Monday, February 8, 2010

Do Harsher Sex Offender Laws Really Work? (Maryland): Do harsher sex offender laws really work?

Do sex offender registries really work? Consider the following:

After the recent kidnapping and murder of 11-year-old Sarah Foxwell in Salisbury, Md., an alleged sex offender by the name of Thomas J. Leggs Jr. was charged with kidnapping and burglary. Little Sarah's body was found badly burned on Christmas Day 2009. Leggs already was listed on both the Delaware and Maryland sex offender registries. Leggs was one of 172 sex offenders in Wicomico County. The sheriff's department had conducted at least seven routine checks on this individual. Each time, he was in compliance with the law.

Did the sex offender registry program in Delaware and Maryland work? Only after the crime was committed did the registry possibly assist law enforcement personnel in the apprehension of a suspect. It did not prevent the crime.

If sex offender registries make you feel safer in regard to the well-being of your children, consider another tragedy in California.

In 1991, Phillip Garrido was listed on California's sex offender registry and restricted from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. Maryland does not have this requirement. Garrido also previously had been convicted of kidnapping and rape and had been sentenced to 50 years for this crime in 1976, but released early. Even in consideration of the above, he still allegedly managed to kidnap 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard off her bicycle on a California street, in broad daylight, and keep her locked in a shed behind his house for some 18 years while repeatedly raping her and fathering two children with her. The California sex offender registry did not prevent this crime nor did it quickly help in the apprehension of the sex offender.

If you believe a sex offender registry makes your children safer, you should think again.

If sex offender registries seem to be the wave of the future, should we also demand other registries for murderers, arsonists, thieves, etc.?

Certainly, as we get tougher with laws, I don't believe any employer will go out of their way to hire one of these offenders, do you?
If the offender then has difficulty getting a job in society, what might he or she do with a little extra recreational time on their hands?
Perhaps educating the public, both adults and children, to the potential dangers and behaviors of sex offenders might be more helpful.
I am afraid that tougher laws might sound really good and help get people really excited and elected, but the practicality and enforcement of them in preventing crimes in the neighborhood is slim to none.

Also, when the released prisoner has difficulty finding employment and adjusting to society because of a name on a registry, one should not be too surprised if that person returns to crime, sorrow visits a different community and another murder finds its way to the headlines of a local newspaper.