Beliefnet
Everyday Ethics

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
able.

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?

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