Lights Out for Sexual Predators This Halloween

By Sam “The Boogyeman” Lea

It never occurred to me before reading this story,
but Halloween has got to be like Christmas for sexual predators. Not to make light of a very serious situation, but I can completely imagine the old man on Family Guy using a fishing pole with a Snickers bar at the end to lure unsuspecting little children into his home.

In an effort to curb this potential scenario, Gov. Matt Blunt of Missouri signed into law a statute requiring registered sex offenders to “refrain form all Halloween-related contact with children from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 31.” It requires them to remain inside their homes with the outside lights off, and to post a sign saying they have no candy.

This Monday, a US District Court Judge granted a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the statute in part. The Court held that the requirements forcing offenders to remain in their home and refrain from being around children was overly broad, while finding that keeping a sign on their door and the lights off was constitutional.

The Court reasoned that a registered offender could easily be confused as to whether or not they could leave town or if they could see their own children on Halloween.

As a law student for 2.4 years now, I can set my emotions aside and see the validity in the Court’s decision. However, the parent in me longs to see the courts base their decision on “protecting the children.” How many times have the courts limited Constitutional rights in obscenity cases based on the “what about the children excuse?” Why not here?

The courts seem to place more importance on preventing children from being exposed to pornography than they do molestation. This raises another point, why are we even having to deal with these people? There has been a rash of new laws across the country limiting the personal freedoms of registered sex offenders from requiring tracking bracelets too limiting the areas in which they can live. Its time we stop having to worry about the personal freedoms of these S.O.B.’s and require life in jail without parole, where they can experience the other end of what it means to be raped.

Have a happy and safe Halloween, and if you are going to egg a house in Missouri this Halloween, do it to the house with the lights off and the “no candy” sign on the door.

15 Responses to Lights Out for Sexual Predators This Halloween

  1. Michael says:

    > Halloween has got to be like Christmas for sexual predators.

    Somewhere, someone must have have data to check the validity of this whole assumption. Is there a significantly larger number of sexual abuse incidents on Halloween than other days? I doubt it.

    But regardless, you guys need to get your act together here. *Public* sex offender registries? Try that in Europe. It’d be enjoined by the courts before you can say first amendment. It’s sort of sad: Europe seems to have no interest in free speech at all, the US doesn’t quite have the whole human rights thing down yet.

    What’s a sex offender anyway, these days? From what I understand, in some states your offense doesn’t even need to involve children (hey, that makes sense, considering the name). A “child” of course being everyone under 18. Oh, and now people convicted of distributing obscenity of course. I guess Max Hardcore is lucky, he won’t have to worry about any of this in prison.

  2. Windypundit says:

    I second the call for data. Having children ringing the doorbell of convicted child molesters sounds scary. But is it actually a problem? And as Michael points out, what percentage of registered sex offenders committed that offense against a child? It just seems…suspicious.

  3. Windypundit says:

    According to Scott Henson at Grits For Breakfast, the murder of 9-year-old Lisa Ann French by Gerald Turner in 1973 is the only known Halloween abduction of a child. Turner had no prior convictions.

    Not that that incident isn’t a terrible thing, but in terms of child safety, assuming there aren’t more incidents than Scott found, police would probably do more for child safety by helping them cross the street.

  4. Heather says:

    I have to agree with the prior comments. As a parent, sex offenses are at the top of my list of heart-stopping fears, but the law seems excessive and invasive. I think I would feel comfortable with the lights out rule- if you are going to be required to be registered as a part of parole, then it seems perfectly acceptable to me that you shouldn’t be allowed pass out candy any more than you should be allowed to own a firearm.

    The rest of it seems based on a long list of assumptions. I’m fine with people leaving the house or even trick-or-treating with their own kids. None of my business. It seems strange to me to enforce house-arrest one day a year. And my kids do not leave my sight in public, PERIOD.

    But I do agree with life sentences for anyone who commits violent acts against children. That type of criminal act is on my short-list of things that justify life in prison. Maybe they can take the place of all the pot dealers. Fine by me.

  5. Craig Bowman says:

    Good for Gov. Blunt. I see no reason why this provision is excessive or invasive – child predators are the worst of the worst, and there is no reason why they should be allowed to interact with children on Halloween. It just doesn’t make sense. So I applaud Blunt for stepping in and making this a tougher provision….safety first.

  6. Flounder says:

    I saw that in MD the predators have to put a pumpkin sticker on their door saying “go away kiddies” … I think Blunt in Missouri is being much more proactive and aggressive in trying to combat this disturbing behavior. I follow conservative politics and I think Blunt has enacted some exemplary policies on this issue.

  7. Rachel says:

    Last year in South Carolina and Virginia, (and perhaps this year, too, not sure) registered sex offenders had to report to their probation/parole officers office and were required to stay there on Halloween from 5pm to 10:30pm.

    While I think this is fine if the offender is on parole and serving the remainder of his or her sentence at home, I don’t think this is ok if offenders are being tracked just to be tracked after they have finished serving their time.

    However, if they are on parole or probation, keeping them from children in any fashion makes sense. Those convicted of alcohol related crimes are often prohibited from going to bars and are not allowed to drink and must be subject to random urinalysis. So keeping sex offenders away from kids can be likened to keeping drunks away from bars.

  8. Here is my problem with this: What constitutes a “registered sex offender” is growing every time a legislature gets into session.

    For example in Ohio, if you sell a dirty movie, and some christofascist doesn’t like it, you’re looking at winding up on the sex offender registries for 15 years. See here and here.

    • Doug says:

      In other words, you are saying that there is a difference between a masturbating child molester and one who has committed the act. A masturbating child molester is not a sex offender just because he has kiddie porn, and a real child molester is someone who does it. That’s ridiculous, a child molester is a child molester. I take the stance of administering the death penalty to anyone who is a predator as defined by Ohio law, but the sad fact is you only get that kind of justice from throwing these creeps in prison to let inmates deal with them.

  9. Heather says:

    I agree with that. I just think creating a whole giant set of laws for a system that doesn’t necessarily differentiate the details is not a good idea. But like I said, I’m fully alright with parolees of all kinds not handing out candy (lights out). It’s a simple law, easy to enforce with police drive by checks of randomly chosen ex-con addresses (and if you don’t think that’ll scare the crap out of most of ’em, ask around) and doesn’t require a giant sticker on your house naming you a perv. The cost/benefit ratio of anything further just might not be worthwhile (hence the call for data).

    P.S. I do not participate in old fashioned, door knocking, trick-or-treat of nostalgia. I think these times are too dangerous and these proposed measures will make no difference for me whatsover.

  10. Heather says:

    By the way, well said, Rachel. I think when the term is considered done it’s done, but there are sensible measures while on parole.

  11. smurfy says:

    The real losers with this law are the Children. If a predator was trying to lure children, he/she would likely be using better bait than the neighbors, possibly a full sized snickers bar.

    Young children should be chaperoned while trick or treating. Older children’s actions are governed by candy collection efficiency. They don’t have time to slow down long enough to go inside Chester the Molester’s house. They’re just going to grab that snickers and run. All this does is rob children of opportunity.

    ‘Christmas for sexual predators’ may not be the best analogy, priests have to work Christmas.

    And 10:30? Who lets their kids trick or treat that late?

  12. Exploiting Sex Offenders to Ruin Childhood, Part 26: Halloween

    We need to be clear about our actions toward convicted offenders: are we attempting to 1) punish them, or 2) make ourselves feel better, or 3) actually make ourselves safer? We can’t do all three simultaneously.

    So most communities and elected bodies settle for numbers 1 and 2. But they’re dishonest about it. They say they want #3. But what if that means letting go of the lust for ever-greater punishment? And what if that means letting go of the gratuitous limitations, insults, and pointless exercises in proving How Much We Care About The Children?

    The neighborhood notification law regarding offenders don’t make us safer. The Amber Alerts and other edicts named after dead kids don’t make us safer. And this pathetic Halloween grandstanding doesn’t make us safer.

    Instead, such actions allow us to feel like we Really Care, and that we’re Really Serious about Doing Something about the safety of our kids.

    But ironically, these measures make people feel less safe, not more. The continuing obsession with preventing our kids from being molested steals their childhood, robs us of sleep, and inflates the danger in parents’ minds. While in some ways the world has become more dangerous, in most ways, it only FEELS more dangerous.

    If Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth, Missouri must now be the Scariest Place on Earth.

    If you want to cripple kids, just convince them they live in a dangerous place, surrounded by invisible threats, and that the world is getting more menacing by the day.

    This tragic program works for parents as well. Too many have stopped asking “how do I help my kid grow strong and capable of taking appropriate risks,” and now mostly ask “how do I keep my kid from being destroyed by irrational violence?”

    That’s not an ambitious enough goal. It’s not possible. It ruins parenting. And it’s awful for kids. A convicted sex offender offering candy on Halloween isn’t even close to being that dangerous.

  13. Jessica says:

    I agree with Marty wholeheartedly. This law feeds the culture of fear, and tells parents and kids that the way to deal with dangerous people is to hide them away and pretend they don’t exist. It serves to make kids feel like victims well before anything actually happens to them. Victims are the easiest prey of all for predators.

    I’m ot a parent, and at the risk of pointing out things easier said than done, it seems to me that kids need to be possessed as much as possible with the sense that they, and their parents and other adult supports in their lives, can handle anything that comes along. While this is an uncomfortable idea, you don’t know danger when you see it if you never see the danger. It’s not nice to think about kids knowing and understanding what a predator’s leer feels like, but they will be a lot safer knowing it and being able to recognize it than if they never encounter danger in their worlds. Kids, like adults, need to be able to read their environments.

    The halloween law also speaks to our self-detrimental effort to always feel comfortable. But the world can be an uncomfortable place in a lot of ways. Confidence is born of knowing that you are capable of making decisions even when things are uncomfortable.

  14. Heather says:

    Hope you have kids, Jessica. You’d be a good mom.

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