According to an article written by Bryan Robinson of ABC News, Judge J. Manuel Banales of Texas reviewed the records of all sex offenders placed on probation in his court in the last decade and ordered 14 of the offenders to put up a 2 foot wide, 18 inch tall placard that reads, “Danger: Registered Sex Offender Lives Here” in their front yard. The signs also contains a list of phone numbers to report suspicious behavior. In addition to the signs, the offenders were also given bumper stickers for their cars and portable signs with suction cups to put in car rear windows when they were riding in someone else’s auto. According to Banales, “These laws [sex offender notification laws] are designed to protect the community.” Banales went on to say that “Children are the most vulnerable of any of us. Many of the victims of these crimes never get over it. The whole idea is to protect the community, protect the children, and if targeting these offenders is what’s necessary than that’s what we’ll have to do.” Every state and federal government have “Megan’s law” statutes mandating community notification if sex offenders move into a neighborhood. While sex offenders names, addresses, photos and criminal records are available on state sexual offenders Web sites, Banales thought that this was inadequate because not everyone reads newspapers or has Internet access. (http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id+90496&page=1, Bryan Robinson)
Recently, more than a few people on social media sites have been publishing the sign that Judge J. Manuel Banales has deemed to be necessary to keep our communities safe. While I understand that almost all of us find sex crimes despicable and would like to find a way to make sure these crimes do not happen in our country let alone in our communities, I’m not sure I can get on the bandwagon with the “sign” campaign. Sex crimes are certainly heinous and spending the legal amount of time in a penitentiary is certainly warranted, just as prison time is warranted to someone who has taken a life. On a basic level, I think most of us would be able to agree that whether a person is actually murdered and dead or raped, beaten and left alive, both have lost their “lives.”
A murderer, depending on the degree, can “do his time” in confinement and be released a rehabilitated man to live among the general population; not so a sexual offender. A sexual offender “does his time” and then is released into the general population branded by a web site and possibly a sign placed in his front yard. A sex offender’s neighbors receive letters warning them of the potential danger of living next to a sexual preditor; one does not receive the same notification if a murderer happens to move into your neighborhood. I understand that most believe that a sexual preditor can never be completely rehabilitated. If that is true, and I believe the research supports such a belief, does placing a sign in a front yard keep them from committing these sexual crimes? Maybe, just maybe, the only real safe place to be from a sexual preditor is in the neighborhood with displays the sign; certainly any intelligent sex offender (and most are intelligent) would leave the vicinity of their visual brand. If the courts of law deem that a murderer is a threat to the population at large, that person, more than likely, is never released from prison. If the threat of the sexual preditor is great, shouldn’t the same safe-guard apply?
Please, do not think that I wish the offenders rights supercede the rights of the victim. Not only no, but hell no! The rights of the innocent should always prevail. The problem with saying (and believing that) is that there are more than “one” set of innocents. What about the innocent family members (mothers, fathers, wives, children, sisters, brothers) who have this sign displayed in their front yard for their neighbors to see? What was their crime? What did they do to deserve this punishment? Does merely loving a person who has committed a hideous crime automatically sentence them to the same punishment as the one who actually committed the crime?
No, I am not a victim of a sexual crime. No, my family has not been the victim of any sexual crimes. I also know that since I do not have first hand knowledge of such a thing, that some may think my opinion holds no value. Does one really have to experience a situation to have a valid opinion? Maybe, maybe not. I hold the opinion that there are some things I never want to experience.
I know I take the road less traveled on this subject. I know my opinion is not a popular one. I am sorry if that offends you but I hope my words have at least made you think beyond the popular opinion.