Don’t draw the wrong lessons from California predator case

The awful case of Jaycee Lee Dugard, rescued from a sexual predator after 18 years as his sex slave, is one of those gut-wrenching tales that frightens parents, depresses police officers and energizes lawmakers, who will see an opportunity. Expect politicians at all levels of government, from Congress down to tiny city councils, to seize upon the case to polish their law-and-order credentials.

In the coming months, there’s likely to be a new round of pledges to go after sexual predators and run them out of decent neighborhoods. Look for legislation that imposes fearsome penalties for slight sexual misconduct and adds whole new geographies to the areas where convicted sex offenders may not live, work, eat or breathe.

That impulse, while understandable, ought not to make its way into public policy. Adding offenses and names to the sex registry will make it much more difficult for police to keep an eye on the most dangerous predators.

There are already too many names on sexual offender registries around the country — about 674,000 all told, according to The New York Times. It ought to come as a relief to know that there are not that many vicious perverts of the likes of Philip Garrido, arrested for kidnapping Dugard. (The vast majority of child abductions involve custody disputes; children are usually taken by parents or other relatives.)

But the Garridos infect our memories and invade our nightmares, dredging up our deepest fears about human nature. Every time a case like this comes to dominate the news, public officials make new pledges to protect the public, trying to outdo each other with promises of harsh justice for predators. That has led to sexual registries overburdened with peeping Toms, flashers and foolish adolescents who had sex with a slightly younger teenager.

One of the best known cases of overzealous use of sexual predator laws involved Genarlow Wilson, a young Georgia man who was sentenced to 10 years in prison — and a lifetime on Georgia’s sexual registry — for the crime of consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl. Wilson was 17 at the time.

After the Georgia Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 2007, Wilson was finally released from prison after serving nearly three years. When he was initially prosecuted, he had refused a plea deal that would have meant a lesser sentence. Why? Because the deal would have landed him on a sexual offender registry for the rest of his life.

“I just don’t feel like I’m a sexual predator,” he said. He wasn’t.

Wilson wasn’t the only Georgian ensnared because of inappropriate — but hardly criminal — behavior as a teenager. But when the Georgia Legislature had the opportunity to correct defects in the law — to narrowly focus the sex registry on dangerous, violent offenders who prey on children — it refused to do so. None of the legislators wanted to be caught with a vote that a rival politician might cast as soft on child molesters. That reluctance to back away from overzealous use of sex offender registries has been repeated around the country, leaving police with far too many names to keep up with.

Law enforcement agencies shouldn’t have to waste valuable time and resources trying to monitor the creeps who drop their britches in public. They’re disgusting, but they’re usually not dangerous. And teenagers who have sex on school property may not get Student of the Year awards. But they shouldn’t be on sex offender registries.

No matter how many or how few names are entered on any registry, there will never be a perfect system for foiling the worst predators. Garrido checked in with his parole officer regularly, according to published reports, and wore a tracking device used to monitor his whereabouts. He still managed to ruin a child’s life after he was paroled on a rape conviction.

Trying to eliminate that kind of evil can make for bad law.

36 comments Add your comment

The original Jack

September 4th, 2009
8:03 pm

Tucker will choose any topic other than the Van Jones topic.

the evil rich

September 4th, 2009
8:08 pm

You’re in DC, this happened in CA, why are you discussing this, when there are so many local/regional issues you could cover?

Michael G.

September 4th, 2009
8:08 pm

Funny, Cindy, I don’t ever remember you saying we shouldn’t be overzealous when it comes to “hate crimes” legislation. The differencebetween the two is one is a crime that has already been commited (sex predator), and the other is what a criminal “may ” be thinking at the time of the crime. We hear experts say that killing animals had led criminals to commitviolent acts against people later on in life. My question is why would the same not hold true for sexual predators?

itofts

September 4th, 2009
8:39 pm

another point is this… what this man did… thousands and thousands of Mormoms are doing children every day of every year…check out “Under the Banner of Heaven” by jon krakauer…

I’m serious, there a whole cities…10,000 person cities, where to a man women and child they are raping underage women and forcing them into multiple wives marriages…that stuff in Texas back a year or so ago…pffft…tip of the iceburg. Wait till you read this book.

This man and 10,000 others just like him. I sheet you not.

Its institutionialized child rape on a scale that I can’t even get my head around and its all right here in america and its protected as just another religion.

Or are 13, 14 and 15 year old girls being impregnated by 50 year old men your idea of “religion”?

Call it Like It Is

September 4th, 2009
9:35 pm

Yeah, she wants to try to take the focus off of the Socialist Racist Barry the healthcare failure.

I wish you would quit or get fired Cynthia you liberal moron!

Enough Said!

Call it Like It Is

September 4th, 2009
9:45 pm

Why was my last comment deleted since I was slamming you and Barry?

Steve

September 4th, 2009
9:58 pm

The main conclusions that I can reach is that 1) it is very sad that this creep was ever paroled originally…we need more prisons and the death penalty would be way too easy for this guy and his wife; and 2) the parole officer never checked this guy’s property?

David

September 4th, 2009
10:26 pm

All the attention given to registered sex offenders gives a distorted perception of the more likely perpetrators of sex crimes against children. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 93% of children who are victims of sexual abuse are victimized by family members or acquaintances. 94% of those arrested for the sexual molestation of children in New York State are first time offenders who are not listed on any registry. To put it another way, if a child has been the victim of sexual abuse, the odds are 4 in 1,000 that the child was victimized by a stranger who is a registered sex offender. The odds are far greater, 874 in 1,000, that the child was victimized by a family member or acquaintance who is not listed on the sex offender registry. The main effect of sex offender registries is to give the public a false sense of security.

Barry

September 4th, 2009
11:01 pm

Well said, Cynthia. Too bad far too man politicians are too gutless heed your advice.

Wendy

September 5th, 2009
1:46 am

Absolutely. Appropriate response is about education, not reaction.

C K Hall

September 5th, 2009
4:05 am

Cynthia has a plethora of knowledge on just about any subject–as long as it is race related..How about something on Van Jones?

Jim

September 5th, 2009
8:41 am

I cannot believe I am agreeing with the usually unreasonable (my opinion) Cynthia Tucker. For once she got it right. The registry laws have done far more harm than good. Forget about all the cases of vigilantism; forget about the fact that while these laws are to proposed to protect the children, they include children, and a huge percentage of those on the list committed crimes that had nothing to do with children; forget about the fact that study after study has proven these laws not only are ineffective, but have actually made matters worse; forget about the fact that upon release from custody, registered sex offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates, not the highest. In fact those who receive counseling and treatment while in custody have outstanding records as opposed to those convicted of other violent crimes! The fact is the registry and the residency / work place restrictions should be limited only to those who are proven child molesters and pedophiles. This Law Enforcement can handle and monitor effectively. Do you seriously believe a committed pedophile cannot walk or drive 500, 1000, 2500, 5000 feet or more? Jaycee Lee Dugard was abducted miles away from where Philip Garrido lived!

I am sure we will see comments from some hysterical, uninformed individual(s) who will suggest that all those on the registry should be locked up for life or worse. They will say there is no rehabilitation for these people. And for a few they are right, which is why we need to focus on them! Once a person has done his or her time that should be it. That is the foundation of this great country and its legal system. If you don’t like it move to China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, or where ever individual rights are ignored. If a person is a proven pedophile, lock them up for a very long time and provide treatment. If treatment is not working, keep them locked up. Too many families are being destroyed for political expediency. Too many children of those on the registry are being abused and ostracized at school. Too many families are being forced into isolation and restricted from the work place. If we are truly trying to protect the children with the registry, then let’s focus on the pedophiles and child molesters’. Get rid of the residency / work place restrictions and focus on the loitering laws. Let the rest of those on the registry re-assimilate into society after they have done their time and become solid, productive citizens; part of the solution not the problem. The facts (and the Garrido case) and study after study have proven what we are doing now, mostly for political expediency and to appease hysterical uninformed parents is not working and is in fact making matters worse!

Me First

September 5th, 2009
9:41 am

Jim:

You’re right. That’s why we need the Second Amendment left intact. I have a registered S.O. living right on my corner. Now, my eight year old son understands what kind of people he needs to be aware of. This poor loser can’t make a living doing anything else, so he went back into prostitution. Unfortunatley, the folks in my neighborhood don’t have much compassion for these types. A woman named Jennifer Ewing used to be one of my neighbors. If you’re not familiar with the name, just look it up. She was raped and murdered on the Silver Comet Trail. Fortunately, her killer was tried outside of Fulton County and received the death sentence.

gatorman770

September 5th, 2009
9:48 am

This is the first time I can remember agreeing with you. Kids 18 and younger should not be on the sexual offender registries for acts that are shown everyday on TV. If so then the producers and sponsers of TV shows and movies setting examples for youths should also be on the sexual offender registries. I clutters up the system making it hard to track and keep an eye on the real purbs.

Now let’s hear you defend the racist commie Van Jones that should be deposed from czardom.

Cletus Snow

September 5th, 2009
1:58 pm

Put a sock in that pie hole Tucker until you tell us about Van Jones Obama’s radical jobs czar. I’d like to hear your views on that subject. He’s as radical as a pack of wolves on crack.

Ron

September 5th, 2009
2:00 pm

Obviously Tucker is not going to mention the two black professors in Atlanta as long as she can write about something in California regarding a subject that has been written about many, many times.

amicus

September 5th, 2009
2:46 pm

Funny how the liberals are quick to point out the “Romeo/Juliette” cases because they don’t want to see the reality of what takes place in this country. Children are not valued, they cannot vote and people and politicians could care less about keeping them safe. To the person who wrote, it’s about “education” yes, we must educate our children about the dangers, but this child was snatched off the street by this sicko and his wife, are you implying that her parents did not educate her? Shame on you!

greg

September 5th, 2009
8:08 pm

The cute commie chick is mostly right. But are the trouser dropping jerks really harmless- how does she know-back that comment up.It is very important.

ken

September 5th, 2009
11:42 pm

She will NEVER talk about VAN JONES. It will hurt the cause.

Dee

September 6th, 2009
1:22 am

Cynthia doesn’t know the difference between a sex offender and a sexual predator.

Willis

September 6th, 2009
8:09 am

So it’s OK for Vice-President Cheney to tell a U.S. Senator to “go f**k yourself, but Jones cannot use the a*****e” word to describe Republicans?

The hypocrisy continues.

Peaches

September 6th, 2009
8:33 am

Van Jones, the “green jobs czar” quit over both current coarse an inappropirate remarks along with his radical past comments. There is a great deal more to say about Jones and about Beck for that matter but that’s not the point. While there is controversy here one would not know it by reading the AJC. Jones has only been covered in the opinion pages.
The news operations of the AJC have had absolutely nothing to say about the entire affair. Next time an editor starts taking about how the paper is striving to leave its one sided past, stop and remember.

smoochie

September 6th, 2009
12:40 pm

Since when do convicted felons get White House clearances? And Jones signed petitions saying George Bush was complicit in 911.

And the fact that he was White House staff speaks volumes about Obozo. He will probably replace Jones with Louis Farrakhan.

ghostwriter

September 6th, 2009
2:08 pm

Smoochie,
You need to google Jeff Gannon and ask how a male prostitute posing as a reporter (and who defiled U.S. Marine symbols to solicit clients on his website) got White House clearances.

Next, everyone should ask why law enforcement does not have to apologize to Dugard’s family for acting “stupidly” after failing to search Garrido’s house when a neighbor called to report his supicious activities.

In a historical context, this behavior is no better than that of Thomas Jefferson. Defenders of Jefferson like to point out that he participated in an accepted more of the day (slavery) however, there is no question that forcible rape was ever acceptable by either the church or secular society.

CynthiasAnIdiot

September 6th, 2009
3:36 pm

Cynthia,

Since you don’t want peeping toms and flashers on the sex offender registry, I think you should house them in your neihborhood! We’ll see how fast your opinion changes when you catch some perv looking in your windows or flashing you (and kids) while you drive by your neighbor’s house.

Pogo

September 6th, 2009
6:12 pm

Cynthia conveniently omits the fact that liberal judges turn people out like this monster on a daily basis.

She also will not address Van Jones. Her thought process pretty much goes like this: (1), everything involves racism of some sort against blacks. (2) she will do no harm to her socialist approach to the governing of our society no matter the consequences of the policy to this country (3) she is devoid of objectivity which renders her pretty much a one trick pony.

What she fails to realize is that she should be lumped into the same coal-bin of history as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. She (and they) have made a career of racism. Without racism they would have had no career. Another words, they pretty much don’t want racism to go away because it feeds them and makes them wealthy. There are a lot of black Americans out there that work really hard and that pay a lot of taxes that no longer believe the self serving propaganda she promotes. OBama’s popularity among blacks, which was 95% three months ago, has fallen to 71%. This shows that there are self thinking people out there that will not walk lock-step with her in her racist paranoia. My hats off to them. Cynthia no longer works (and maybe never did) as a protector of blacks against racism but seeks to keep them shackled to the idea of racism. Another words, she promotes a victim mentality which is really, really insulting to intelligent people of any color. She has been couped up in her little office and has been protected by liberal editors for much too long. Maybe she should step out into the real world. It seems to have passed her by.

smoochie

September 6th, 2009
8:22 pm

“You need to google Jeff Gannon and ask how a male prostitute posing as a reporter (and who defiled U.S. Marine symbols to solicit clients on his website) got White House clearances.’

I researched that. Press passes are not as high as staff passes. A Yankee White clearance is done by the FBI for everyone who enters the grounds. This includes honor guards, grounds keepers, press, etc. A convicted felon in any capacity, including being pardoned, is automatically denied. For actual White House staff clearance, an additional investigation is done by the US Secret Service. A felony conviction is automatic denial. The only way a convicted felon like Jones serves at the White House is an exception filed at the highest level of government. Either Obama or an immediate member of his staff (Axelrod, Emmanual, etc) granted this exception. The claim Obama makes that he knew nothing about Van Jones’ background rings false at this point. To the best of my knowledge, no convicted felon has EVER served at the White House. And the fact that the Obama administration allowed Jones access in the first place is much worse than the Jones story itself.

ieee

September 7th, 2009
12:52 am

People who support the Sex Offender Registries and especially all of the rest of the idiotic laws that they have enabled to be inflicted upon the people of the United States, are either uninformed dreamers or fools. It takes very little examination of reality to see that these laws do negligibly little that is useful but unfortunately are not just worthless, they are much worse. If the laws were only worthless that would not be so bad, but they are ridiculously counterproductive. They only exist to make some people feel good.

The governments that have passed many of these laws, certainly including Georgia, are criminal regimes. People who support these laws and the criminal regimes’ crimes are terrible, terrible Americans. Those people will not be educated, they will not work hard. They are turning this country into a worse than third-world cesspool. These laws have no place in a great country. They are nothing more than worse-than-worthless harassment.

ghostwriter

September 7th, 2009
9:59 am

Smoochie,
Prostitution is a felony. Van Jones was arrested for protesting the Rodney King verdict (charges were dropped) – he does not have felony conviction. BTW some people don’t have felony convictions because they plead guilty to lesser charges (see Neil Bush). . From what I’ve read – and I by no means have spent much time on this – Van Jones was a young idealogical idiot who dabbled in communistic causes and has since “grown up”.

John

September 7th, 2009
11:51 am

I cancelled my AJC subscription a year ago primarily because of Cynthia Tucker and the AJC Editorial Board’s dramatic shift to the left. This is the first column I’ve read since then. Good grief, Cynthia. You’ve actually gotten worse! Let me borrow a quote from your good pal Barney Frank. What planet do you come from? Everyone sitting in a circle singing kumbaya fixes everything all the time, right?

chuck allison

September 7th, 2009
12:18 pm

Genarlow Wilson was and is a sexual predator and your efforts to defend them and minimize their offenses decreases the safety of decent citizens.

Rightwing Troll

September 7th, 2009
6:34 pm

“I cancelled my AJC subscription a year ago primarily because of Cynthia Tucker and the AJC Editorial Board’s dramatic shift to the left.”

Yet here you are… you and all your flat earth, wingnut buddies.

Amazing, quite a few of wingnuts are here calling for Cynthia’s firing, yet day in and day out you all troll here and create traffic which creates revenue, which means Cynthia won’t get fired at all. The more you all hang out here and harumph, the more unlikely it is she will get fired.. it’s called irony… look it up wingnuts…

he he

stew

September 7th, 2009
8:25 pm

I also cancellled my suscription due to Cynthia and the inferior quality of the actual paper itself. It is like reading rice paper. It would, however, be refreshing to see what she thinks of Van Jones. She most likley agree’s with his positions but would not print it , because if she loses her job, no one else would hire her.

Humm?

September 8th, 2009
2:17 am

Why is it that when someone questions the Bush admin, their career’s are attacked and lost? Is this the same Admin that said there were Weapons Of Mass Destruction somewhere and we still haven’t found them? Maybe we can hire those who made them dissapear over here to get rid of our Nuke Waste? We couldn’t even find traces :-) those guys are GOOD! Question On Baby!

Bob

September 8th, 2009
7:53 am

I cancelled my AJC subscription 2 weeks ago because of Cynthia Tucker radical and racial articles..

Pitbull

October 3rd, 2009
11:40 am

It is refreshing to see someone actually look at this problem rationally but fear not this case highlights in a very dramatic way the failure of the sex offender registry system and I do not think to many politicians want to use this case as their poster child.

Creepy Phil was ON THE REGISTRY!! Creepy Phil was wearing a GPS device!!! Creepy Phil was visited by a probation officer!!! and with all that he kept a sex slave in his yard for 18 years?

I think even the most dull witted head of American “sheeple” can see that the current scheme is a complete and total failure.

700,000 registered sex offenders on the list and not one single case of sexual abuse has yet been prevented? This political tool has been a boom for politicians and infotainment media’s not to mention newspaper circulation but with the states going broke many are having to question this popular but completely useless and infective experiment.

Over 95% of all sex crimes are committed by friends or family members of the victim not by strangers that’s a proven fact but the frightened “sheeple” continue to support a scheme that is costing billions of dollars to list public urinators and 18 yo kids with a 15 yo girlfriend?

Every member of L.E. surrounding this case has run for cover as the horrible failure of this worthless registry is highlighted in such a dramatic way I do not see many politicians embracing this mammoth failure with some new law to further their political careers.