About that “sex offender vs kids” flier
I’ve been a little perplexed about that odd mailer that the Brian Sims campaign has circulated, accusing Babette Josephs of siding with “sex offenders” instead of “Philadelphia’s Children,” partly because I’ve never thought much about those laws and partly because it struck me as a strange issue to raise. So I’ve been doing a little research on the subject. And what I’ve found is disappointing, both with regard to Brian’s policy views and his political acumen.
The only clue to the vote of Babette’s that Brian is criticizing is a citation of a 2006 Daily News article which does not mention any legislation at all. Instead, it quotes Lynn Abraham attacking Babette for such a vote while endorsing her opponent in the Democratic primary that year.
So it is entirely unclear from the flier what vote the Sims campaign is criticizing and so far, I haven’t been able track down the exact vote. But I’ve learned enough to point the following about the policy issue:
1. If Babette Josephs voted against some law requiring the registration of sex offenders, she most likely did it for a civil libertarian reasons, and had good company. The ACLU generally opposes such laws because they are both ineffective and dubious from the stand point of our civil liberties.
They are ineffective for a few reasons. The vast majority of sex offenders are not strangers to the kids they harm. And sex offenders are the least likely of those who commit a crime to do so again. So even if parents check the sex offender registries—which few do—that won’t help them very much in protecting their kids.
Moreover, sex offender laws give parents who do check the registries a false sense of security by encouraging them to think that looking carefully at those who are registered is all they need to do to protect them, as opposed to maintaining a generally high level of vigilance.
2. One would think that someone running for office in no small part on the basis of the importance of electing out members of the LGBTQ community—something I agree is important—would have second, and then third, thoughts about criticizing a legislator for opposing laws that have been used to harass gays. In the nineties, gays, and especially gay men, who have been convicted of engaging in homosexual acts, were forced to register under these laws. And those who were, and still are, forced to register under the laws, including gay men, have sometimes been harassed by their neighbors. Under the most stringent of those laws, they have been denied the right to live in certain places, such as near schools.
3. These laws violate the civil liberties of people who are of little danger to the community by placing them under unending the control of the state after they have served their sentence.
4. At a time when probation and parole services are stretched to the breaking point by a lack of funding, sex registration laws place greater demands on these services to monitor people who are unlikely to become recidivists.
As for the politics of this issue, let me point out:
1. Brian Sims is standing with Lynne Abraham rather than the ACLU on sex registration laws. Does anyone in the Sims camp really think that this is going to help him in the 182nd State House district? If there is a district that is more supportive of civil liberties in this state I can’t think of one. And I live in Mt. Airy.
2. As Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg has pointed out, Babette Joseph’s vote was taken—and was criticized by Lynne Abraham—before Brian served as her campaign treasure in the 2008 election. One would think that if Brian thought this was a reason to vote against Babette now, he wouldn’t have served in her campaign two years ago.
So, this flier really is a low blow. It is absurd to say that a mother of 2 and grandmother of 6, who has been endorsed about both teachers unions and the State FOP, doesn’t care about the safety of our kids. And Babette should be praised for standing up with the ACLU against popular hysteria about the danger of sexual deviants—the very same hysteria that once condemned all members of the LGBTQ community. She shouldn’t be condemned by someone who speaks for that community and claims to be a progressive.
This is one more reason, beyond those I’ve given here and here to support Babette Josephs in this race. I like Brian Sims a great deal and expect him to have a substantial career in political office. But this flier shows that he’s not ready to replace Babette Josephs in January.