Yes, sex crimes are serious, and the public has a right to protect itself from such violations. But when does protection cross the line and violate the rights of offenders who are trying to rebuild their lives after a sex assault conviction?
Does a cell phone application that plots the locations of registered sex offenders cross that line and endanger offenders' safety?
Many new laws and requirements have been put in place over the past several years for offenders living in our communities, including strict rules about how close they can live to schools or parks. Studies have shown that those laws have landed many offenders on the streets, a scenario that leaves all involved in a less secure environment.
Another groundbreaking development in the realm of sex offender laws has been required sex offender registration, which leaves many offenders left to deal with the dangerous stigma placed upon them by the public. To intensify that situation, a computer program was developed that is free to the public where they can type in an address and see where registered sex offenders of all levels live.
It was just a matter of time before that technology would progress and became available for consumers to hold in the palms of their hands.
The "app" is available for various cell phone systems and plots the exact addresses where registered sex offenders reside. Last month, the "app" was the buzz because it was being marketed as a way for parents to ensure that their children could have safe trick or treating trips. But what about the safety of registered offenders or those who live with them?
Since sex offenders are so severely stigmatized by the general community, some in the public cannot be trusted to behave responsibly if they know where a registered offender lives. By making their locations more and more accessible to everyone, it is likelier that registered offenders will become victims of violence and harassment. And because many of them probably live with other family members, not only is that consequence dangerous for the offenders, but it is devastating for their family as well.
Our justice system is based on the hope that all offenders can be rehabilitated and be stable, contributing members of society. Convicted of sex crimes or not, ex-offenders deserve the chance at a fresh start free from fear of their neighbors.
Myfoxhouston.com: "Phone App Puts Spotlight on Sex Offenders," Ned Hibberd, 28 Oct. 2010