Monday, March 16, 2015
What do you do when everything you do is predicated on fallacies?
A sheriff in Graham County, North Carolina, has made national headlines by sending letters to the twenty registered sex offenders in his jurisdiction telling them they were not allowed to attend worship services at any of the counties’ houses of worship and citing a state law having to do with places where children were supervised.
Fallacy number one: “To all sex offenders…” [letter from sheriff; emphasis mine].
Fact: All designated as sex offenders, based on a requirement to register, did not offend against children. This is overkill; with only twenty registrants, could not case-by-case individualization be managed? A blanket restriction against “all” will encompass sexually active and sexting teens, those with adult victims, and those whose behavior falls in the "public nuisance" or "college-boy stupidity" categories--and of course those who are innocent and were wrongly convicted.
Fallacy number two: “I don’t like them around little children…” [a local minister]. In addition to violating fallacy number one, it assumes that anyone who has previously offended, even against children, will not be able to resist pouncing on any child who comes into his range of vision.
Fact: Almost all child sexual offense is against children with whom the offender has a close relationship and takes place in either the victim’s or the offender’s home, not with random children in public places. Additionally, very few registrants living in the community will commit an additional offense. In fact, specific to North Carolina and according to the North Carolina Sex Offender and Public Protection Registry, based on searches performed as of May 6, 2007, “Manual searches (by county) using the new criteria yield some of the lowest recidivism rates ever disseminated by any law-enforcement establishment. In the entire state of North Carolina there are only 71 recidivists shown on the registry, if incarcerated offenders are included. Per-county results for "registered"-status offenders (compared with "recidivist"-status offenders) on the North Carolina registry yield actual convicted recidivist percentages ranging from zero to a fraction of one percent.”
Fallacy number three: “ ‘You are not permitted to attend church services,’ the letter read, citing a law that prevents offenders from being within 300 feet of premises where minors are supervised” [letter from sheriff].
Fact: Proximity restrictions, along with residency restriction, are totally unsupported by any study or any empirical evidence. The idea that a 300-foot barrier creates a “child-safe zone” is ludicrous. If a child safe zone that was effective were to be created, it would have to separate the family members, the peers, and the authority figures from the child to be protected.
Fact: Until we are willing, as a society, to demand that all legislation is grounded in facts and evidence, we will continue to be bombarded with ineffective laws that eat up our resources but do nothing to work toward public safety or toward the betterment of our society.