There is a big discussion going on here in Ohio right now. At the center of the discussion is pending legislation called Kristin's Law. This new law will require sexual predators to have green license plates on their vehicles. Last night Anderson Cooper had Kevin Coulghlin, the state senator who wrote this legislation, to discuss the impact it may have:
This may sound like some sound legislation on the outside, but will it really work?
Ten years ago Ohio started the sexual offenders registration list. To date there are almost 16,000 names on the list. This is, however, a highly inflated number.
I know of cases where 18 year old boys had sex with their 16 year old girlfriend, resulting in the girl getting pregnant. The parents of the girl get upset and file charges against the boy and in turn he gets convicted of having sex with a minor and being branded a sex offender for life. There are numerous other cases that are similar to this.
What the sexual offender list has become is a form of punishment instead of a tool of warning. Something as innocent as the incident I cite happens and judges decide to invoke the list as part of their sentence, causing serious negative consequences.
First - should the boy be branded the same as someone in their 50's who rapes a 13 year old? That doesn't seem right.
Secondly, and the most serious, is that the list is becoming unmanageable. The true repeat offenders never follow the rules. I can't tell you how many times I have heard of a child being raped by a repeat offender who didn't follow the rules and their information on the list became outdated.
Coughlin is trying to assure people that the plates will not be used as generously as the list. The list also was created with these promises. So now we have people being branded with green license plates like the 18 year old boy I mentioned; all because a judge wants to set an "example".
It will also become as unmanageable as the list is now. The people who truly made a mistake and now branded with the plates will follow the law; those who want to offend again will not. The repeat offenders will either use a vehicle without the plates, or just not care about the plate. They can still pull up and yank a kid off the street - green plates will not stop that.
Another issue comes to mind with this. What if you decide to sell your house? You are showing your house and on that very day the neighbor is home with their green plated car in the driveway. Your property value now goes down. But is that green plated neighbor really a threat, or someone who actually made a mistake 30 years ago?
I support the harshest of punishments for people like John Couey. People that will enjoy preying on children are the lowest form of life. Unfortunately giving them green license plates won't stop their disgusting actions. Instead we need to focus more on true rehabilitation (and I know some can not be rehabilitated). Prisons have become a catch all. They now house the same people that used to be confined to mental institutions. This is part of our broken justice system. We no longer have state run mental hospitals; instead we have prisons.
America is full of some brilliant people. If we all work together then we could come up with a more effective solution. I feel the sexual offender list should be re-examined. The people who made a stupid mistake half a lifetime ago should not be included on that list, thereby making it more manageable. A more manageable list will allow law enforcement more time to actually verify information for the serious offenders. This will save children, and others, from going through hell. Once we get that system working effectively then we can look at adding more warning systems.