Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Who's watching whom?

PA has launched its website of sexual offenders, in response to pressure from Bob Casey and others, and it has attracted a lot of visitors, both the worried and the curious. I admit to nontrivial ambivalance about these community notification efforts -- they don't limit themselves to pedophiles and sexual predators, but pretty much out anybody who's been convicted of a sexual offense. This could include consensual homosexual encounters (when sodomy laws apply or outdoor trysts are involved), statutory rapes (think about an 18-year old and the outraged parents of his 16-year old girlfriend), and many others who are extremely unlikely to pose a threat to neighborhood Megans.

There has been vigilante action in New Jersey and some other places with databases like this. Do we really want to become our neighbors' keepers??

Update: some further information about problems with the database in this Phila Daily News article.


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