An international perspective

I’m taking a break this weekend from talking about internet sex offenses, and I just want to mention something many people don’t know: There is only one other nation with a public sex offender registry, Australia, and it didn’t go public until late last year.* Only dangerous, repeat offenders get put on Australia’s public list.

Let me just repeat this: Until late last year, no other country had a public sex offender registry. Not a one. Now, only the U.S. and Australia do, and Australia includes far fewer offenses than the U.S. does. It includes about 50 people, as opposed to the 750,000 and growing people on the U.S. registry.

This is important. We have very little perspective in the United States. I’ve often heard Americans respond, when somebody argues that our public sex offender registry should be abolished or even that it should only contain dangerous violent offenders, “Let’s just ignore sex crimes entirely!”, as if not having a public registry entails not taking sex crimes seriously.

This is especially troubling when it comes from Americans on the Left, and shows how completely ignorant of the rest of the world they are. Would most Americans leftists really, truly believe that their children would be less safe in Germany, Italy, or Spain, where 14 (in Spain, 13) is the age of consent and there is no public sex offender registry? Would they truly believe that those countries are teeming with sexual predators and that parents should be frightened to allow their children to leave their house? Are children in those nations less safe than children in the United States?

No sane person with any awareness of the actual situation of children internationally would believe that. The U.S. has a far higher rate of death from abuse for children than any of those nations. The number of children who die from gun violence is exponentially higher. The U.S. is one of the seven countries with the highest rates of sexual abuse for women: Germany, Italy, and Spain do not make the list, and overall Europe has a significantly lower incidence of sexual abuse than the U.S.

We are not safer. So why are we doing this? Why have we come to believe that these registries are so indispensable that we now want to expand them to other crimes: animal abuse, elder abuse, even drunk driving? We in the United States have far harsher punishments for nearly every crime than the rest of the world, and then, for sex crimes (and, in the future, no doubt many other crimes), we continue to punish people long after their sentence through the use of public humiliation. To what end? Not safer children, because European children are safer, even though they have no public registries and, in general, lower ages of consent. Not less crime, because we have rates of violent crime much higher than the rest of the western world.

We need to admit that we are on the wrong track. Punishing more things, for longer, is not the way to a safer, healthier society. And all we need to do is look to the rest of the world to realized that’s the case. It’s only because so many Americans, including those on the left, are willfully, entirely ignorant of how the rest of the world handles these matters that we have gotten to the place we have. I hope it’s not too late to turn things around.

* Australia, Canada, Ireland, and the UK have registries for some sex offenders–far fewer crimes qualify than in the U.S.–that are, except in Australia, for law enforcement use only. The information is not made publicly available.

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One thought on “An international perspective

  1. rewdiazepam

    Unfortunately, the majority of people in this country (especially the right wing conservatives) want more law and order, more punishment, and more protection in the form of registries such as the sex offender registry. They just want to feel safe and these things make them feel more secure.

    The politicians are just passing laws they know will please their constituents because they want, above anything else, to get re-elected to their cushy job with a wonderful retirement and better medical benefits than anyone else in the nation.

    So everyone is happy—the politicians and the citizenry.

    Very few people realize what the real cost of all these laws and this “tough on crime” and “law and order” stance is doing to our country. People do not understand the big picture and the damage this is doing to America—they cannot see the proverbial forest for the trees.

    All the domestic “Pseudo-Wars” this country has been fighting for years has left the country broke and the citizens with only a handful of the rights our original Constitution guaranteed. We have had a War on Drugs for over 40 years, which was a failure and did nothing but incarcerate too many of our youth and cost us billions. Then we had the War on Cancer, the War on Terror, and the War on Sex Offenders. This nation always has to have a bogey man to hate. First it was the blacks, then the gays, then the immigrants, then the sex offenders, and tomorrow there will be someone else.

    It appears as if an unintended consequence on all these “wars” has also been a war on our youth, as we are either incarcerating or slapping a felony charge (which is a lifetime stigma) on so many of our young people. Someday the chickens will come home to roost and there will be a dear price to pay for all this; but then I fear it will be too late.

    Now we have so many young people with sex offender convictions—the stigma of all stigmas. We are destroying an entire generation of young people with all these ridiculous sex offender laws, which, in many cases, criminalizes normal teen behavior.

    There are people in this country that understand all this, and they try to warn others, but of course, they are drowned out and accused of being a “nut” or a “radical”, or the ultimate putdown (shudder) “unpatriotic.”
    I thought the ’60’s was a tumultuous time in our nation’s history, but at least some good came out of it—the Civil Rights Act was passed and the Vietnam War came to an end.

    Nothing good will come out of this nation’s craze to over criminalize every act and punish so many of its own citizens.

    rewdiazepam

    PS But hey folks, it is going to get even better. I read today that the government wants to use drones as a means of enhancing law enforcement and a few politicians have mentioned having many more cameras in public places. And lets not forget, we also have more registries (Nazis called them “lists”, we politely call them registries) on the way. Someone has proposed arson registries, domestic abuse registries, animal abuse registries, and methamphetamine registries. God Bless America!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

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