Left: Some guy who committed a despicable crime that I am supposed to demonize and watch closely
Occasionally I use the search functions on the Ohio sex offender registration and notification (eSORN) website to see what types of deviants have moved into my neighborhood. I never actively go out of my way to keep virtual tabs on known sexual offenders and predators, but if I stumble across one of the links to these sites, my curiosity gets piqued.
So I see that a new sexual offender has moved in a block away from my home, and this particular piece of work is a 58-year-old white male convicted of sexual battery (ORC 2907.03) against a female child. As a parent, knowing this individual lives in the neighborhood makes my skin crawl.
Yet I cannot find out any particulars beyond the fact that the crime occurred in 1994. No newspaper articles show up in databases, since the crime occurred before the rise of the Internet as an information tool par excellence, and I am too cheap to pay for an archive search. I do know that this individual has been classified as a "Sexually Oriented Offender," the lowest rung on the ladder of sick SOBs, so I suppose I should take some comfort from that fact, right?
Why, though, have we collectively decided to stigmatize these particular criminals? I think murderers are just as repulsive to upstanding, caring citizens, but we do not go out of our way to mark this or any other class of criminal in such a manner. No, it is the sexual predators and offenders who must carry with them the state-mandated special categorizations, even after they have served their time.
A new bill before the Ohio Legislature would even create fluorescent green license plates for sex offenders. Will we return to the days of physically marking criminals, like branding them with a giant letter "P" on their foreheads? Admittedly, I get suspicious whenever a government official promotes a law for the benefit of children, but this slippery slope of post-prison punishment seems to be getting slicker.
There is something particularly disturbing in this retributive trend, something that offends me almost as much (albeit in a different fashion) as an adult who would prey upon a child. What is next? Will we start creating categories for burglars, car thieves, and drug addicts? How about tax cheats: why not create a special database of everyone who has screwed the government out of more than $50?
Do not misunderstand me - if I came across an adult attacking one of my children, he or she had better pray that the police arrive before I find my Louisville Slugger, because I would swing the mighty ashen Axe of Justice with wild abandon. But at one point do we stop punishing criminals, even hard-to-love freaks like sexual predators?