FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When Will This Witch-hunt be Slowed?

The sex offender hysteria in America has now been widely exposed for what it is – a panic and a witchhunt. Yet it continues and grows every day, with politicians of all stripes and parties still climbing on the scapegoating bandwagon.

This great American injustice involves the public shaming of at least 600,000 Americans, most of whom are non-violent offenders, and about 50,000 of whom are juveniles.  The Human Rights Watch Report issued last fall, No Easy Answers, by Sarah Tofte, described the U.S. sex offender registry and related laws as vindictive, punitive and ineffective.  Debbie Nathan in CounterPunch, Dorothy Rabinowitz in the Wall Street Journal, and a whole range of journalists writing in major newspapers as well as alternative and online media, have clearly shown the damage done by wrong-headed sex offender registries in every state, including online public humiliation and ridiculous residency restrictions in most states, and by life-time civil commitment laws in many states.  As a Supreme Court Justice in Maine pointed out, these laws have taken America back to the days of pillories and stocks in colonial Salem, undermining some of the most basic American Constitutional protections, including the right to habeas corpus and the restriction against ex post facto laws.

Perhaps worst of all, it is clear that such laws do not protect children or anyone from sexual abuse. Everyone, including children, is harmed by these repressive laws that erode basic U.S. civil liberties and human rights.

It has been eight months since we announced in CounterPunch a major effort  to campaign for the reform of these unjust laws, RSOL – reformsexoffenderlaws.org. That effort has grown from an initial thirty signatories to more than 250 today.

It is important to show the breadth of this effort: in addition to prominent Americans like Howard Zinn and Dr. Richard Pillard and others on the original list, more and more important signatories have been added.  These include Dr. Jerome Miller of the National Center for Alternative Institutions; internationally acclaimed health educator David Werner; anti-war activists Sid and Louise Peck; native American leader, David ¨Tally¨ Plume; psychiatry professor, Dr. Martin Kafka; sex offender treatment specialists Geoffrey Prentky, Phillip Taylor, Roy A. Dudley and Ronald Feintech; film-maker David Kennerly; gay activist and librarian Daniel Tsang and gay journalist Doug Ireland; physicians Dr. Clyde Hapgood, Jr., and Dr. Andrew S. Nicholson; sexual and gender studies academics Tom Waugh and Martha Vicinus; social workers Donna DiMarino, David Collesano and Roswitha Winsor; prominent lawyers Michael Steven Smith, Kathy Manley, Debra Beard-Baden, John Swomley, William T. Habern, Michelle Fox, Ernest Winsor, Helen Johnson, Ivan Liborio, Learni Levy  and Rebecca Young; nurses & health educators Joellen W. Hawkins, Nancy Stanton, Linda Broadley, Donna Johnson and Madeline Kockler; pastors and other spiritual leaders including Dr. Aaron Peters, Rev. Dr. C. David Hess, Rev. Joseph Daily, Rev. Larry Burton and Rev. Marian Tetor;  retired policeman, Tom Poxson; an array of university and other educators including Dr. David Pratt, Dr. Geoffrey D. Birky, Dr. Jack Tobin, and Dr. John V. Walsh; and other writers including Dr. Susan Weissman, Frederick Baumgarten, Alyce Wenger, Brian Rothery, Thomas W. Robinson, Roger Wonderly and David Peterson.  Additionally, scores of  Americans in various walks of life from group home counsellors and bakers to secretaries and construction workers, have braved public scorn to sign the statement

RSOL now has supporters in virtually every state. RSOL and sex offender rights groups (SoClear, SOSEN, Voicesofthegulag and others) have fostered a wide range of actions around the country, including dramatic protests by sex offenders held for life at the Coalinga State Hospital in California, a rally at the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, and lobby efforts in Massachusetts, New Hampsire, Texas and Virginia.  In one case, a small victory was won when RSOL participants helped block absurd and cruel residency requirements for sex offenders in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Here and there, state courts have thrown up red flags of warning.  Indiana and Ohio courts have warned that retroactive re-classification of sex offenders violates the ex post facto laws.  Georgia`s Supreme Court finally demanded the release of a black teenager already jailed for years for consensual sex with another teen – calling his sentence cruel and unusual punishment.

Yet the sex offender panic continues to grow, not recede. The Federal courts mostly stoke the bonfires.  The U.S. Supreme Court will decide this spring the fate of a man on death row in Louisiana in a non-lethal child sex case, and most observers fear a reversal of the 1970s decision that capital punishment can only be used for certain heinous murders. Ever more repressive laws are added in state after state.  Some states have  announced that sex offenders of all levels will not be allowed to travel. Residency restrictions just get more and more impossible and absurd – Florida is no longer unique in forcing its sex offenders to ¨live under a bridge.¨  Politicians of every stripe try to outdo one another in venom sex offenders.

RSOL receives regularly emails from people who agree that these laws are wrong, but who are scared to death to be associated with any movement to oppose them.

Writing recently in the online version of the newspaper, the Oregonian, Merilee Karr said, ¨America has a long tradition of witchhunts.  The witchhunters will always be well-meaning, like the FBI agent running down grandfathers, pastors and teachers.  Reasonable people will always unite to stop the witchhunts.  But never, in American history, until after great damage is done.  How long will we wait this time?”

We at RSOL appeal to decent Americans – especially to the readers of CounterPunch –  DO SOMETHING! Don`t let the suicides and vigilante actions continue without protest. Don´t let the damage just keep piling up. Join us!  Start a movement for reform in your community, lobby your legislators and Federal Congresspersons to amend or repeal these unjust laws.  Dare to speak out for civil liberties and against the witchhunt.   For starters, visit our website and sign our statement, and urge others to do so. www.reformsexoffenderlaws.org. Don´t let these  crimes against liberty and the rights of all people, including children,  go unopposed!

Alex Marbury and Paul Shannon (The writers are organizers and contact persons for RSOL.  Paul Shannon  is a well known peace educator in New England.  You may contact Alex at alexm60@fastmail.fm and Paul at pshannon@afsc.org or call 617-497-5273.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail