Everyday Ethics

Everyday Ethics

Not in My Backyard–but Perhaps the Woods Behind It ?

My sense of justice vs legal ethics goes a bit askew when it comes to sex offenders. On the one hand, I believe in crime and punishment as well as rehabilitation; on the other hand, I don’t know many other crimes that are so offensive to the soul.

In Georgia, sex offenders were pushed literally the edges of society, sent to an unsupervised and unofficial camp colony in the woods because of the state’s strict laws restricting a convicted sex offender from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, parks and other spots where children gather. At least they were until Tuesday, when it seems authorities started rounding the inhabitants back up and trying to find them emergency temporary housing – I can only assume there was an outcry from local citizens after the first report was published.


Obviously, there are the inevitable safety concerns — surely an unsupervised colony of sexual predators feeding off each other’s baser instincts is a bad idea? But safety aside, was their treatment ethical?

I realize that it goes against our human instincts to sympathize or worry about the humanity of convicted sex offenders (unless, it seems, their name is Roman Polanski).
Yet we have to face reality that these people have served their time.
If we believe that there is a system set in place to rehabilitate
(something I often doubt), then we must also believe in some type of
redemption and a basic acceptance back into society.


And there lies the problem — a basic acceptance back into
society would mean ( to me) a place to live. The right to a bed.
Running water. The right to pay rent, if one should so choose or be

We need to trust that there is a system that picks up
ethically where we, average citizens as well as human beings with
failings, leave off in repulsion– a system to address the basic needs
of those humans we send back into the world after they’ve paid their
penance. For better or worse, we don’t have the option of shipping them
off to a new version of Australia. Or, should there be a harsher,
longer sentence? Perhaps something more in line with Bernie Madoff’s
150 years?

After reading this story, I don’t trust the system to answer my questions or concerns. Do you? Do
you think the only reason these men should not be living in the woods
as they were is because of the safety of those you love?

Comments read comments(3)
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David Hess

posted September 30, 2009 at 4:38 pm

All the attention given to registered sex offenders gives a distorted perception of the more likely perpetrators of sex crimes against children. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 93% of children who are victims of sexual abuse are victimized by family members or acquaintances. 94% of those arrested for the sexual molestation of children in New York State are first time offenders who are not listed on any registry. To put it another way, if a child has been the victim of sexual abuse, the odds are 4 in 1,000 that the child was victimized by a stranger who is a registered sex offender. The odds are far greater, 874 in 1,000, that the child was victimized by a family member or acquaintance who is not listed on the sex offender registry. The primary effect of sex offender registries is to give the public a false sense of security.

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Your Name

posted September 30, 2009 at 9:04 pm

You got some things wrong in your article.
> I don’t know many other crimes that are so offensive to the soul.
There are many crimes more offensive than what most sex offenders are convicted of (forcible rape, murder, torture, etc.). If you are referring to molesting young, innocent children, then I agree, but that is not what most sex offenders are convicted of. In fact, Georgia’s Sex Offender review board found that 65% of offenders are no threat to anyone. Out of nearly 17,000 registered sex offenders in Georgia, only about 100 are classified as sexual predators. Far too many crimes are lumped together to force people on the “Violent Sex Offender Registry” that are not violent, did not molest a small child or forcibly rape anyone, and pose no threat to anyone.
> an unsupervised and unofficial camp colony in the woods
If you read the news accounts, you would know they were supervised. Each offender had to report to probation weekly, and probation officers came out to the camp site (unannounced) twice a week at a minimum.
> unsupervised colony of sexual predators
Again, they were supervised. And not one single one of them is classified as a sexual predator. Try reading the definition of a predator first. It’s on the GBI sex offender web site.
> system set in place to rehabilitate (something I often doubt)
Actually, there is, it is mandatory, it works, and it is at the sex offender’s expense, not the State’s. Sex offenders pay a probation fee and are required to attend and successfully participate in years of sex offender therapy and evaluation (at their own expense) or else go back to prison. Further, while on probation or parole, they have to undergo sex offender-specific polygraphs at least once a year that are very accurate at predicting potential reoffense.
Sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rate of any felony criminals. Except for men who molest boys and flashers, after five years of treatment, non-predators rarely ever reoffend.
Georgia simply needs to limit the requirement to register to those who are serving their sentences and those few who are classified as predators or are deemed likely to re-offend. Doing that allows scarce law enforcement resources to be targted at a smaller number of people who are the real danger. The public would be better protected.

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posted February 3, 2010 at 11:14 am

This isnt just a Georgia problem. I am from NY, and have moved to several other states with my wife for work. I have a misdameanor for sex with a 16 year old girl when I was 24. I have paid for my crime time and time again, and yet still get people who dont know me that want to KILL me becuase of the online registry. People that do know me understand how bad our country is getting, saying this is more like the Salem Witch trials. Soon everyone will be on some “list” some online data base. Murderers, Abusers of animals, those that bounce checks, people who have a bankruptsy, DUI, DWI. My point is, if rehibilitation means nothing, if we cannot even go with the evidance that sex offenders are the lowest criminals to re offend then what is the point.

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