Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sex offenders want to steal your identity

Or so you would think… Like many others, I received a notice from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that my personal information was among the many that were compromised and as a result I was offered free credit monitoring for a limited period of time.  So like a fool, I froze my credit and accepted the free credit monitoring… the frozen credit has resulted in an inability to obtain a store credit card and as far as the free credit monitoring most of my alerts have been to let me know that there is a new sex offender in my area.  As someone who has passed the 50 year mark, there are times that I’d be flattered if someone would make a sexual advance but more to the point of this post I fail to understand the relationship between sexual offenders and identity theft.  Do sexual offenders have a greater propensity for stealing identities?  Where is that study?  I haven’t seen it and have a hard time intuitively making this type of conclusion.

More likely the truth of matter is that sending sex offender information is easy to do so it provides the illusion of a service.  This is along the same lines of weather and news apps – it’s easy to do so now just about every operating system includes a weather app and news app – whether you want it or not.  It has little to do with an operating system or what you need in an operating system, but it’s easy to do so they do it to create glitz and the illusion of value.  I’m still trying to quash the news feed on the latest iPad ioS “upgrade”.

Aside from my distaste for unwelcome bells and whistles such as alerts for sex offenders when I just need credit monitoring or grim news feeds sucking up space and bandwidth on my iPad I think the sex offender registry concept needs to be rethought.  The theory behind the sex offender register is that it be an administrative remedy to protect the public from a type of offender where recidivism is generally high.  That sounds dandy on paper, but there are some disturbing issues related to this practice.

First, there is a permanency to whatever is posted online.  This is why there is so much caution given to be careful what one posts online.  Yes, that short clip of you playing beer pong naked from 3 years ago may have been funny during your college days but when you go for your executive position it becomes not so funny.  Yes, sites do archive material which means that even if you post it and remove it, your faux pas still lives on because someone has likely made a copy of it and has archived it on the web to be found.  Thus, an online posting on the sex offender registry is a life sentence.  I realize that sex offenders do not garner much sympathy – after all they offended and “if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime…”  Go it, but does that mean a mistake should be a life sentence?

It might be easy to say, yes, if every sex offender were a 40 year old baby rapist, but that is not the case.  On the other end of the spectrum, you can have an 18 or 19 year old who makes a mistake with a 15 year old.  Do we want to give all of these 18 year olds a life sentence?  These cases likely do not fit the justification of establishing a registry to protect the public.  Many of these youthful offenders are likely not a significant threat to anyone.

My second concern is that the quickly growing volume of sex offenders on the registry is diminishing the value and intent of maintaining a registry.  Simply take a Google search of a sex registry of any moderately sized or greater area and check the number of offenders.  There are simply too many.  The result is that the truly dangerous are able to hide within plain site because they blend in with so many others.

Unfortunately, the answers to these concerns are not politically palatable.  My first solution would be to support a substantial revision of our vice related laws.  Maybe legalize consensual sex for everyone 14 and older – yes, we may frown on it or discourage it, but do we really need or want this set of issues in the court system?  While we’re at it, let’s legalize prostitution too; if they’re of age and consenting, let the people decide for themselves what is wrong or right.  It is utterly ridiculous that we spend so much time and resources on chasing vice crimes.  It may make for an interesting episode of “Cops,” but I’d prefer that this money go to address violent offenders.  As a whole, we have too many laws.  (I’ll avoid going full tangent in this post on my thoughts relating to drug regulations and government gambling monopolies).  Lastly, for a sex offender registry to be useful, we need to narrow our shot grouping so that the truly dangerous are on it and the ones who are not extremely dangerous are not.  (Ok, maybe that wasn’t the last… lastly, after we modify or get rid of the laws that I’ve identified, how about a law prohibiting these identity protection companies from spamming customers with unwelcome sex offender alerts).

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