Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More Of The Usual Sex Offender Hysteria

Catching up on some old local news, the Hartford Courant reports on a 15 year-old sex offender, who had the terms of his probation altered so he could continue to attend Simsbury High School. Interesting not so much for the story as for the public outrage. Bill O'Reilly would be proud, as Connecticut parents ignorantly vent on dangerous sex offenders and judges who don't get it.

To the best of my ability, allow me to recap the story. The Courant reporting is unclear on some points, but this is what we've got. In November 2007, a then 14 year-old Simsbury boy plead guilty to a charge of risk of injury to a minor based on charges he molested two young boys. The initial charges involved first degree sexual assault, but those were dropped upon the plea deal. The boy received probation as part of the plea deal, probation which contained a term that restricted contact with individuals under age 14. The problem was, there are a number of 13 year-old students at Simsbury High School, the high school the boy was attending. So a change in the terms of probation was sought and the terms were modified to allow him to attend school- If the terms weren't modified the town would have had to pay for some form of alternative education. And now, of course, the righteous are up in arms.

This highlights perhaps the biggest problem of sex offender laws- once the public sees the sex offender label, logic and reason go out the door- no one is all that interested in what the sex offense was, people just assume everyone is in danger. In this case, we really don't know what it was that the young man did, but we do know he was younger than 14 at the time- maybe 12 or 13- and that it involved young boys- which I would imagine to be kids under the age of 10. I'd also imagine that there was no physical violence involved, as I can't imagine a violent kid being allowed to stay in school. Of course, some posters on the comment thread still urge parents to watch out for their daughters. Even though the kid's crime involved little boys. Given what we know, I'd venture that this kid is in much more danger from his male classmates than any high school girls are in danger of this teen sex offender.

The outrage over the boy's attendance in high school and the modification of his probation is just plain misplaced and doesn't fit any of the facts we have. It's just typical sex offender hysteria. The more difficult question is what to do with teen sex offenders in the first place, particularly those who molest young children. It's said that these sort of offenders can't be rehabilitated, but how do you tell the difference between a young teen who's going to grow into an adult pedophile and a young teen who's merely confused about appropriate sexual behavior? Here's the thing- there are a lot of really difficult questions when it comes to sex offenders and it doesn't help when hysteria clouds the real issues.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If someone as young as the offender was at the time does something with someone almost his own age I have two question worth considering:first, what did he know to do and, second, is this a case of craziness resulting from a case of children playing "I;ll show you mine if you show me yours" and the parents go nuts. Nutty parenting needs to be controlled too.

9:22 PM  

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