Sex Offenders and the Law

AmberalertlogoJaycee Dugard was only eleven years old when she was kidnapped, raped, and subsequently held captive by a previously convicted sex offender named Phillip Garrido. Last week, eighteen years into her captivity, Jaycee was serendipitously found and freed — along with two (of Garrido’s) children that she had given birth to while still a teenager. Despite the happy ending, the case of Jaycee Dugard suggests that sex offender registries are simply not enough to ensure that children are protected from those who would do them harm: Garrido had been on such a registry at the time of Jaycee’s kidnapping and throughout her captivity. Consequently, as detailed in a recent NYTimes article, some are making vociferous calls for more stringent laws on crimes that involve the sexual exploitation of children.

What determines whether society should heed these calls depends, at least in part, on answering a variety of philosophical questions about the purpose of government and the proper scope of law more generally. For instance, any justification that one might give for adopting more stringent sex offender laws will need to assume (if not establish) three claims: (i) the government has a duty to protect the welfare of children; (ii) making sex offender laws more stringent is necessary for the government to discharge this duty; and (iii) making sex offender laws more stringent neither violates some more fundamental duty, nor requires the sacrifice of something that has greater (moral) value than the protection of those children whose welfare depends on the adoption of such laws. Although political philosophy (as a discipline) will probably not answer these questions for us, it can certainly give us guidance as we attempt to answer these questions — as we must — for ourselves.

Possibly Related Articles:

On the Philosophy of Group Decision Methods I: The Nonobviousness of Majority Rule
By Mathias Risse , John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
(Vol. 4, July 2009)
Philosophy Compass

On the Philosophy of Group Decision Methods II: Alternatives to Majority Rule
By Mathias Risse , John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
(Vol. 4, July 2009)
Philosophy Compass

Recent Work on Free Will and Moral Responsibility
By Neil Levy and Michael McKenna, University of Melbourne Florida State University
(Vol. 3, December 2008)
Philosophy Compass

2 thoughts on “Sex Offenders and the Law”

  1. The registry laws have done far more harm than good. Forget about all the cases of vigilantism; forget about the fact that while these laws are to proposed to protect the children, they include children, and a huge percentage of those on the list committed crimes that had nothing to do with children; forget about the fact that study after study has proven these laws not only are ineffective, but have actually made matters worse; forget about the fact that upon release from custody, registered sex offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates, not the highest. In fact those who receive counseling and treatment while in custody have outstanding records as opposed to those convicted of other violent crimes! The fact is the registry and the residency / work place restrictions should be limited only to those who are proven child molesters and pedophiles. This Law Enforcement can handle and monitor effectively. Do you seriously believe a committed pedophile cannot walk or drive 500, 1000, 2500, 5000 feet or more? Jaycee Lee Dugard was abducted miles away from where Philip Garrido lived!

    I am sure we will see comments from some hysterical, uninformed individual(s) who will suggest that all those on the registry should be locked up for life or worse. They will say there is no rehabilitation for these people. And for a few they are right, which is why we need to focus on them! Once a person has done his or her time that should be it. That is the foundation of this great country and its legal system. If you don’t like it move to China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, or where ever individual rights are ignored. If a person is a proven pedophile, lock them up for a very long time and provide treatment. If treatment is not working, keep them locked up. Too many families are being destroyed for political expediency. Too many children of those on the registry are being abused and ostracized at school. Too many families are being forced into isolation and restricted from the work place. If we are truly trying to protect the children with the registry, then let’s focus on the pedophiles and child molesters’. Get rid of the residency / work place restrictions and focus on the loitering laws. Let the rest of those on the registry re-assimilate into society after they have done their time and become solid, productive citizens; part of the solution not the problem. The facts, (and the Garrido case) most of the research, and study after study have proven what we are doing now, mostly for political expediency and to appease hysterical uninformed parents is not working and is in fact making matters worse!

  2. some one noticed my child in public with a family member of ours listed as a registed sex offender .at a public place the child was crushed by the embarassment and we were asked to leave in the state of R.I. an lost out on money we spent for dinner an games for the children. Talk about the impact it had on the children.

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