I am always hearing the term "unintended consequences" in many articles about the pitfalls of overbroad sex offender legislation, but I wonder if the people who have used this term really understand the term "unintended consequences."
"My intent personally is to make it so onerous on those that are convicted of these offenses . . . they will want to move to another state." -- Georgia House Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R)
"Is there anything left we can do to sex offenders with a few days left in the session?" -- Louisiana State Rep. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, during the closing days of a 2006 legislative session
If Georgia passes laws to make living "onerous" and they are conscious of the fact, then the consequences are not "unintended." When a Louisiana state senator half-jokingly muses if we can find ways to destroy the lives of people who have completed their sentences, that is not unintentional. When a state passes residency restrictions knowing they have Iowa's problems as an example beforehand, or they pass the Adam Walsh Act knowing Ohio's problems implementing the laws, that is not unintentional.
Let me illustrate "unintentional consequences," because the concept seems to elude politicians.
In the span of a month, I have experienced both the death of one of my loved ones and the break-up of a two year long relationship which compelled me to move.
The grieving process over losing a loved one is my first exhibit. While in the process of grieving, I was also in charge of the arrangements. I also wrote the obituary. However, because I was afraid vigilantes would disrespect my loved one's memory or use the info to attack my living loved ones, I completely omitted myself from the obituary. That was also the week one of those local mug shot newspapers decided to feature me, and one of my neighbors were quick to mention it to my now ex-fiancee. Then the car broke down in Nashville when I went to pick up a traveler to the funeral, and my mind raced to thoughts of having to show my ID card with "Criminal Sex Offender" in bright red letters to an officer or repair man in a place far from home. Each of those experiences were examples of "unintended consequences." Or are they?
The second exhibit is my break-up with my long time fiancee. There were many reasons for the break-up, but a major aggravating factor is my status as a sex offender. Because she has a child, we cannot live together. For nearly two years, we lived a "double life." Our days revolved around trying to see each other as much as possible while spending as little time with her child as possible, not because I was a risk, but because of paranoia brought on by nosy neighbors. Busybodies abound in rural America. Once we broke up, tasks as simple as returning unwanted mementos of the broken relationship take on new dimensions. As an RSO, you're always suspect of being a threat, despite never showing aggression. It becomes a weapon to use against you. The neighbors stare and whisper, watching that "dangerous sex offender" being hassled by the police for doing nothing more than returning unwanted mementos to its rightful order in neatly stacked boxes. I wish to say those were unintended, but then I reflect upon the events of that day and ask myself it it was truly "unintentional?"
If I committed suicide, would that be an "unintended consequence?" I wonder if that is really what those who pass these laws against me intended for me to do.
I hardly think the impact of these laws are "unintentional." Unconsidered, possibly, but not unintended. The intent of tough sex offender laws is to make life as miserable as possible. It is not about child safety, or about reducing sex crimes, it is about causing the maximum amount of pain upon those who made mistakes. There is nothing "unintended" about that!
I see no changes wake up in the morning and I ask myself
is life worth living should I blast myself? -- 2Pac from the song "Changes"