Two states show just how far legislators and police will go to use categories like “sex offender” and “obscene” to ruin someone’s life. Of course, throw in “protecting the children” for maximum effect.
James Smith—a minor—forced, through physical threats, another minor X to ride with him to collect a drug debt from X’s friend. There is no allegation that the coercion involved anything sexual. Smith was arrested and convicted. But despite the fact that no sexual activity took place, Smith must now register as a sex offender because he committed a crime “comparable to a sex offense” (“false imprisonment of a minor”). The state supreme court recently upheld the sentence.
That’s right, in Wisconsin the sex offender registry is used to punish non-sex offenders.
Imagine if a state allowed you to be punished as a drunk driver not because you had driven drunk, but because you had committed a “comparable” crime (say, auto theft). Imagine if you could be punished as a murderer even if the state admitted you hadn’t murdered anyone.
Why bother with the sex offender registry? Just cut off a criminal’s hands, or cut out his tongue. It makes exactly as much sense, and it’s exactly as civilized.
This is another case showing how the sex offender registry is not about protecting the public—it’s about maintaining the social consensus of fear and anger about sexuality. And it shows how law enforcement is invested in keeping the registry as dark, mysterious, scary, and large as possible. “Sex offender” is no longer a description of behavior. It’s a demonization, a label that someone is no longer human. And it’s a convenient way to prove that sex is dangerous.
In Florida, it’s a felony—“obscene”—to depict a minor engaged in any act or conduct that is harmful to minors.
“Depict.” That means words or drawings. In Florida, just using words can be considered “obscene,” which can send you to jail.
And that’s where Colorado resident Philip Greaves now sits. Because a Florida county sheriff ordered a self-published book from Greaves (“The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct”) and then ordered him extradited to stand trial. The publicity-hungry sheriff says “there’s a limit” to what people should be allowed to say. And, of course, that children must be protected at all costs.
Notice that Greaves is not being prosecuted for having sex with children. No one is accusing him of watching or recording actual adult-child sex. No, he’s “depicting” it in two stories. The government is telling him what he can’t say.
Isn’t there a law somewhere that guarantees our right to say stuff, no matter how stupid or evil?
Notice that the sheriff isn’t demanding that Adolph Hitler’s book Mein Kampf be removed from Amazon.com. It advocates mass murder—but it isn’t about sex.
If the Florida legislature wants to criminalize depictions of minors engaged in activity that’s harmful to minors, do they plan to go after the rulebook for high school football?
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