No crime evokes the rage and fear in people as a violent, senseless, random act against a helpless child. No crime headlines the news as when children are plucked off the street or out of their bedrooms by lurking strangers. Parents naturally want to keep their children safe from predators and believe laws like Jessica's, Megan's, and the Adam Walsh Act will do so.
The fact is, stranger abduction is very rare. Most offenses against children are by family members or friends. The laws have so changed the definition of sexual offenses (SO) that it includes innocent acts such as kissing a nude baby on the belly button and taking pictures of your children in the bath. A teacher can't hug a child for a job well done and a photographer can't take pictures of children he doesn't know building sandcastles for fear of arrest. Adults are cited for being in parks without children. A mother cannot take pictures of her own daughter at a skating rink; you can't even watch the children at the rink. Consensual sex between teens results in lifelong SO registration, as does texting self-taken nude photos. If you're a man walking down the street, don't catch the eye of a teenage girl and smile at her! You're an SO for breastfeeding your child in public or getting caught peeing behind a dumpster. Can anyone honestly say they've never done any of the above?
If you think it's easy just to change the laws back to some semblance of sanity, you're wrong. The media is excellent at whipping people into a mindless frenzy and politicians, of course, are only concerned with the next election. This atmosphere of paranoia is destroying more than helping. One man saw a little 2 year girl wandering by herself, but didn't dare approach her to help. She ended up falling into water and drowning.
While we bemoan the rising costs of prison inmate care and over-crowding, more and more are being buried alive in these institutions that have essentially done nothing wrong. People arrested for an SO don't have the Constitutional rights of those charged with, say, murder or embezzlement. In fact, touching a child will get you penalties worse than if you tried to murder that child.
It used to be automatic to reach out to a hurting child and hold them close, as a teacher or minister might. This vital human touch may be something a child doesn't get at home, yet desperately needs. What happens to these kids that have to grow up without loving touch because everyone is afraid of getting arrested on charges that will completely ruin theirs and their families' lives? Just more collateral damage.
Before you dismiss what you've just read as being soft on scum that prey on children, stop and think how you would feel if this happened to someone you know or love - even yourself - because if this keeps up, it's almost guaranteed that, sooner or later, it will.
The NCRJ: Fighting False Accusations, Wrongful Convictions
The Lives of Children and Families Ruined by Sex Offender Laws in America
Sentencing Law and Policy: Carefully exploring the wrongful conviction problem
Task Force on Wrongful Convictions | Wrongful Convictions Articles
Center on Wrongful Convictions, Center on Wrongful ConvictionsNational Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)