Wednesday, April 22, 2015

For sex offenders, not the way

Is the New York Post on a vendetta against those on the sex offender registry who are not breaking the law or in violation of requirements but are trying to find a place to live and get their lives back together?

On April 19 they printed an article about the Bellevue Men’s Shelter and the registered citizens living there. Possibly they were using some degree of restraint--they were into the second sentence before they resorted to using pejorative language to describe these citizens.

"Degenerates." "Perverts." "Sex fiends."

The incorrect information the headline conveys seems almost benign after reading those words.  Does the Post know that those on the registry do not have restrictions placed upon their residency choices once their sentences, including probation and parole, are completed unless they have individual conditions imposed at sentencing? This is not a loophole in the law; it is the law.

Then, in an attempt to top themselves, on April 24, this appeared criticizing yet another city shelter for housing registrants. This time the gloves were off; restraint is thrown out the window with the opening sentence. The rhetoric is the same as the previous article; only the epithets are different.

"Filth." "Creeps." "Criminals." "Deviants."

Everyone, even media outlets and those who write for them, are entitled to their opinions. And there are places for expressing those opinions--the editorial section or a blog, like this one. However, that is not where these articles appear. They are in the metro section--city news. Are the days of fair, unbiased news reporting slipping further and further into the past?

Every state values the rehabilitation of felons. Is the Post trying to make New York an exception? Even though sex-offender laws and practices are seldom based on facts and evidence, those who make and administer these laws, and those who report on these laws, know that society is safer when former offenders are successfully assimilated into the wider, law-abiding community. Does the Post not agree with this goal? Or does it believe that the way to accomplish this is to belittle, degrade, and insult those most in need of help, acceptance, and a feeling of worth? Does the Post believe that citizens who feel shunned, ridiculed, and worthy of being called the vilest of names will be more inclined to embrace the values of the society that makes them feel that way?

Based on the frequent state of flux that registered residents of these and other city shelters experience, this is quite possibly not the best situation for those in need of stability and continuity in their lives. It may well be that to maximize the rehabilitation of this portion of New York’s citizens and to improve public safety for all that alternate situations should be sought and budgeted for. But first those responsible for shaping public opinion must recognize that they are dealing with human beings, flawed as all humans are, but fellow citizens who deserve to be recognized as such.