Friday, July 11, 2008

Sex Offenders: Where Is The Other Half Of The Conversation?

Lately in the local news I see that reporting about sex offenders in your neighborhood has reared it's ugly head. Now before you go off on me please know that I am not advocating for complete amnesty for convicted sex offenders so don't get all worked up before you read further.

Why I said that is because the reports that I see in the media are completely one sided and seem to only work to get people worked up about it. Most news reports only focus on where sex offenders live and who does not want them there. What I have yet to see is a report on where they are supposed to live. Many who have a previous conviction for a sex offense come through the homeless shelter system and stay longer than most because of the difficulty in finding housing. If they can't stay in the shelter because of capacity limits, then they are forced onto the streets. Which is exactly where we don't want them.

Add to that, anyone with a prior sex offense is often seen as a pedophile or repeat offender although many are not. There are many degrees of sex offenses and the general public is not informed on what they are. So who really is dangerous and who is not? I'd like to see the media educate the public on that rather than creating and participating in stereo typing and further polarizing the community.

I also want to know what the research is regarding a convicted sex offenders likelihood of offending again. Is there any research on treatments that have had success? How are sex offenders being rehabilitated and what can be done to ensure the best possible outcome?

If our community is to be truly made safe for all, then we need to be having the discussion of how to make it safe with out getting whipped up into a frenzy where we wind up keeping people in prison for life so as not to deal with the hard task of finding a solution. Prisons cost more than community based treatment and are not an effective answer for anything. As long as all convicted sex offenders are portrayed in the media as the most dangerous pedophiles, the public will view them that way and more housing and job opportunities will disappear, causing them to break the law by not having a registered address and the cycle of revolving through the prison system will continue.

If our local media wants to be considered first rate, I think it needs to do a better job of balancing these types of stories. Report the problem then seek out who is working on the solution, other wise, you are just contributing to making the community more polarized. It's not just the issue of sex offenders that are portrayed in such a one sided manor, it includes people with drug, alcohol and other convictions as well. I've seen the media go on what I see as witch hunts to expose people with criminal records to the public. I just don't see the media going out of it's way to show how the community is or is not addressing the issue of effective treatment and finding long term, positive solutions.

There I've said it.

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