Branding and Stigmatizing Sexual Offenders in America: Part 1

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Branding and Stigmatizing Sexual Offenders in America: Part 1

There is so much money to be made scaring the hell out of Americans about sexuality

that no one on the gravy train can afford to slow it down. Any outsider who questions this

juggernaut is immediately labeled insensitive, anti-family, immoral, or a pedophile.

America’s War on Sex

Dr. Marty Klein

Branding and Stigmatizing Sexual Offenders in America: Part 1

This is a two part series about sex offenders in the United States. People with this label are frequently condemned, attacked and sometimes killed in prison. Men and women who are released must submit their names and addresses to a state and federal sex offender registry. In America, there is perhaps no greater stigma than to be judged as a sex offender. People on the list have been subjected to evictions, harassments, threats and even murder by people who assume they must be “the worst of the worst.”

Being given the label of sex offender by the USCJS is an invitation to stigmatization, stereotypical characterizations and extreme judgments. When I was buried in my first American prison mausoleum, an eloquent redneck approached and confronted me on the “recreation” yard. “Hey you,” he said, “I heard you was in here for some really f***** up sh**.” “What did you hear?” I asked. “That you was a pedophile!” he accused. “Well, you heard wrong,” I replied. His erroneous assumption was based on my age – late 50’s. He was neither an accurate predictor nor a criminal prophet. If it had been true, he likely would have threatened and attempted to extort money from me. The pejorative term sex offender often does not come even remotely close to depicting the reality of what actually occurred or describing the people who are saddled with and forever branded by this legal epithet. The Court Jester has had the opportunity to meet, interview and befriend many prisoners who have been unfortunate enough to carry this burden. What became immediately evident was that most people found guilty of sexual offenses, sentenced to prison and forced to wear the scarlet badge of shame are not people to be feared or reviled. The prosecutorial team of police, detectives and prosecutors; the USCJS as a whole, and the American public have tremendous difficulty maintaining a sense of reality and proportionality about many of these legal cases and people, let alone rationality, balance and fairness.

Convicted defendants in America have been sentenced from 25 to 90 years in prison for having sexual pictures of teenagers on their computers. Many others have been caught chatting with adult detectives in sting operations that attempt to identify true pedophiles, but often succeed in arresting harmless people who would never consider victimizing a child. The Court Jester has interacted with a number of men who received outrageous sentences for the pictures on their computer. Many of the photos are of older teenagers who appear to be adults. I met one man who received 80 years in prison for viewing pornographic pictures of teenagers. Eighty years! Another was given 90 years for sharing underage pictures with other men through the Internet. Ninety years! How can these victimless offenses lead to prison sentences approaching 100 years? The “only in America” criminal justice phenomenon resurfaces and rears its ugliness once again. The Jester also knows men who were falsely accused by vindictive ex-girlfriends of rapes that never occurred. Their actual innocence did not prevent them from being wrongfully convicted and unjustly sentenced to between 10-30 years in the malignant and malicious American prison system. The Court Jester recommends that people labeled as “sex offenders” be seen as they actually are, on a case by case basis, instead of through the judgmental lens of assuming they are all monsters and dangers to society. The USCJS demonizes every criminal defendant – the innocent and guilty alike. Many people registered as sex offenders are far from what the negative label should mean.

“Real” sex offenders – those with a history of sexually violent behavior against actual victims – have been targeted by controversial legislation approved by the Alabama state legislature. In an article written for the Associated Press, entitled, “Alabama bill: chemical castration for sex offenders,” was published on June 5, 2019, reporter Kim Chandler stated that the legislation was sponsored by Republican state representative Steve Hurst. Rep. Hurst’s initial bill, called the “mandatory maximum castration” bill by the Jester, called for certain sex offenders to undergo what Kim Chandler termed “mandated permanent surgical castration.” This legislative effort ultimately failed. In its place, Rep. Hurst sponsored what the Jester calls “mandatory minimum castration.” This requires certain released sex offenders to be forced to take a medication that blocks the production of testosterone, until a judge determines that he can be taken off the chemical castration pill. These are the requirements for chemical castration in Alabama. The ex-prisoner would have to be convicted of a sexual crime against a child younger than the age of 13. Judges, who already have tremendous authority in the United States, would be placed in the unusual medical role of monitoring mandatory medication. Rep. Hurst said this about his bill. “If it will help one or two children, and decrease the urge to the point that person does not harm that child, it will be worth it.” Hurst had been considering sponsoring the bill since hearing about a father who sexually abused his infant child over a decade ago.

Representative Steve Hurst acknowledged that forced chemical castration is not without problems. The medication does not work equally well with all people. Predators could also find other ways to molest children. The Alabama Department of Health was chosen to administer the medication. Currently, the legislation is under legal review. If it passes legal muster, it will be sent to Governor Kay Trey to sign or reject. Several other states – including California, Texas and Florida – allow chemical castration for certain types of sexual molesters. The controversy surrounding involuntary castration has led to criticism by the American Civil Liberties Union) ACLU). The executive director of the ACLU of Alabama believes that medication “raises constitutional concerns.” These considerations are being evaluated.

It is the opinion of the Court Jester that for the most heinous sexual predators, temporary chemical castration is not unacceptable. Legislation like this should remind Americans who the real sex offenders are – dangerous people who need to be monitored for the rest of their lives.

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