Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Choosing Between Security and Its Metaphors

"When you let go, you get more control." Those were the words that had to be spoken to me over and over again growing up, when learning to ride a bicycle, how to ski, how to practice tai chi (and perhaps when learning how to walk, but I don't remember that one).

The same lesson often applies to security. Often inclusion works better than exclusion, if we have intelligent ways to use the power that inclusion brings. When you build a wall against what scares you, you give up any hope of influencing what scares you (see Israel's nightmarish relationship with Gaza for a strikingly sad example of the limits of wall building as a security strategy).

New data from California's Sex Offender Management Board, a commission set up to monitor California's sex offender policies, suggests that enforcement of Jessica's law is pushing more sex offenders into homelessness (or transience to use the language of the report). Jessica's Law, passed as Proposition 83 by voter initiative in 2006, forbids people with certain classes of sex offenses on their records from living within 2000 feet of where children congregate (the law is very vague). As described by Michael Rothfeld in the LATimes last week, the data state wide suggest that more than 4000 California parolees are subject to the law's restrictions. The number with no stable address has jumped from 2000 to more than 2800 in a year, suggesting that enforcement of the law on parolees is driving many of them into homelessness. Not only does such a status make efforts at normalizing the lives of people driven by sexual compulsions ever more difficult, it also makes it far harder for parole agents and police to maintain surveillance.

Still the metaphor of space free from the presence of the dangerous is just to tempting. We can't let go, we just keep clamping down hoping that this vertigo will pass, until we fall off the bike...

1 comment:

Letsgetreal said...

The California Department Of Corrections has recently released it's recidivist rates stating that "less than 4% of first time offenders ever repear another sex crime." N.Y. Last year gave a 2.1% for first time offenders and the U'S. Department of Justice set it at 3.5%.

If the voters would have had the true facts before Jessica's Law was passed, they never would have passed it.

If 90-95% of all sex offenders NEVER repeat another sex crime, then why are we spending Billions upon Billions of tax payers money tracking, destablizing and passing laws that do more harm than good????