Thursday, July 27, 2006

Mixed Emotions

President Bush signed into law today the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act in a public ceremony at the Rose Garden. Interestingly, the bill he vetoed last week, he did quietly, with no press around, but I digress.

The act requires convicted child molesters to be listed on a national internet database and would make it a felony to not update their whereabouts. It will also:
Establish a comprehensive federal DNA database of material collected from convicted molesters, and procedures for the routine DNA collection and comparison to the database when someone has been convicted of such an offense; provide federal funding for states to track pedophiles using global positioning devices; allow victims of child abuse to sue their molesters; and others.

I have mixed emotions about this law. On the one hand, I think a person who has been convicted of a crime and has served their sentence, deserves to start anew, as sentencing theoretically is how long it should take for the individual to learn their lesson/rehabilitate. If the person hasn't rehabilitated, then what point of sending them to prison in the first place? By that logic, then a person who has served his sentence should not have to be subjected to an additional lifetime sentence on top of his punitive sentence (in theory). Additionally, there are a number of sex offenders whose offense was against one individual, say, their girlfriend, who was a minor after they reached majority. It seems as though subjecting them to a lifetime of protecting themselves from threat of felony conviction for not updating their names is a little harsh.

On the other hand, there is an abnormally high rate of recividism on the part of child sex offenders, and the government does have an obligation to promote the general welfare. As such, protecting children from potential repeat offenders does become an important aspect of the law.

Then there's the slippery slope argument, one that is unlikely, but should be viewed nonetheless. Requiring the monitoring on this level of one group of criminals makes it easier to justify doing so to another group, and so on, until it comes to a point of monitoring potential criminals, and then monitoring everyone. If everyone is monitored, then they are not free, and that is potentially just as dangerous. Like I said, it's unlikely, and I really glossed over it, but there is that potential.

All in all, I can't say as I really disagree with the law; I just have some reservations about it, I guess, on principle.


Bookworm said...

Since I'm both something of a libertarian and a mother, I agree with your discomfort here. I like the idea of knowing where to find these guys, so I can do my utmost to protect my children, but there is a problem with punishing someone indefinitely for a crime. If you're going to do that, you may as well lock them up forever, right?

Michelle said...

Couldn't have put it better myself. What point is therewhen it comes to rehabilitation? However, sex offenders rarely are rehabilitated and multiple offenders. Double edged sword i guess.