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November 16, 2009

Editorial: Sex crimes laws need updating

11-16-2009 Florida:

Our society needs a new approach to sex offender laws that will be effective, just and constitutional.

Mind you, we have no sympathy for people who commit sex crimes, but there appears to be a one-size-fits-all approach as it relates to perpetrators.

And our society has branded all sex offenders with virtual "Scarlett Letters" making it impossible to live their lives in society once they have served their time.

Some would say that's a good thing to ensure the person never commits those crimes again.

Should, however, someone who has raped a child be punished the same as an 18-year-old high school student who has sex with a 15- or 16-year-old?

A more surgical approach is in order to deal with punishment and with the stigma.

Last week, lawyers were arguing the constitutionality of a Lee County ordinance prohibiting the presence of sex offenders within 300 feet of a number of areas. These include schools, day cares, video arcades, pools, parks, playgrounds, zoos, skate parks, beaches or "any similar type places where children congregate."

Joseph Comfort, 57, and Jeffrey Israel, 47, were arrested for violating the ordinance - a second-degree misdemeanor.

One huge problem is that there is no map to show what is off limits to registered sex offenders.

"I mean, I'm afraid to go anywhere and I'm just talking about taking care of the basic things, like grocery shopping," Comfort said.

It's only human that parents and grandparents, especially, would worry about anyone who could pose harm to a child.

And we see frequent news of sex crime arrests, from those who have been apprehended for allegedly possessing child pornography on their computers to last week's arrest of a 74-year-old Cape Coral man accused of committing a sex act in front of a 10-year-old girl.

If our aim is to make life as miserable as possible for sex offenders once they serve their time, then they - and taxpayers - are probably better off if they stay in prison.

However, we need to get over our discomfort on this issue and face up to the fact that a vigilante mentality in dealing with sex offenses must go by the wayside.

We are a nation of laws. Let's start a serious debate - without fear or vengeance - about how we might punish and possibly rehabilitate sex offenders. ..Source.. by

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