Halloween Sex Offender Laws Are Unjustified

By | October 31, 2013

Kids aren’t the only ones letting their
imaginations’ fears run wild on Halloween: parents, politicians,
and police officers across the country are continuing to support
laws that ban registered sex offenders from participating in
Halloween, despite evidence that these policies are unnecessary and
harmful.

Illinois is one of the latest states to implement a ban: its

Child Sex Offender Holiday Costume Prohibition law
, which will
apply for the first time this Halloween, prohibits registered child
sex offenders from handing out candy or keeping their home lights
on during the holiday celebrations. To enforce the law, police plan
to drive around offenders’ homes during trick-or-treating hours to
monitor for compliance.

The law is similar to many others already on the books in dozens
of small towns, cities, and other states. In New York,
Operation Halloween
forbids registered sex offenders from
leaving their homes during designated hours, wearing costumes, or
participating in “any Halloween activity.” In Virginia, offenders
in certain districts are
required to attend
city-organized meetings during the
festivities, which offer “educational sessions” and mandatory drug
and alcohol screenings. Those are just a few.

The motivations for Halloween sex offender laws are clear: as a
local police sergeant
said
of the new Illinois law to the Quad-City
Times
, they help “give parents peace of mind.”

But peace of mind from what? Their imaginations? There is
virtually uncontested evidence that registered sex offenders pose
no heightened threat on Halloween. As Scott Henson
noted
in 2008 at Grits for Breakfast, which covers the
Texas criminal justice system:

Kids trick or treating are more likely to be hit by lightning
while going door to door than they are to be abducted by a
registered sex offender.

There’s only one [documented] case in the history of the planet
where a child was abducted by a stranger while trick or treating
(in Wisconsin in 1973). In that instance, the killer had no prior
record and wouldn’t have been on any sex offender registry even if
it had existed.

Additionally, as explained
by Reason’s Jesse Walker, a 2009 study in
Sexual Abuse: Journal of Research and
Treatment
 analyzed child sex crime rates and found “no
significant increase in risk for non-familial child sexual abuse on
or around Halloween.” This was corroborated by a 2010 study, which
analyzed crime statistics from 30 states and determined, “There is

zero evidence
to support the idea that Halloween is a dangerous
date for children in terms of child molestation.”

But while Halloween sex offender laws are based on unjustified
fears rather than reality, they cause real harm.

Andrew Extein, a psychotherapist writing for the Huffington
Post,
said
 of his experience with registered sex offenders:

The consequences of such ordinances are grave. Parole
violations, recidivism, vigilante justice, and even suicide are
very real threats that offenders face. One offender in a therapy
group that I facilitated was cited as violating parole during
Operation Boo for having kids clothing in a suitcase deep in his
home, which he claimed belonged to his wife who has children. This
violates his parole and resulted in 30 days of jail time. Last
year, a Napa County man hung himself with a bed sheet in his jail
cell the day after he was arrested for possession of a knife during
a Halloween sweep.

Lest any parents claim that these costs are worth bearing for
the possibility of saving even one child, the 2009 study in
Sexual Abuse also found that child victimization
rates “did not vary across years prior to and after [the registered
sex offender] policies became popular.” In other words, the laws
don’t even make a dent in curbing the barely existent problem.

Category: Liberty
Eric Barrier

About Eric Barrier

Eric Barrier is a financial writer and contributor to several online sites including The Michigan Standard where his focus is on local politics and finance.

One thought on “Halloween Sex Offender Laws Are Unjustified

  1. Linda Thrall

    Here in Lansing Michigan several local churches do offer an alternative to trick or treating and is much safer than going door to door. There are chaperones around to help in case of trouble, kids with peanut allergies are given safe treats such as smarties and other types of treats. I don’t see many sex offenders they are usually out of sightand out of mind. There are mmandatory groups they have to attend and remain there until trick or treating is over.

    Reply

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