Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sex Offenders: The Last Pariahs

The New York Times caries a really interesting op-ed piece today from Roger Lancaster on US sex offender laws. It's a powerful and engaging article, with a conclusion that will upset many:
Our sex offender laws are expansive, costly and ineffective — guided by panic, not reason. It is time to change the conversation: to promote child welfare based on sound data rather than statistically anomalous horror stories, and in some cases to revisit outdated laws that do little to protect children.
This reflects Lancaster's thinking in his book, Sex Panic and the Punitive State and he is one of few academics brave enough to make these remarks in print (I've met many academics who agree with this position, they just don't want anything written down). Given the UK has attempted to import ideas such as Megan's Law (Sarah's Law here), the ideas/critique offered in this piece are also applicable to English law and the English criminal justice system. The article once again underlines the need for an informed and reasoned discussion in an area too often, if understandably so, characterised by panic, fear and emotion.

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Elly said...

totally Chris. You are one of those 'brave' academics too and I respect you for that.

Foucault and Freud both made comments, in their own contextualised way, about the 'moral panics' around adult/child sex and the age of 'sexual maturity' etc. But they were not living, ironically (as we think we are so liberated) in such punitive, politically 'correct' times.

Elly said...

One thing that worries me is how people (men invariably) who have sex with 'minors' seem to be automatically put on the sex offenders register for life. I am not sure what being on that register means, in your life. Or who gets to know about your status.

I find this subject so troubling and complex, and it is full of taboos so it is hard to talk about.

TreehouseOnMars said...

Thankyou, Chris. I leave in Texas, the Christofascist heartland, and would like to have Catholic Priests added to the list of sex offenders, preferably on the grounds that they are teaching that masturbation is a sin, but I would be satisfied if it was done merely on the grounds of psychological profiling. As Lenin said, "The situation must get worse before it gets better.".

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