Indiana Court Blocks Sex Offender Law

"The Indiana Supreme Court temporarily blocked a new state law Friday requiring sheriffs to post photographs and addresses of convicted sex offenders on the Internet. The state Sheriff's Association had planned to begin posting the pictures and information by Monday, but the justices put the law on hold until they can decide whether it is constitutional."

What's wrong with the law?

"The Indiana Civil Liberties Union claims the law violates the rights of sex offenders, who already are listed in a registry that does not include photos and addresses. Other critics have said the changes would make it more difficult for offenders to find jobs and would expose them to harassment, violence and identity theft."

We'll track this one as we very much hope the law is struck down. Enough is enough already --we have become a nation of voyeurs and snoops.

We strongly oppose sex offender registration programs that provide information about an offender to the public via the Internet. What business does a web surfer in Oregon have looking at the record of a sex offender in say, Miami? If they have a legitimate reason to know, let them contact a law enforcement agency in Miami and get the information.

Not all convicted sex offenders are violent rapists or child molesters who society needs to be protected from. There should be some way of discerning those who are not and relieving them of the burden, stigma and economic consequences of lifetime registration laws and lifetime probation. For these offenders, once they've done their time, let them be. If they re-offend, they can be charged anew and sentenced to longer sentences due to having a prior conviction.

One of the primary purposes of sentencing is rehabilitation. Society has just as strong a need for rehabilitation as it does for punishment and deterrence, those being the other legitimate sentencing factors. (Retribution is not a legitimate sentencing factor.) Low-level sex offenders are going to be released some day--isn't it better if they have a means of supporting themselves when they get out? Oppressive and overly intrusive registration laws bring shame and humiliation which decreases self-confidence and causes isolation, neither of which is good for someone trying to re-enter society. They also keep the offenders from obtaining meaningful work--too many employers won't hire someone with a sex offense on their record.

Keep these offenders from obtaining work and take away their dignity and guess what they will do to survive? Right...they'll re-offend by committing an economic crime and it becomes a vicious cycle.

It's time to break the cycle, and thank goodness we still have an independent judiciary that can declare laws like the one in Indiana unconstitutional. We doubt we'll even have that after Bush packs the federal courts with his right-wing judicial activists.

[edited to add words in italics for clarity]

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