Exploiting Sex Offenders to Ruin Childhood, Part 26: Halloween

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Before this year’s Halloween is a distant memory, consider this:

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt recently signed a law requiring registered sex offenders to “refrain from all Halloween-related contact with children from 5:00-10:30 pm on October 31.” It requires them to remain inside their homes with the outside lights off, and to post a sign saying they have no candy. A federal judge held that forcing offenders to remain in their home and refrain from being around children was overly broad, while finding that keeping a sign on their door and the lights off was constitutional.

We need to be clear about our actions toward convicted offenders: are we attempting to 1) punish them, or 2) make ourselves feel better, or 3) actually make ourselves safer? We can’t do all three simultaneously.

So most communities and elected bodies settle for numbers 1 and 2. But they’re dishonest about it. They say they want #3. But what if that means letting go of the lust for ever-greater punishment? And what if that means letting go of the gratuitous limitations, insults, and pointless exercises in proving How Much We Care About The Children?

The neighborhood notification law regarding offenders don’t make us safer. The Amber Alerts and other edicts named after dead kids don’t make us safer. And this pathetic Halloween grandstanding doesn’t make us safer.

Instead, such actions allow us to feel like we Really Care, and that we’re Really Serious about Doing Something about the safety of our kids.

But ironically, these measures make people feel less safe, not more. The continuing obsession with preventing our kids from being molested steals their childhood, robs us of sleep, and inflates the danger in parents’ minds. While in some ways the world has become more dangerous, in most ways, it only feels more dangerous.

If Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth, Missouri must now be the Scariest Place on Earth.

If you want to cripple kids, just convince them they live in a dangerous place, surrounded by invisible threats, and that the world is getting more menacing by the day.

This tragic program works for parents as well. Too many have stopped asking “how do I help my kid grow strong and capable of taking appropriate risks,” and now mostly ask “how do I keep my kid from being destroyed by irrational violence?”

That’s not an ambitious enough goal. It’s not possible. It ruins parenting. And it’s awful for kids. A convicted sex offender offering candy on Halloween isn’t even close to being that dangerous.

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