, and thus it has minimal effects upon those who would break the law.

It would appear to my mind that the greatest efficacy would be in education. If one teaches the children to recognize their own rights and interests, empowers them to make decisions, and validates those decisions by allowing natural consequences and the learning from those consequences, then those children are far more likely to speak up about abuse.

Likewise, when a person has abused, a crime has been committed, and the damage is done. The crime must be paid for, and paid in full by the sentence imposed by the court. This is law. Altering that law after the fact weakens the underpinnings of the rule of law. Having multiple rules for different persons at different times also weakens that rule of law via vagueness and confusion. Is it not better to deal with those who can be treated, and thereby to determine those who cannot? Is it not better to work with those who have offended, and determine their nature, and see if they are willing to put forth the work required to allow them to truly rejoin society?

One could argue that even this is not effective, but it has not yet been tried. We have focused so much on new punishments and restrictions that we have forgotten the goal. The real goal is no more victims, no more crimes. It is not to punish those who are already punished, or to make laws that bind further those who abide by law. Law cannot bind those who make the choice to break the law.

Education, however, goes beyond even law. It instills in the person individual power, allows them to make informed decisions, allows them to investigate and think, and gives them enlightened self interest in the nature of law, and its following.

When we bind an offender from churches, are we not saying 'You do not deserve redemption'? When we, in sepulchural tones, decree that they do not deserve to be enfolded in the churches who help them to understand the ethics, to base them on something outside themselves, are we not declaring that they must always be criminals?

Was it not the very task of those Christian churches to reach out to the fallen, and guide them back to the light of Christ?

We ban them from living in many places, then complain when they are found living together in the very few places they are allowed. We post their working addresses up, then complaining that they are unemployed when... we will not hire them, and complain about businesses that do. We deny them locations for rent due to the fear of public perception, then complain when they are homeless because there is no place that they may legally live.

We track them as we would an animal, then complain when they disappear from that tracking. We force them to live as animals, then complain when one of them turns and bites.

If you deny them any meaningful reintegration into society... then what reason do they have to attempt to embrace the mores of society? We should be thankful, indeed, that many of them are law-abiding at this point, and that we do not have a far higher incidence of problems.

It would be far less dangerous for the children to help them find housing, work, and stability, and give them reasons to embrace society itself, and the reasons behind society. If we continue to kick them to the curb, and prevent their integration, we cannot complain that those we reject from society do not reintegrate.

We want to revile these human beings. We want to hate them. We forget that the goal is no new victims, anywhere. By abusing them, we become the victimizers, and by denying them meaningful rehabilitation, we are as much taking on the onus of any new crimes as they do. Do not our children deserve the best possible chance at life? Do they not deserve to live in a society that fixes the problems that lead to their victimization, rather than continuing the victimization so others can be harmed?

What we should be asking is what the 'sex offender problem' says about us, our policies, and our very society.

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