I am amazed at what I have learned about sex offender lists. I want to share this with you and then tell you why this helps me understand trafficking laws. So, here goes – –
Sex offender lists are about 15 years old now, about the same as the growth period of trafficking hysteria. Sex offender lists began as a result of a handful of parents who had children who suffered horribly. The names Megan, Jessica, and Adam Walsh come to mind. It is impossible to be an ethical person and not feel great empathy for those families. A few of the parents became champions of the cause of putting sex offenders on lists to help protect other children.
An industry sprang up to help them. On its face that seems like a great accomplishment. State and national elected officials jumped on a band wagon too and passed laws.
The expansion of those original laws is where problems begin.
Original sex offender lists were limited to about 8 crimes. Access to the information was limited to only a few people such as police, social workers, and other authorized people with a need to know. Time required to be on a list was limited according to the crime committed. There were limits to where people on the sex offender lists could live but it was not so oppressive that they could not find a place to live, a job, and to continue with a reasonably normal life.
Over time the laws have changed because doing so, I suppose, is a way to act tough on crime if you are an elected state or local official. As a result there is new support for change to the current sex offender list process. There was an emotional ground swell to provide this public policy, and now there is a new, growing emotional ground swell to roll back what these laws have become.
There are approximately 700,000 people now required to register as a sex offender. The crimes that may require a person to register as a sex offender have increased to an average of 40 in most states. This may include urinating in public; sex between consenting teenagers not necessarily including intercourse, and exploratory acts by young children that don’t even know what they are doing. A growing number of children are on lists. Here is a quote from the RSOL (Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc) website:
“Sex offender registries were originally presented as a means for tracking persons convicted of the most heinous offenses, but their reach has expanded exponentially to include even teen sexting and consensual relations between young people.”
A good way to learn more is to see this very thoughtful video by Catherine Carpenter: HERE
1) There is a growing trend for people on sex offender lists to be required to register for life, even children when they did something a child might do.
2) Now sex offender lists are on the internet for anyone to see and, in that way, people are open game for attacks by zealots and vigilantes.
3) The lists are often so difficult to understand that there is no way for the general public to distinguish the crime that was committed. The public can’t tell if they are discovering a brutal rapist in their neighborhood or a man who urinated behind a bush when no bathroom was available.
I strongly urge people to consider this carefully because I see a similar trend in the way trafficking laws continue to expand.
What about trafficking?
The big difference with the social panic of trafficking is that it is an international issue as well as a national and local issue. It is sad to say that, in my opinion, if the USA and specific states among the USA want to keep changing laws and making them more oppressive as a way to attack internal trafficking, that is their problem. I can live with that. Up to them!
On an international scale the United States is forcing this social panic culture onto the rest of the world. Elsewhere you will hear about the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. Do NOT linger on the word “report.” It is more than a report. The TIP program requires sovereign countries to change their laws to satisfy America’s TIP program. Countries are required to find victims of trafficking; to increase penalties for traffickers; to speed up “justice;” and to create programs to help victims. I have read newspaper articles in the Bangkok Post that quote Thai policemen saying that they must go to the American Embassy to report their progress in trafficking cases.
There are so many other things that are expanding in this same way. America has more people in prisons than any other country. Police can be oppressive. Black people are not taking it any more. Everyone who is not wealthy enough to live a sheltered life, is in the same situation.
Many reflexive legal changes resulting from our response to social panic follow the same expansion as has taken place with sex offender lists. New laws bring more and more people under the thumb of new laws. You could be next.
Trafficking oppression is growing as is often the case with all laws meant to address social panic issues. Hysteria explains why laws get it wrong.
Earlier definitions of trafficking situations were defined as when people were forced or coerced into doing something. The act of force or coercion was necessary to distinguish a trafficking case from a smuggling case or other crimes. Later the definition was changed to include not only force or coercion but also, now, deception. Deception means someone lied – but who lied?
It is no coincidence that adding “deception” to the definition of trafficking is used as a tool to convince sex workers and others to claim they are victims. Please understand that when a sex worker who is already a prostitute wishes to cross a border to make more money somewhere else, they do NOT say they will be a prostitute when they sign visa paperwork. But this provides the set up for willing sex workers to make the claim they were deceived if it will benefit them. Think about it.
Expansion of laws to address social panic can unexpectedly hurt many people – –
People who understand trafficking as a migration / population issue know that use of trafficking laws are expanding. Beggars and those who help them are automatically included under the umbrella of trafficking. Smuggling of people is not trafficking by definition, but when you read many news stories the only word being used is “trafficking” as if that explains any and all issues that they wish to include under this growing umbrella category of crimes.
I can easily see these trafficking laws expanded to include foreign people living/working in another country as well as low budget travelers, solo male travelers, and young backpackers all under certain situations. Obviously they are suspicious. Any and all of them could be sex tourists. That is enough reason to limit civil rights they might previously have had. And it will be the American Embassy leading countries to limit the freedoms of American citizens and others because they could be a sex tourist. They could be a trafficker. Could be! Definitions could be bent to make it so.
We are already on the slippery slope. We can see now how sex offender lists expanded until they are a danger to the civil liberties of many innocent people. Trafficking laws are expanding in similar ways so many more people will be at risk and the control over movement of poor people will tighten.
It is important to understand trafficking as a civil rights and migration issue and not exasperate the problem by treating it as a criminal justice issue that continues to grow in dangerous ways.