Harsh anti-sex laws under fire

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Anti-child sex laws have proliferated throughout the world. In many ways, the United States has lead the way. Other countries have enacted strict legislation based on the U.S. model; the text for some written by U.S. police agencies. These laws have been successful in entrapping boy-lovers. About 25 percent of the more than 2 million U.S. citizens in prison are sentenced for sex crimes, many involving children. We look at the legal challenges to two of these laws in this and a subsequent issue. [...]

Many have criticized these laws as ineffective, wasteful of public resources and damaging to civil liberties. They are worse: they created a no-man's land of jurisprudence in which children are safeguarded at any cost and rights protecting those of all ages are absent.

The anti-child sex laws erased the clear distinction between criminal and civil law in the United States legal system. Over time, courts had created strong protections in both bodies of law to prevent the government's arbitrarily depriving citizens of their liberty. These protections had been tailored for each body of law. They depended on the laws' separation. Today, for sex crimes involving children, these protections are weakened or missing.

No longer does the accused have the right to trial by jury or to confront the accuser. The state need not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Gone are the prohibitions of double jeopardy (repeated punishment for the same crime) or ex post facto (a punitive measure created after a crime had been committed). In addition, the rationales for the new laws substitute theories from the outer limits of psychology in place of concrete evidence of harm. This has vastly broadened their power. It has allowed them to become ever harsher, in an upward spiral of radicalization. The result is that people are imprisoned for possessing an image of someone who merely looks like a child who might want sex. They are confined for life for touching a teenage boy on his clothing. Conviction rates are overwhelming. The federal government wins more than 97 percent of its prosecutions for child pornography. States with sexually violent predator laws, which allow them to incarcerate people for life, win about 80 percent of their commitment hearings. [...]

About 1,300 people are confined as sexually violent predators in special 'treatment' facilities and mental hospitals. They have completed a prison sentence for a sex crime. They will be held until they can prove they are no longer likely to have illicit sex. Few have been able to do so. These laws cover a wide range of nonviolent conduct. Most states can confine anyone committing "any criminal act [found] to have been sexually motivated". In Missouri, a predator is anyone "who, without committing an actual crime, do[es] something sexual in nature to frighten someone else". [...]

This was not the case. The gay magazine The Guide says Hendricks - who served ten years for touching the crotches of two 13-year-old boys through their clothing - merely gave an honest reply to a trick question which the media then twisted to label him as out of control: "At his [predator] commitment hearing, Hendricks said he wasn't going to molest children any more. But how can you prove you won't do it again, the prosecutor asked. Well, Hendricks answered, he couldn't prove it. The only way to prove it would be if he were dead." Hendricks' comment was reported throughout the nation as his saying he would not stop molesting until he were dead. It was cited by the Supreme Court as evidence he was volitionally impaired. [...]

'Predator' has been a concept long used to vilify homosexuals and other 'sex deviants' in North America.

source: Article 'Harsh anti-sex laws under fire - U.S. Supreme Court limits predator statutes' by Mark McHarry; KOINOS # 34; 2002