Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Scarlet S

Why doesn't the U.S. just start branding sex offenders?

Branding wouldn't be any more medieval than the current roster of punishments. If a seventeen-year-old boy and a sixteen-year-old girl swap naked digital photos, they're both guilty of "exploiting" themselves, or each other. In Ohio, you can now be placed on a sex offender registry without ever having been convicted of a sex crime. Rapists are no more likely to be recidivists than any other criminal, but they're required to identify themselves for the rest of their lives as such. And now vigilante groups collaborate simultaneously with local police departments and national TV shows to convict accused sex offenders in the court of public opinion before they're ever brought to trial.

To sum up: if you're accused of a sex crime, you are no longer considered innocent until proven guilty. You are not entitled to be punished under a reasonable standard of law. And you are not considered rehabilitated once released back into the real world. Modern standards of jurisprudence do not apply to you, you filthy perv.

So why doesn't the U.S. brand them? The courts would be saved a great deal of trouble, as no trial or incarceration would be needed. Just hold the struggling victim down, ignoring his pleas of innocence, and apply a white-hot iron S to his forehead. And then give him an hour on the rack, just to be thorough.

What's that? Branding someone for a crime is inhumane, you say? Is it any less humane than any of the above?

Free speech means free speech for people you disagree with, or else the concept is meaningless. Similarly, due process means due process for people you loathe, or else it's not due process at all. It's injustice and cruelty.

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