Reformer editorial encourages violence ...

Editor of the Reformer:

According to "Remaining Vigilant," (April 26) the Reformer will now print notice of registered sex offenders moving in, all in the interest of public safety.

Really? After quoting the standard warning -- can’t use information to injure or harass -- the writer of the editorial interprets it, "... just because you might know there is a convicted sexual offender in your neighborhood, it doesn’t mean you have the right to take the law into your own hands."

Take the law into your own hands -- why? Because someone lives in your neighborhood?

But now the seed is planted. Being a convicted sexual offender -- regardless of how rehabilitated or how long ago or of potential danger to others -- is a reason for someone to "take the law" into his hands. What does that even mean, "take the law" into your hands? Surely we can hope that the law doesn’t bully registrants’ children or egg their houses or beat them up or murder them.

Emboldened now, the article continues, "Many people wonder how the justice system can release predators and pedophiles back into society. Many of us wish they could be ... sent to an island somewhere ... or even more drastic measures be taken." Even more drastic measures -- like bullying children, vandalizing property -- committing murder?

Then, to justify what sounds like encouraging vigilantism, they continue: "We don’t condone any extralegal actions, though we don’t believe the judicial system is designed to adequately address the problem ... Unfortunately, many people with these deviant predilections never reform ..."

A child could translate this: "The law just turns them loose and doesn’t know how to deal with them, so it’s up to us ... they aren’t ever going to change."

Even if that were true, even if statistical evidence did not show that, once charged and punished, few former sexual offenders will commit another sexual offense, the nastiness that seeps through every word of this article is the same nastiness that left two little boys in Washington state without a father and took the life of a wife along with her registered husband in South Carolina and has swept and still sweeps our nation like a blight, facilitated by a hit list called the public sex offender registry.

And finally, for those readers who may have compunctions about picking on kids or vandalizing houses or attacking neighbors with baseball bats: "While you are legally restricted from harassing them, we don’t think a friendly reminder that we are watching is out of the question."

Other than really, really wanting their definition of "friendly," I wish they would at least look at the research showing that, along with housing and employment, community support for former offenders is essential in creating conditions that keep re-offense at its lowest and public safety at its highest. After all, this whole thing is about public safety ... right?

Ironically, the title is "Remaining Vigilant." Thanks to it, registrants struggling to build law-abiding lives and keep their families fed and sheltered now have another reason to be constantly vigilant for those who would harm them, their property, or their lives.

Sandy Rozek,

Reform Sex Offenders, Inc., Cambridge, Mass., April 28

... and puts families in jeopardy

Editor of the Reformer:

As the president of a grass-roots national organization advocating for the civil and human rights of the families of people on the sex offender registry, I took exception to "Remaining Vigilant" (April 26). While the attempt was to present a balanced and informative opinion, the Reformer missed the mark. The public can sign up for e-mail notifications at any time, so why is it necessary for a newspaper to put our families in jeopardy?

The registry came about in increments over a period of years: 1994, 1996 and 1998, and are based on the 1 percent of horrible crimes. The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act is passed as part of the Federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. This law requires states to implement a sex offender and crimes against children registry. Megan’s Law, passed in 1996, showed no demonstrable effect in reducing sexual re-offenses, no effect on the type of sexual re-offense or first-time sexual offense (still largely child molestation incest) and has no effect on reducing the number of victims involved in sexual offenses.

According to the Center for Sex Offender Management, there is no profile of the "typical" sex offender. They can be male or female, adult or juvenile, young or old. they also vary in terms of their level of education, marital status and family ties. They may offend against adults or children, males or females, or both. They may have a long criminal history or none at all. Their crimes can range from non-contact offense (such as exhibitionism) to contact offenses. The reasons why they commit these offenses, the kind of help they need to try to stop offending, and the risks they pose are different in every case. Just as important, only 5.3 percent of the people convicted of sex offenses were re-arrested for a new sex offense and 3.5 percent were re-convicted.

In the time that I have been involved in advocating for the families of registrants, I have only seen the words "may be" or "can be" or as stated in the editorial, "is subject to" prosecution, but only one time have I seen wording "will be prosecuted." Actually, the wording should be "absolutely will be prosecuted, minus the media attention elevating vigilantism to hero status." We have had wives murdered, children beaten, vehicles damaged, homes set on fire ... which falls in line with part of the suggestion in the editorial "or even more drastic measures be taken."

A pedophile is a person who has a sustained sexual orientation toward children, generally aged 13 or younger. Not all pedophiles are child molesters (or vice versa), according to Ray Blanchard, a psychiatry professor. Child molesters are identified by their acts; pedophiles are defined by their desires. Some pedophiles refrain from sexually approaching any child for their entire lives.

The term "sexual predator" is sometimes used to describe anybody who obtains sexual contact via less-than-honest means. Women Against Registry believes that registrants, like any other offender, once adjudicated, debt to society paid and living a law-abiding life, they have the right to do so with their family without punitive punishment and restrictions that prohibit them from being involved in their families’ lives.

Patty Wetterling, mother of Jacob and instrumental in the act named after her son, no realizes the harm that has come from the registries. In her closing speech at last year’s Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers said "the registry has been hijacked."

Vicki Henry,

Women Against Registry, Westfield, Ind., April 27