Robert Collie, Contributor
I write with reference to two articles in your paper recently concerning the sex registry. Three senators, presumably of some intelligence, make a suggestion supported by the highly respected Gavel that the fine for disclosing the information on the registry be in excess of that of the offender carrying his certificate on him.
In a world where we are moving towards making more information available and seeking to protect persons who disclose information (as in whistle-blowers), they would make it a harsher penalty for unlawfully disclosing information on the registry than for allowing for the purpose of the registry to be presumably fulfilled by the offender having his scarlet letter on his person at all times.
The aim of the registry is to protect members of the public from sexual predators, especially repeat offenders, which, in the case of sexual offenders, tend to be among the highest level of recidivism. This is to be done by allowing the police to maintain a registry, requiring the offender to have his certificate on his person at most times.
One of the senators makes the argument that the offender could incur a higher fine if the person's mother had an emergency and had to rush to the hospital. The solution, to my mind, would be to include an exception for emergencies, not an increase in punishment for the illicit disclosure.
What we need is a higher level of discussion on the merits of the registry itself. For instance, I can only hope that the registry includes a provision for the continued registration with the closest police station. Study after study has shown that the most effective registries are those that require reporting of the offender to the local police, as it leads to the police keeping a better eye on them.
If The Gavel and the three senators wanted their suggestions to be taken seriously, they could have done some proper analysis and maybe referenced a study or two in arguing their grouse. However, that is not how our lawmakers have approached lawmaking. Rather, they have made it a habit of reacting to the latest crisis.
If The Gavel or the senators are interested in making a coherent argument against the concept of a sex registry, or even just the narrow and, in my opinion at least, pointless issue of illicit disclosure of information on the registry, they need only do a quick Google search. There is a plethora of studies that provide statistics and top-level analysis of the relative merits and demerits of having a registry and controlling whom that information is disclosed to.
Indeed, we could have done with a better analysis of our sexual offence laws before the sweeping reform made a few years back. A starting point might be to take a read of an article from The New York Times titled 'Sex Offenders: The Last Pariahs', by Roger Lancaster, published August 20, 2011.
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