Online readers respond to "Bill Would Keep Sex Offenders From Doing Something, Maybe. It's Hard To Tell," Hair Balls blog, By Craig Malisow, May 18:
SOP: More often than not, legislators have no idea what's in the bills they attach their names to. Am I surprised by her vagueness, or her being distracted? Nope. That's standard operating procedure for them. Their only true intent is to win votes. And if they have to jump on the sex-offender bandwagon to get there, then so be it.
But watch out, folks. Domestic violence, driving under the influence and drug conviction registries are next. Now how many people are going to be "registered"? It makes you wonder where this country is going.
Trolling for votes: Sex-offender bandwagon, indeed. This is trolling for votes by creating the illusion of concern about public safety. And because the public is already scared to death, this sort of stuff usually serves to reinforce its fears. Problem is, most sex offenders don't commit repeat offenses, and most sex crimes are committed by someone other than a registered sex offender, like a teacher, cop, coach or even a parent.
I am amused and dismayed by Senator Florence Shapiro's lack of familiarity with her own bill. But after all, this is a representative democracy, and most voters are pretty much unaware of how their government works too. Why would Shapiro be different?
Harming the children: Florence Shapiro of Texas proudly states: "If one child is saved, then the laws will be worth what we've done." Senator Shapiro, is harming even one child with the mark "sex offender" worth it? According to DPS data, of the more than 47,000 people listed on Texas's 2007 Department of Public Safety Web site, 275 are under 18, while 3,853 are registered based on offenses they committed as juveniles.
That's 4,000-plus juvenile records and youthful past mistakes. These people are displayed to the world as sex offenders, banished from towns, unemployed, tracked, hunted, hated and forced into poverty and a life of endless turmoil. Now they are to be banned from the Internet?
Florence Shapiro takes no account of the children actually being harmed, though.
Legislators take an oath to protect our citizens — that means all of them, like it or not — and she has failed.
How cozy: Shapiro's hubby is a criminal defense lawyer. She makes the laws; he makes the bucks from the laws. Cozy, isn't it?
Fear mongering: When it comes to sex offenders, common sense goes out the window. Sex-offender legislation is a labyrinth of well-intentioned but ill-conceived laws fueled more by fear than by fact. The Adam Walsh Act was passed in an "emergency session" and a vote passed without most members of Congress reviewing the law, even the ones who co-sponsored it.
Ever seen the movie Evan Almighty? The main character is a new congressman who's asked to co-sponsor a bill without even reading it. It ends up causing a disaster. Well, that movie isn't too far removed from how Congress actually passes legislation, especially when the words "sex offender" are involved. Who would refuse a law that's sure to make them look good to their constituents?
No one puts much thought into how these laws work. They never consider the consequences of putting teens on registries for consensual sex or sexting. Former offenders end up forced to live under bridges, subjected to vigilante violence and denied housing.
Eighteen years later: My husband is now 37. He touched the clothed boob of a 14-year-old when he was 19, unaware that his "flirty companion" was underage. Fortunately for him, he figured it out after the feel of the chest and noticing something wasn't quite right. After she confessed her age, he sent her home. He knew she was jailbait and wasn't willing to get himself into a sling. But sadly, his problems started the moment he touched her. He's now a convicted felon/sex offender.
Has he ever committed another crime? Nope. But now we're married and have four children, and our entire family is harassed, run out of places to live, forced to live in an RV (it's easier to move when the pitchforks come out) and doing home-schooling (it's easier to continue an education for the children after we have to move again). This is all because the media fuels a frenzy of fear, and stupid politicians like Shapiro come out with more and more beautiful, moneymaking, feel-good laws that essentially further ruin our lives.
I believe my husband deserves love and forgiveness, as many who made an honest mistake do. I've walked through hell with my husband for years now. We've paid more than $500,000 in lawyers' fees, fines, counseling sessions, polygraph fees, plethysmograph testing to prove he's safe, moving fees and more. We could have bought a house by now, bought a car, made a college fund for our children, even helped other people. But we're too busy supporting the state and its crooked, criminal politicians, all in the name of ridding the world of another labeled American. Gives you such warm fuzzies, doesn't it? Again, thank you, America. Thank you, Senator Shapiro. We couldn't be miserable without you.
HAPPY NEWS FOR US
Houston Press writers do well in several contests
From the national to the local, writers for the Houston Press were recognized in several journalism writing contests last week.
In the national AltWeekly awards sponsored by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, staff writer Craig Malisow is a finalist in the Public Service category for "Selling You" and Editor Margaret Downing is a finalist in the Feature category for "Mental Anguish." Winners will be announced on June 26 at the AAN annual convention in Tucson, Arizona.
In another national contest, Press frequent contributor Randall Patterson received finalist recognition in two categories from the National Association of Black Journalists. He is a finalist in the Single Story category for "Don't Nobody Cry" and a Commentary finalist for "To Catch a Rapist." Former Press staffer Todd Spivak is also an NABJ finalist in the Single Story category for "Obama and Me." Winners will be announced in August at the NABJ national convention in Tampa.
In the Lone Star Awards, a statewide contest sponsored by the Houston Press Club, the following Press writers and photographer were named as finalists:
Staffer Chris Vogel for Print Journalist of the Year for "Crime Doesn't Pay(back)," "Prison Cover-up" and "Dead End." Vogel is also a finalist in Investigative for "Crime Doesn't Pay(back)," in Politics/Government for "Prison Cover-up" and in Internet/Hard News (with Paul Knight) for a series on KBR and rape victims.
Craig Malisow is up for Print Journalist of the Year for "Selling You," "Language Barrier" and "Man on Fire."
Photographer Daniel Kramer is a finalist for Photojournalist of the Year for a collection of images, in Sports Photo for "boxers" and in Photo Package for "Ike photos."
Paul Knight is a finalist in the Feature category for "Gone to Hell," in Public Service for "Home Bound," in Sports Story for "No Pressure" and in Internet/Hard News (with Vogel) for the KBR series.
Randall Patterson is a finalist twice over in the Commentary/Criticism category for "To Catch a Rapist" and "Quality Assurance."
Craig Hlavaty is a finalist in the Internet Opinion category for "Metallica at Toyota."
John Nova Lomax is a finalist in the Internet Feature category for "San Leon After Ike."
And Margaret Downing is a finalist in the Business Story category for "Blind Faith." Winners will be announced June 26 at a banquet at Brady's Landing.
On the local front, Paul Knight received a Merit Award in the Francis C. Moore Medical Journalism Awards contest sponsored by the Harris County Medical Society. Knight got his award in the Medical Economics category for "Home Bound."
And Knight and former Press fellowship reporter Russell Cobb were named finalists for "Wet Foot, Dusty Foot," a story they co-wrote with Francisco Alvarado from our sister paper, Miami New Times, in the regional Green Eyeshades Award contest sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists, covering 11 southeastern states. Winners will be announced later this year.
The Night+Day article "Kidd Stuff" [by Lee Williams, May 7] contained a misspelling of graphic designer Chip Kidd's name.
The Houston Press regrets the error.
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