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The sex-offender registry can be a life sentence (newyorker.com)
154 points by teslacar on Mar 19, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 122 comments

From everything I've ever read, there is no concept of rehabilitation in the USA. If you have ever been convicted, or even accused, of a felony or sexual crime in the USA then life as you knew it was over.

The concept of being able to pay a debt to society and for that to settle the books, and to then allow those people to return to society and contribute value again... is alien to America.

The problem starts with the lack of rehabilitation and not with the original incident. If a person is deprived of the hope of ever living a meaningful life again, then what incentive exists against their prior behaviour? There is no disincentive that works when a life has already been destroyed.

Regardless of what it was, drugs, sex, violence, theft, or simply going to a demonstration and being arrested when someone else kicks off and you are convicted by proximity... once you deprive people of a future, of hope, then you really start bringing out the worst in them when you could have brought out the best in them.

Is this related to fact that there are people who profit over correction services in United States ? After digging around VICE article[0], lack of rehab in US made bit sense at least.

[0] - https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/whos-getting-rich-off-the...

It is bigger and deeper than just that.

I've even seen comments on here regarding immigration that simply said if someone has ever been arrested then they shouldn't be allowed into the USA. (No qualifying statements on recency or severity, or even acquittal.)

With regards to crime (including the mere accusation of sexual things) the sentiment of the USA runs counter to the aspiration and promise of social mobility of the USA.

Yes others profit from maintaining the status quo, but worse is that people are judged for life, based on a single incident in their past. And as the article points out, the zero tolerance amplifies the destructive nature of a society that judges.

I've heard it said that much of it goes back to the Calvinists roots of American culture. The idea that there are good people and bad people, that you are one or the other.

Bad people deserve to go to prison, and therefore people in prison are all bad people. Why should any mercy by shown to bad people? Why should good people have to pay to help bad people? That sounds immoral.

By the same set of rules, good people deserve to be rich, so therefore rich people must be good.

It may not be correct, but it sure does seem to accurately describe how American culture works.

I think that argument can be countered by the prison culture from post WW1 up until the mid 70s. Until the "tough on crime" mantra was paraded around ad nauseum, prisons were largely focused on rehabilitation, not punishment.

Perhaps it was that calvanism somehow seeping back in, but the fact that we got rid of that for at least 40 years means that it's possible we can get back there.

The ironic, depressing thing is this - strong support for the registry and openly making jokes about prison sexual assaults (in movies, real life etc). How can someone support both at the same time, is beyond my understanding.

Because the goal is for bad things to happen to 'bad' people. Both of those things are pushing that agenda.

Because we are carnivores, secretly cheering at the misery of others, projecting injustices who happened to us - upon some poor fool who has to suffer for our stomach feelings to be satisfied. That whole - very animal process, is then written down and followed through rigidly- and the redecorated primal lashing out is called justice.

I'll take your Calvinism and sprinkle on a bit of Social Darwinism, i.e. American society uses crime, among other tools, to destroy internal competition.

Not punish, destroy.

For immigration, it could make sense, at least in a utilitarian sense. You are trying to eliminate false-negatives, and checking criminal background (in other countries) is one way to do that. Now, many countries (esp. developing ones) people get imprisoned for expressing their thoughts (which is a shame), but whether USA would/should care about this or not is a different question. USA has a quota on how many immigrants it will allow, and it wants the best people. There are many people that can satisfy that requirement.

In the case cited in the article, of a child who as a pre-teenager ended up on a sexual register, does it make sense?

Would it make sense if a homeless child had been caught shoplifting for food in their teenage years and 30 years later had turned their life around and become a professional... does it still make sense?

And of refugees, does it make sense to offer foreign governments a mechanism to prevent emigration simply by arresting those who are likely to leave?

The lack of rehabilitation as a fundamental concept that underpins the treatment of people, is a life sentence to those people.

I totally agree with you, but my point is, why would US?

To deprive a foreign power of influence in the decision making process.

To enshrine in the process one of the myths of the American Dream in the form of potential for social mobility.

To judge based on the virtues of the individual, rather than to judge based on the legal domain from which the individual originates (you should know that different countries have different standards, is the USA an enforcer of every standard?).

Those are a few that spring to mind.

This is where my "utilitarian" comment comes in, for the lack of better word. There are thousands if not millions of people willing to emigrate, with many decorated ones.

I see this similar to "tech interviews" where an individual is asked for arbitrary algorithm questions (that are deemed hard). The idea is to eliminate false positives, even if it comes at the expense of false negatives.

I disagree with the current US view on "criminal history", for the reasons you say, it also makes me scared because of false convictions, for example. I also don't trust the legal system of another country, and i agree each case to its own. something that's illegal in a country could be considered a human right / freedom in the US. But i think i see the point.

This assumes the 'best' people are least likely to get arrested. I reject that idea as pushing boundaries is very common among the most intellectually gifted.

In the same vein, you could say that the intellectually gifted wouldn't have gotten arrested in the first place, but pushed the boundaries to just before the tipping point.

It could be a sign of recklessness and an inability to mesh with society.

But, arguing over this is useless. The majority of the people who've been arrested are not the "best" people. They are usually from low socioeconomic backgrounds[0], i.e usually not as educated.

We can also ignore this point entirely. A large part of the American population sees criminals as life-criminals, i.e do it once and you'll do it every chance you get. It doesn't matter what the minority thinks on this issue. As long as the majority believes this is "right" it will prevail. As will the democratic process, for better or worse.

The topic that should be discussed, is how would one go about educating the public on this issue. Is it possible to go the route of the Scandinavian system?


Criminal behavior is very wide spread, arrests are most common at the bottom. EX: How many top bankers have we arrested after the banking crisis?

Nothing is black and white.

We might be talking about 5 gifted people for every 1000 people with criminal history. But US might be optimizing for 20 gifted people outside of that group, even if it means losing 5.

Except we are looking for the extreme outliers. Bill Gates was arrested, Steve Jobs and Wozniak made blue boxes and they went on to be the 'model' Americans. Feynman is famous for breaking a host of security rules. So, you may be rejecting 50% of the top 1% of 1% of 1% in favor of those less talented.

we will never know what the real numbers are. Same argument goes other way: Elon Musk was never arrested, Einstein when he came to USA didn't have any convictions (AFAIK). What this says is there is no shortage of people with smarts.

ED: Not sure on the credibility of a quick google search, but Einstein may have been arrested which was the original benchmark used.

didn't know - wikipedia didn't have this, can you point me to a source?

Why said anything about intellectually gifted? He said best.

Probably not. Stuff like getting rid of parole preceded private prisons. Private prisons is a trailing phenomenon that appears to be more about serving the huge demand for prison beds created by retributive policies.

Washington State, for example still has no private prisons. But it enacted one of the country's early "three strikes laws" back in the early 1990s. Private prison companies have been clamoring to get an opportunity to enter the state, but they had nothing to do with the tough laws that caused the existing public prisons to be at 140% capacity.

It's also worth considering that private prisons, once established, create perverse incentives to intensify those same retributive policies. A vicious recursion.

It's a thought but I suspect it's incorrect. The harshness of prison policies peaked in the 1980s to 1990s. Private prisons really started booming in the late 1990s and the 2000s. But the trend since then in policy has been a softening (somewhat) of retributive policies. California's involvement with private prisons for example is largely in this decade, in response to court orders requiring reduction in overcrowding. But it past the country's harshest three strikes laws (where people were getting life sentences for a third non-violent felony) in the 1990s. But it softened that a bit a couple of years ago.

I think the most you can say is that private prisons (and public prison guard unions, which is probably a much bigger force) are slowing the retreat from 1980s/1990s retributive policies.

I think thats got a lot to do with it. Google "prison lobby" for a range of articles on the problem. The same companies also pay for public campaigns that talk up the danger from crime, as that makes people vote for punitive restrictions that keep the money rolling in.

Those politicians who say "If I act on this I'll lose the next election" do so exactly because they know what the private prison industry can do to them.

That is the exact feeling I get when I read about any sort of public register. They seem to be predicated on the fact that the people on the register will never, ever change during the course of their lives.

Granted, some won't rehabilitate, and will be habitual reoffenders, but as the article shows, many are once off offenders or just made bad choices as a kid or young adult, and don't really deserve to be marked for life. I just wish there was more evidence of the judicial system at least trying to differentiate the two groups rather than place everyone in the same 'too hard' basket.

One anecdotal story I have. I was riding home on the bus in Wilmington. A guy interrupts me asking for some cash. I get to talking asking what it's for and such. Found out he had just gotten out of jail for a possession charge.

The guy was living with his Sister and looking for a job. But due to the charge no one would hire him. I remember him being shook up over being denied a janitor job at Bob Evans. I took him for a drink, and asked him what he was going to do next. He said he had to sell one way or the other. No place would hire him, he was volunteering on the side. He needed money, and selling provided that. Although he didn't want too anymore. His end goal was to get incarcerated again. As he said three square meals and a roof.

I also had a misdemeanor for a DUI. I was turned down from a number of jobs simply due to this. I had done my time, paid everything, and volunteered after wards. Despite this because I had a DUI I was a liable employee.

There seems to be a demonization almost of a lot of things. We're often afraid to give hand outs, or offer a helping hand. Survival of the fittest to an almost extreme. Rehabilitation would be great. But I know many people who don't even believe in giving second chances. One and done sort of thing.

Do we not provide rehabilitation because we don't want to, funds, whatever. Or because we don't think they can be rehabilitated?

What is a misdemeanor DUI?

I'll be honest with you, I think some people underestimate how terrible it is; You could have a history of beating up your spouse and be less likely to kill someone..

I completely agree, a DUI is serious business. I went dry for 2.5 years after that incident. I was 0.09 just above the legal limit. The accident was caused by me having a seizure behind the wheel (epileptic). So they labeled it as a misdemeanor and put me on the fast track rehab program. Community service, fine, and expungement.

After that I won't let friends drive while intoxicated. I'll grab an uber, or find some other way. Make them stay with me etc.

> The concept of being able to pay a debt to society and for that to settle the books, and to then allow those people to return to society and contribute value again... is alien to America.

Subjectively, thinking about films and TV involving prisoners, all the American ones I can think of (I'm certain there are exceptions, naturally) involve protagonists who are either out-right shown to be innocent or are very heavily implied to be.

OTOH, there are many British ones where the protagonist is definitely guilty, but nonetheless portrayed in a sympathetic or even positive light.

fair enough, my anti-American exceptionalism friend. Please point me to an example of a society, of non-trivial size and mixed racial groups, that's doing a good job with rehabilitation and recidivism.

Europe in it's entirety.

Though Scandinavia is an outlier even then: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/11/sweden-closes-...

I guess that in your binary pro/anti view of me this makes me pro-Scandinavian. I can think of worse things to be.

Europe is not doing a good job on recidivism. Please provide counter-evidence. And Sweden is rather mono-chromatic.

> Europe is not doing a good job on recidivism.

Where is your counter evidence to what the person you replied to just posted?

In the fight against the great boogeymen of Terrorism and Sex Predation, the US has lost common sense.

As a kid, when I was 8 years old, I played doctor with my neighbor, we we were both curious about each others differences and so we explored them. So, if I read this article, if this had been in the US, we could have been tried as sex offenders? How does this even make sense? Of course kids are curious about body differences between men and women.

And, when I read those stories, I really don't understand how a teenager could be convicted for having sex with a girl 2 or 3 years younger than her. I can't imagine how a girl sexting could be convicted for producing "Child Porn", that absolutely makes no sense.

And then the treatments describe are a form of abuse. I wouldn't want to be subject to a “penile plethysmograph”.

It's really scary how easily it is to pass Orwellian by invoking "Think of the Children" or "To prevent terrorists". As soon as those two things are uttered, people seem to lose all common sense.

I'm gonna go against the grain here. I'll preface this by saying that I think all sex-offender cases should be handled on a case-by-case basis, and if we use a bit of common sense, things would be a lot better for everyone. Here's a scenario that is likely rare but plausible.

Some girl and boy both at age 15 could be sexting each other. Pics are exchanged, and the pictures are removed from the phone and placed on a computer hard drive. Neither party wants the pics found, so the classic, "bury the pics 10 levels deep in a made up directory that looks like a legit folder hierarchy" is used. A week later, the pics are forgotten about.

Fast forward 5 years. The hard drive crashes. The once teen has a few sporadic backups, but they haven't been regular. They go to a data recovery business. "I'm mainly concerned with the pictures and a lot of the text documents. Try to salvage as many of those as possible. Everything else is whatever."

The business gets to work and applies a could of filters to list of recovered media. Among the media exists 10 or so pictures of a young teen. He received them when he was 15, and he forgot about them. He had no intention of ever looking at them again. Hell, he would have deleted them ages ago had he thought about it, but now he has a hell of a story to explain to the feds.

I don't think teens should be prosecuted as sex offenders for exchanging pics of themselves with other teens, but I think the heart of the matter is in the right place. I don't have a solution to magically fix everything, because there are always going to be implications. Just don't ruins a kid's life for the truly innocuous mistake of exploring sexuality with someone of the same age.

The problem with "common sense" is that Americans have so little of it. Even though it's entirely legal, to most Americans a 40yo dating a 20yo may as well be illegal. And yet those were the ages of my grandparents when they met, who remained married until death and produced a wonderful family.

Americans can't feel that strongly about it... the current president and his (current) wife are 24 years apart in age.

> I think the heart of the matter is in the right place.

It's not. Not when you are trying to toss a teenager in prison for taking pictures of themselves.

It's also not if you consider the reasoning behind the laws. Is child porn illegal because it's disgusting, or because you can't create it without subjecting a child to an act they can't possibly consent to? Shouldn't it really be the latter, in which case you should really consider that in many (most?) places the laws regarding consent are different for teenagers.

The most fucked-up case I've heard of was a teen being persecuted as adult for taking the nude picture of self.

Lest someone accuse you of exaggerating: http://www.pressherald.com/2015/09/24/teen-sexting-case-high...

> It's really scary how easily it is to pass Orwellian by invoking "Think of the Children" or "To prevent terrorists".

The goal is not to fight so-called sex-crimes or terrorism. The goal is to

1. coerce people into behaving in an ideal way where sexuality is constrained and nothing happens

2. discriminate against minorities

using big words and supposed "victims" as tools and props.

Just to clarify: do you think that this is being put through intentionally by people who're organized together with hidden evil plan?

You seem to imply that for you anything of the sort is X-files worthy material.

To "coerce people into behaving in an ideal way where sexuality is constrained and nothing happens" you just need some groups hell-bent on the protestant WASP ideals that "made america great". Then you can also have some opportunists that play those cards because they make a living out of it (e.g. appealing to a conservative audience), and so on.

So it is indeed "put through intentionally by people who're organized together".

Do they have "hidden evil plans" related to their bigger plan?

All the time.

Not all of them together, but groups here and there, conspire all the time (in the sense that doing something shady and unknown to the public to further their cause).

Like for example people were openly racist in the South in the sixties, but teams of "community leaders" and such could also conspire to bring forward some hidden evil plan related to the cause (e.g. lynch someone or burn some crosses and beat up some militant blacks or pro-black people to put them "in their place"). They didn't do those things openly. But they did it for the same cause they were openly in favor of.

A similar "orchestrated evil plan" e.g. would be a "character assassination" of some person on the other ideological side. You get some dirt on them, have various friends in the media push it, etc.

There doesn't necessarily need to be a literal conspiracy in order for the intended effects of laws to be completely bogus. For example, I think we can all agree that poll taxes were intended to keep southern black Americans from voting, even though I doubt there was ever a "Jim Crow Caucus" of lawmakers from Southern states to decide on the best policy objectives to further their racist agenda.

Many people with similar ideas all working independently to push their agendas can mimic the collective effect of a conscious and planned conspiracy.

People don't have evil plans, only selfish ones.

Yes and no -- or rather, no, but yes. People didn't congregate and got organized to achieve this, so, no. But, deep down they know what they're doing (or at the very least they're not bothered by the consequences), and so, yes.

> Her friend, who had just given birth to a baby girl, had logged on to the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry Web site to search for local predators.

"Sex-offender" registry is of course a total and complete abomination. But if you're going to write against it, maybe you owe it to yourself and your readers to not use the words of the enemy -- namely "predators".

There are no "predators". There may or may not be people who made a mistake earlier in life -- many of those mistakes would not even be frowned upon in many other parts of the world.

But to call people on a sex-offenders list "predators" is like calling everyone on a no-fly list "terrorists".

It's bigoted, it's despicable. And it's at least counter productive to use that word in an article that tries to fight the very principle of those lists.

Also, to continue on a related wording controversy that's really irritating, victims shouldn't be able to automatically call themselves "survivors". You're a survivor only if you narrowly escaped death. If your life was never at risk then you're not a survivor.

> There are no "predators"

Unfortunately, you're wrong. While there might be far fewer actual predators than the registry supposes, there are indeed actual predators on the list. The problem is that the registry is abused by law enforcement and the public through misunderstanding and continued by lack of intellectual integrity. Why read any public case notes of convictions when all you need to know is that they're on the registry? It takes so much _time_ to actually find out _why_ someone's on the registry. It takes a lot of thinking to actually figure out "hey this person was simply exploring their sexuality and no harm was intended". Why spend time and thought on that when you can just assume the worst and let someone else worry about truth?

The whole point of the registry is that it's supposed to contain only people that are perpetually dangerous; if it doesn't and you need to go to case notes to find that, then both the burdens placed on people for permanent registration and the consequences of being on the registry (which go beyond just being findable as a sex offender) and the existence of the registry itself are unjustified.

> There are no "predators"

This is just as wrong as saying that everyone on the registry is a predator. Of course everyone isn't. But there absolutely are many violent rapists, pedophiles, etc on those registries. Plenty of people who made a mistake or got caught without a Romeo & Juliet law in their state, but also plenty of sexually violent predators.

There are no predators because a predator is an animal.

Calling people who committed crimes of sexual nature in the past, predators, is the same as calling people who committed theft, rats or other epithets.

The purpose of this naming scheme is to de-humanize the person, so as to justify the inhuman treatments one wants to subject them to.

It's a technique as old as society. It never ends well.

Humans are animals.

In fact humans as a species have evolved to become the greatest predators on the planet.

Well, ok. I would have no problem calling all humans predators, or rats, or whatever. The problem is when you use those words to single out some humans, and then proceed to give them a special treatment.

It's true that many, if not most, registered sex offenders are not predators, but predators do exist. There are predators out there and I have met many. But I agree, from a psychosemantic perspective using "predator" in that sentence reeked of FUD

> There are no "predators".

There are absolutely predators out there. When your "mistake" is rape and you made that "mistake" repeatedly, that's a pretty good definition of a predator.

> many of those mistakes would not even be frowned upon in many other parts of the world.

So what. There are a great many despicable things that have no place in our society yet are permitted in the rest of the world.

That a society is fine with incarcerating 9 (NINE!) year old kids is disturbing... but, I am haunted by the thoughts that a society on earth incarcerated ten year old kids for non-violent acts in the name of zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance for kids!! They don't understand the damn /meaning/ of that word for god's sake!

We must protect children from having their lives ruined!

We shall do that by ruining their lives!

I have a friend who plead guilty to two statuary rape charges that were false accusations, serving more time with parole than the maximum sentencing of the one charge he was guilty of, solely because the prosecution would drop the request for sex-offender registration, which would have done him permanent harm.

There are some real predators out there, and I understand the threats that make something like a registry necessary. However it has become a tool of the plea-deal legal industry and a mechanism by which non-predatory individuals have had their lives ruined by the state.

> I understand the threats that make something like a registry necessary

Necessary? But why do sex-offenders registries only exist in (a small number of) English-speaking countries, and in no other [1]? Are there no sex crimes in other countries?

Or does it have something to do with Puritanism and a general fixation with sexuality in those countries?

A registry is not necessary, it's yet another manifestation of American racism [2] and cruelty.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_offender_registry

> Sex offender registration does not exist outside of the English-speaking world, however. The United States is the only country with a registry that is publicly accessible; all other countries in the English-speaking world have sex offender registries only accessible by law enforcement.

[2] http://www.albanystudentpress.net/large-racial-disparities-i...

> The study indicates that approximately 1 percent of African American males in the United States are registered sex offenders while white males are registered at approximately half that rate. The growth of sex offender registries reflects “a new form of punishment developed by the state that is specifically tailored to punishing sex,”

The problem with the sex offender registry is not that it exists, it is that there is no way to rehabilitate and get off it.

To be clear, was the "one charge he was guilty of" also rape?

The US are getting weirder and weirder and weirder. I just can't wrap my head around Trump, gun laws, life-time sex-offender registries, the messed up health care system.

Yet, I have only met absolutely nice, intelligent, loving americans, and I've met many. I feel sorry for them. They deserve better.

I find that it's easy to hate the US for what it has been doing to others (yes, yes, tu quoque and at least the US isn't literally Nazi Germany) but what's really astonishing is what it's doing to its own people.

Sure, in theory citizens of the "home of the brave" have it pretty good but between the atrocious healthcare and welfare systems, the insane criminal justice system, the mass surveillance, the militarised police force, the widespread influence of religious conservative groups, and everything else... I'm not so sure US citizens are any less victims of the US than anybody else.

What you're seeing is the "though on crime" trap all politicians fall into. Vote for law X and show you're tough on crime. Oh you didn't vote for law X? Then you're not tough on crime, and that's why votes should go to your opponent in the next election. US politicians MUST be tough on crime or risk losing election.

> US politicians

In a lot of places in the US the Judges are elected. So never mind the politicians, the guy who just sentenced you to an absurd sentence did it because he needed the press for his campaign.

What I am speaking of are the crimes themselves, mandatory minimums, funding for rehabilitation, etc. That is set by politicians, not judges.

Because most of use are just normal people who want great things for the people around us and (at the very minimum) nothing bad for other Americans external to our circles. Most of us aren't hyper-political. We're not getting abortions by the truckload. We're not hoarding guns in a weapons cache. We don't hate foreigners. There are exceptions to all of the above, but we're mostly just regular people who lead relatively normal lives wanting good things for everyone.

No, they don't deserve better. As a wise Frenchman once said, every nation gets the government it deserves.

Besides, if you're only met "nice, intelligent, loving americans", you haven't spent much time in America, or you weren't the "wrong" ethnicity in your interactions with them.

Money and baby boomers will pretty much answer any question you have.

Is it really that easy?

There is a huge problem with “accusation equals conviction”, and a huge problem with “let’s just keep adding punishments to already-convicted people”. There also seems to be no automatic apology mechanism after wrongful accusations or convictions, requiring one to spend even more time and money to be given even the most basic repayments for a life-destroying situation.

If I had to pick one thing to fix first, it should be COMPLETELY ILLEGAL TO DISCLOSE MERE ACCUSATIONS (no media coverage, etc.). Disclosure, particularly for sexual crimes, has been shown to have just as much of a career-destroying and family-destroying effect as an actual conviction, and the “hehe, sorry, wrong guy, you are free to go” after the ordeal never undoes the damage. It is a shameful, garbage way for society to operate.

sigh ... I'm not sure what else to say. The problem with "Zero Tollerance", minimum sentencing and lifetime registries, is there's no accounting for edge cases or practical exceptions. I'm hoping that over the next decade or two, a lot of this can be rolled back into sensible laws, and justifiable actions.

It seems to be a prevalent mindset:

False positives are better than letting one slip through (see: MicroSoft hiring).

As a society, we have no way to differentiate who we're mad at, and who we're truly afraid of. Rehabilitation options are nonexistent, as most prisons and jails removed them in the 90's. Offenders go to Prison and come out Convicts -- with better training, some more street smarts, complete with access to more drugs, guns, and tools of the trade.

America is not a country of second chances. Look at sites like beenverified and mugshots -- their sole purpose in life is to shame those who have been arrested/convicted and allow employers/landlords to discriminate in ways that really skirts the FDCPA (beenverified isn't a CRA, so, there are no repercussions of reporting inaccurate information, nor are there ways of getting that information changed).

Hell, even AirBnB performs silent background checks on people who are renting homes -- even after presenting them the official copy of my clean (aside from a few speeding tickets and an accident from 1999) FBI background report, they still say that there are 'public records' that they are using and for the 'safety of the AirBnB platform,' they don't want my money.

We have a long way to go until this country can truly start to fix the 'prison' problem, but, it won't start until the country, as a whole, starts taking a different view of rehabilitation, corrections, and punishment.

Well if the predilection towards pedophilia could be managed or "cured" and if prisons did more than just house inmates I.e if they worked on rehab instead of punishment then perhaps the lifetime listings wouldn't be necessary. I won't begin to insinuate that I have the right balance between parents wanting to be cautious with who their kids interact with and the belief that people can change for the better. And then there's the case of adolescents who get caught up in the system before their minds are fully formed...


In Norway (heck, in Scandinavia, and, is my impression, in most of North/Central Europe, too), there's strong focus on rehabilitation.

Inmates are encouraged to pursue education while incarcerated. If you want to enter a trade, there are workshops &c in the prisons where you can do your apprenticeship.

Also, in all but the (rare) cases where you are deemed to be a lasting danger to society, you are automatically eligible for parole after serving 2/3 of the sentence. This, combined with a maximum sentence of 21 years imprisonment, means that most offenders are released back into society after a maximum of 14 years behind bars.

During the latter part of your sentencing, you are progressively granted more and more freedom - for instance, halfway houses where you can go to work in the daytime but need to observe a curfew in evenings/nights. The idea, of course, being to prepare you for civilian life again.

Result? The recidivism rate is among the lowest in the world, at approx. 20% overall. (I didn't know that until I googled it while writing this comment.)

That being said, liberal me still feel somewhat less lenient towards paedophiles; I guess any parent does.

However, I don't think the solution is locking them up and throwing away the key; much better to provide counseling and treatment to bring their recidivism rate down as well. It is my firm conviction no society can imprison anyone for life just in case they should reoffend and still consider themselves civilized. Obviously, your mileage may vary.

> That being said, liberal me still feel somewhat less lenient towards paedophiles; I guess any parent does.

It's a sickness. And we have (mental) hospitals for sick people. Problem solved, no leniency required.

We've thought exactly the same in the past about depression, homosexuality, unmarried mothers and outspoken women, but yes, maybe this time medicalizing something before we know much about it is the right answer and won't make us look like abhorrent barbarians to our grandchildren.

There was a short documentary about pedophilia showing the opposite:


It's a sensitive subject, but treating pedophilia as something that can be cured with medical intervention is rash.

This mindset is akin to treating homosexuality with shock therapy.

> This mindset is akin to treating homosexuality with shock therapy.

If like homosexuality it's not a mental illness then that means it is either a conscious decision to only be attracted to and target childrent (which I find unlikely) or it is natural occurence somewhere on the human sexual spectrum.

How do we reconcile that with the attitude most people seem to have, that paedophiles need to be severely punished for being what they are? Are they this way from birth like we consider homosexuals to be?

America is hell-bent on not being like Europe even given the good there is to learn from.

-Oh, there's no such thing as a perfect society, IMHO - but when it comes to crime and punishment, I do think the US could benefit from taking a leaf or two from our books.

However, there are a couple of key differences (still IMHO!) which makes it difficult to compare the two.

Most notably, perhaps - we do not elect judges. Nor do we elect police chiefs. The latter are positions you apply for as you would any other; the former are appointed by a non-partisan committee.

Hence, there's no benefit for representatives of the judicial and executive to be seen as tough on crime; there's no gain to be had.

As for the legislative, there's a fairly broad consensus, the odd populist aside, that sentencing (mostly) is well matched to the needs of society - so there's no strong drive to enforce harsher punishment. (And believe me, we did discuss this ad nauseum and then some after the 2011 labour party youth camp terror attack!(0))

Surely, there's a component of punishment - after all, you want to send a message to others contemplating the same crime that you need to factor jail time into your calculations - but the main focus is to ensure you don't end up behind bars again, as that would be a net loss both to you, the future victims and society at large.

(0) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Norway_attacks

I didn't mean to insinuate that Europe was perfect just that there are things we could learn that would help us one of which is the rehab vs throw-away-the-key approach to prisoners.

Oops, my bad - my intent was simply to acknowledge that we old-worlders do have a thing or two to learn from our former colonies, too.

Agreed. I didn't take your comments as anything other than constructive. Alas, though, this administration has no diplomacy.

In the US electing police chiefs is rare (but can happen under the Commission style of city government).

Prosecutors, however, are often elected, and you can imagine the incentive problems.

> if prisons did more than just house inmates

The problem is that the US system in particular is obsessed with punishment alone. Yes, sure, sometimes the punishment is justified as a learning experience but it's entirely based on the idea that punishment alone is sufficient to teach and act as a deterrent to others.

Considering mental health (especially for the poor) is fairly neglected as a public health issue in the US and the country has the highest incarceration rate in the "free world", I'm not sure there's a fix.

Oh, and paedophilia absolutely can be managed if you treat it as a mental health issue. Not to mention that most sexual abuse of minors isn't actually committed by paedophiles -- just like most rape cases aren't simply about very horny people who can't help themselves.

> highest incarceration rate in the "free world"

2nd highest in the world full stop is a starker figure (behind Seychelles which has a population <10k)

Also nearly all countries that are anywhere in the vicinity of the US on that list have tiny populations. Even Russia is only at #10: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_incarcera...

Also also this: http://imgur.com/a/SYIwN

You're probably right since "free world" can mean many different things to different people, although I thought Seychelles had like 100,000 people

Oops, yeah should say <100k. Still. Quite small.

I agree. Though perhaps the Victorian / puritan morality that underlies American history won't let us move on from punishment to rehab.

I'm not sure punishment vs rehabilitation is the cause for support of such a cruel system. I myself am in favour of punishment in addition to rehabilitation, up to an eye for an eye (as it was originaly used - to limit retaliation) for serious crimes. But even to me the US law system seems way too harsh on the accused, in both establishing guilt and assigning punishment, so I don't really know what drives others to support it.

Perhaps they hear of a few over-lenient sentences, or of someone getting away with it without a conviction, and in response vote to raise the severity for everyone?

    > Well if the predilection towards pedophilia could
    > be managed or "cured"
And what if not? If these people did not deliberately chose whom they are attracted to any more than gays did, they are in a really really sad place.

But adult homosexual relationships in general are fully consensual. It is increasingly harder to make that case as age gap increases, and while we should be empathetic towards the adult we also must be empathetic towards the child, who still may have a nascent view of what should be expected of them from others.

The solution to this problem does not involve changing a single policy, i.e. rehabilitate / be more lenient on practicing pedophiles, but a change in societal perspective as well as a more rational approach to age of consent laws in the US. After that, we are left with only problematic pedophiles, often repeat offenders, with whom it is a lot easier to make the decision to lock up as long as necessary for their safety and the safety of others. By removing uncertainty and doubt we can focus on real, abusive criminals and rehabilitation could truly be realized because of the large decrease in cases.

Why not just make it a complete registry. Put speeding on the list too so I don't have to worry about my kids getting hit by an unrepentant speeder.

Interesting catching a thread about America before all the americans wake up and start defending the status quo

IMHO acts committed prior to 18 should not warrant inclusion on the sex offender registry, unless they are so egregious and violent that a high bar has been crossed.

Siblings are one of the main perpetrators of sexual abuse.

This isn't normal sexual exploration, but actual abuse.


The key problem is the registry seems almost like a minimum penalty. Life in prison is a major penalty, life on the registry should be also considered as such. It loses all meaning when it contains people who have been convicted of taking selfies.

The article mentions machines attached to young men's penises to "measure their arousal", a prosecutor demanding a photo of a teenage boy's erect penis, masturbation diaries – their so-called "therapy" sounds like a sexual assault in itself, sexual abuse committed by the state and its agents.

cruel and unusual punishment anyone?

lets be clear. rich people do not have to deal with this. denny hastert rapes a bunch of people and is still thought of as a good guy by the powerful and wealthy. how many more like him are protected? catholic church institutionalizes criminal sexual abuse but nobody in management goes to prison. corey feldman knows who raped him but cannot say it because that person has too much money and power in hollywood. hedge fund managers go to thailand and fuck child prostitutes but they come back here and invest in private prisons that make money putting kids in lockup for playing doctor.

some teenager sends a nude pic and get years in prison.

welcome to 'freedom'

i actually support the 'crackdown on sex crimes'... if it went after actual criminals!!!! politicians, CEOs, cops, bankers, all those people who routinely rape kids and get away with it.

but as usual, it just is a way for the rich to enslave the poor, extract money from them, abuse them, and discard them.

The current president is at a minimum guilty of multiple cases of sexual assault. Rich people do not only not have to deal with it, they are next to untouchable.

Wait what? Isn't he innocent until proven otherwise?

He pretty much admitted it himself, what else do you want? Or do you feel that because he lies all the time we should not believe him at all, even when he incriminates himself?

I'm fairly confident in declaring Trump guilty of that, this is not a court of law, it's an internet forum and the standards for both are different. In fact, the standards of proof for criminal law are different from those for civil law (see OJ), and I think it's a bit much to require the standard of proof for criminal law to apply to a forum discussion for someone who is on the record as stating the does exactly that which others claim he did to them.

Myself and half the guys and girls I grew up with are also guilty of sexual assault based on many people's current definition.

By what definition would that be?

Touching or suggestive language without explicit verbal or written consent would be one example.

I've personally been raped thusly on numerous occasions.

"Admitted it" is not the same thing as braggadocio

No, because we all make up shit like that. /s

I'm sorry, you're somewhere around fake news-level in your argumentation.

If someone claims something and is subsequently accused of having done that exact same thing that is not the same as 'making shit up'.

Not for people that can't get over the election results.

> at a minimum guilty of multiple cases of sexual assault

proof? and not by media assertion, please.

On a similar note, Florida (and I'm sure other states) have laws that prevent government employees and their relatives' mugshots from being public records. [1]

1: http://www.wctv.tv/news/headlines/1247277.html

This is strawmanning and hyperbole.

Hastert "cannot be prosecuted for sexual abuse because the statute of limitations has expired for his conduct decades earlier."[0]

This also goes against the ethos of the article. Hastert apologized (although this cannot make up for heinous deeds) for his conduct and showed regret. If we believe for the sake of argument that he is truly sorrowful and wants to turn over a new leaf, who are you to deny him this?

The "rich" and "powerful" and "politicians, CEOs, cops, bankers, all those people who routinely rape kids and get away with it" are not the bogeyman you make them out to be. They are people with problems just like the rest of us. Some of them just have better lawyers.


> If we believe for the sake of argument that he is truly sorrowful and wants to turn over a new leaf, who are you to deny him this?

While personally I am in favor of these types of registries (ideally with quite a few changes), the argument is that if you are placed on a lifetime offender list, you can be as sorrowful as you want, you can never turn over a new leaf. You effectively have a life sentence even if you never had to step foot inside a jail cell.

> You effectively have a life sentence even if you never had to step foot inside a jail cell.

Thus, the first thing to change would be public perception about this issue.

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