Scarlet letters: In a new essay Guy Hamilton-Smith opens with a wide view of this punishment-crazed country and then comes in for a close-up look at 21st century scarlet letters. The number of people forced to sign the sex offense registry continues to climb and is now close to 900,000. Evidence mounts that registries do not improve public safety or reduce recidivism but cause much damage to the lives of registrants and their kin. Meanwhile lawmakers are pressing for even tougher registration laws and are enacting new registries for non-sex offenses! Pushing back these draconian laws is a huge fight that will take lots of people. Those on the registry are struggling to raise their voices. Who will help them? Hamilton-Smith raises a rarely discussed but important issue, the role of criminal justice reformers in battling the registry. Have a look at his remarkable essay published by In Justice Today. –Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire
In Justice Today | Dec. 12, 2017
Sex Registries as Modern-Day Witch Pyres: Why Criminal Justice Reform Advocates Need to Address the Treatment of People on the Sex Offender Registry
By Guy Hamilton-Smith
Excerpts: More than any other nation on the planet, we rely on incarceration as the fix for our social ills. America’s unprecedented prison boom spawned advocates who work tirelessly to put the police state toothpaste back into the tube. For the first time since the data was tracked, state and federal prison populations declined in 2014, albeit slightly, from historic highs.
Yet amidst this wave of reform, one group of people continue to languish in the collective “harsher is better” mindset: sex offenders. If America has a civil death penalty, putting people on the sex offender registry is it. In a recent experiment, when individuals were given the choice between being labeled a child molester or dying, most chose death.
The numbers of those currently on the registry are staggering, and continue to increase each year. Absent seismic shifts in criminal justice policy, the trend will likely continue. As with witches, the modern-day sex offender largely a creature of our own creation, acting as a sort of repository for many of our collective moral anxiety around sex.
While a baked-in ick factor often turns many erstwhile warriors into silent observers, awareness and informed response is badly needed from those within the criminal justice community. Reformers urgently need to draw public attention to the cruel and unnecessarily harsh treatment afforded to sex offenders within the justice system. MORE:
Our vision for a just future
1. Abolish pre-crime preventative detention laws
2. Free our friends and loved ones from dehumanizing labels
3. Realign our justice system with the values of restoration and reintegration
Just Future Project is a new initiative focused on challenging pre-crime preventative detention laws. We are a people-driven grassroots advocacy campaign dedicated to building a movement of community members demanding an end to indefinite detention regimes.
Why Is This Important?
Pre-crime preventative detention systems are a dangerous departure from the traditional values of our legal system.
We believe in justice, that persons who have caused harm may be held accountable for their actions. But justice also demands proportionality and due process, elements essential to distinguish justice from mere vengeance. The goal of any true system of justice must be restoration and re-integration, not the perpetual containment and incapacitation that have come to define the U.S. criminal legal system.
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