Pandora was created at the behest of Zeus and endowed with cruel longing, shameful thoughts, deceitfulness, and the guise of innocence. In many ways this describes the quintessential sex offender who preys on the most vulnerable of all possible victims: children. No other crime more completely and irrevocably qualifies a person for her or his dismissal from the human race in its entirety and society specifically. Molesting or sexually abusing a child is the kind of evil that crosses the invisible barrier between right and wrong to such an extent that it is impossible to perceive a person’s ability to step back from that chasm of evil unscathed and able to choose differently in the future.
Perhaps it is the fact that the sex offender knowingly, willingly, and with malice aforethought commits his/her crimes. Maybe the idea that another human being would intentionally desecrate the life and person of a child – a person whose life is yet to take flight – and thus in many ways extinguishes the fire and passion of a life before it is lived. Quite possibly it is also the fact that the ancillary crimes related to the sexual abuse of a child showcase a mind so utterly devoid of the trappings we accept as human decency that it is hard to imagine that such a convicted individual would ever be able to repay his/her debt to society.
Yet from a civil rights point of view, the treatment of convicted sexual offenders under the law is questionable at best and unjust as well as illegal at worst. Consider the facts:
- Sex offenders must register their identity.
- Sex offenders’ photos and addresses are posted on the Internet.
- Sex offenders are not wanted in neighborhoods and other areas, and generally neighbors are informed whenever such a person is moving in.
Right, wrong, or indifferent, there is not another crime that would elicit such a severe judicial response and societal approval. Murderers, burglars, thieves, and white collar criminals may live next door with nobody being the wiser; tax evaders, marijuana growers, cat burglars, spies, illegal immigrants, and racists are even at times celebrated by segments of society for the very fact of thumbing their noses at laws and mores while continuing their lawless pursuits more or less in full view. It would be unthinkable of illegal aliens to have their pictures posted online, or for tax evaders to face a mob unwilling to permit the person to move into a certain neighborhood.
Granted, the natures of the crime vary, yet the fact that the United States Constitution is seeking to offer justice for all seems to call into the question the very nature of justice herself. Civil rights are being bandied around with almost laughable cases that look more like the situational comedic acts of a bored grade school student than the discussions of a country distinguished by the production of some of the greatest thinkers; and even though there is no doubt that sex offenders have ripped up their membership cards to society at large, one cannot help but wonder if the justice system is truly doing the right thing.
Yet this is the opening of Pandora’s Box – what are the options, short of permitting sex offenders to re-enter society under the radar of those most vulnerable to their attacks? Should the American legal system investigate and invest in long term rehabilitation, or should the tough stance be taken that will give an automatic life sentence to each and every sex offender? Do individual cases of sex crimes warrant different punishments? In short, should sex offenders be assured their civil rights or should they be considered as someone who has chosen to leave human society in favor of unspeakable evil and thus no longer qualifies for civil rights?