The issue is not whether children need to be protected, of course they do. The issue is whether the solutions proposed to ensure their safety actually alleviate the danger to them. Unfortunately, Instead of aggressively seeking solutions to the dangers that women and children face, both in the home and in our schools, the federal government introduces laws that will increase the severity of punishments after the crime was committed and the prescribed sentence completed. Targeting these former offenders, most of who will likely never reoffend, is a good way to look tough without actually doing anything. Separating former sex offenders from society and increasing their punishment does nothing to protect society from the estimated 387,000 sexual assaults occurring in Canada and the United States each year. The tragic irony is that the panic over sex offenders distracts the public from real dangers, the far greater threats to children than sexual predators, such as: parental abuse and neglect, drunk drivers, drug dealers and gangs. The vast majorities of crimes against children are committed not by released sex offenders but instead, by a victim’s own family member and close family friends.
The Conservative government’s policies and procedures for the management of sex offenders have been driven by public outcry over highly publicized sex offenses. Craig Jones, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, calls the changes typical of the Conservative government’s “opportunistic” justice reforms. “They are characterized by a kind of reactive emotionalism driven by populist sensationalism. This is tinkering gone crazy.”
Legislators must avoid such reactionary responses that are based on public fear of this population because the evidence has been unambiguous- many of the policies that have been devised to protect society from violent sexual offenders are ineffective. These failed policies must be eliminated and replaced with policies based on the best available and empirical evidence rather than a media driven national panic. Furthermore, every individual must speak out against these failed policies and demand reforms that work towards making our communities safer, protecting our children, and respecting the dignity of human beings. We will no longer accept ‘feel good’ policies that protect no one, lend a false sense of security, and help foster an environment that makes our children and communities less safe..
If journalists, child advocates, lawmakers and police services are serious about wanting to protect society, they should turn away from persecution as a means to an end, and demand laws and practices designed to actually prevent crime while protect the right of people to heal and move forward; this focus should be based upon prevention and rehabilitation. Much of this information exists. The money wasted on tracking ex-felons who are unlikely to re-offend could be much better spent on preventing child abuse in the home and by educational programs designed to teach children how to avoid abusive situations and potential threats. Educational programs designed to give our children information about how sexual predation is perpetrated would bring a far better result.