Monday, July 27, 2009

The Latest Lepers: What Our Hypocrisy Has Wrought

It's been said that a society can be measured by how it treats the least amongst them. What does the Tuttle Causeway Colony say about us?

Many states and communities impose rules on where registered sex offenders may live. If you're a registered sex offender living in Miami-Dade County, you are prohibited from living some 2500 feet from any place where children congregate. Doesn't matter if your offense involved children, or if you have family in the area willing to look out for you, or even if you're appealing your decision. That leaves only one place in the county where you can live -- a shanty town under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. The courts have even told people that they have to go there, actually dumping them there with a blanket and pillow.

There is no running water. No permanent housing. The nonstop sound of cars reverberating overhead. Inhabitants share electrical generators to recharge their cell phones and ankle monitors. They are barred from leaving the area from 6pm to 7am. And imagine writing this down as your address on a job application.

This is the product of our hypocritical attitudes about sex. A murderer who completes their sentence can live where they want. Someone who rips off millions in people's life savings, once finishing their sentence, can live where they want. But if your crime involves sex -- even consensual sex between willing adults -- you can be exiled like a leper. For the rest of your life.

There are efforts to rehabilitate gang members, drug addicts, and violent criminals. We want them to learn a skill, to turn their lives around, to make a positive change. But sex offenders? So many have declared them to be irredeemable and untreatable (despite evidence to the contrary) that we are actually spending more time and taxpayer money making their lives worse.

Recently a woman was told by a Miami-Dade court that, because of her sex-related offense, this was the only place she had to go -- in a shantytown with over one hundred men. The men there provided her with a beaten-up camper, which for them is prime real estate. They've made a pledge to "watch out for her," and sticking by that pledge. In a seemingly hopeless dumping ground, these human beings are behaving more humanely and justly than those who put them there. A soul-stirring irony -- and a lesson for the rest of us.

1 comment:

  1. You should give a list of some of the strange way you can get listed as a registered sex offender. For example, a fifteen year old girl takes a topless cellphone picture of herself; she's making child pornography- boom, registered for life. In some states, if two sixteen year olds have sex, she's over the age of consent but he is not; she has just committed statutory rape- boom, registered for life. As at least of the last time I researched silly sex laws, some states prohibited certain acts even between married couples in their own home; if one of them brings it up, say in a divorce proceding, boom... The sex offender registry laws make no distinction between John Wayne Gacy and that 15 year old girl with a cell phone.