Author Another Perspective

Mark Bennett

Sunday, January 4, 2004

Citizens deserve
added protection
from sex offenders

In a Dec. 22 editorial under the headline "Allow sex offenders to shed scarlet letter," the Star-Bulletin argued against a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the public access to information concerning convicted sex offenders without the prerequisite of a separate hearing above and beyond the convicted sex offenders' criminal convictions.

The Star-Bulletin argued that such a procedure would be wrong because it would subject the convicted sex offenders to a "lifetime of humiliation." The editorial does not mention much less acknowledge the rights of victims of the crime or the general public.

The editorial's reference to the red letter "A" worn by Hester Prynne, the fictional protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel, is unintentionally ironic.

The Star-Bulletin apparently equates a victim like Hester Prynne with those who have committed sex offenses and been convicted in court based upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This is common sense turned on its head -- the criminals are the victims and the victims and the public are irrelevant.

We propose a constitutional amendment that returns to the Legislature the right to determine whether those convicted of sex offenses or offenses against children are entitled to separate hearings over and above their criminal convictions before members of the public can gain access to information that may be crucial to their safety.

We believe the Legislature should be entitled to determine whether some types of crimes are so heinous or inherently dangerous that the public's right to know and to protect themselves and their children outweighs the right of the convicted to separate hearings.

We believe U.S. Supreme Court decisions made last year support the federal constitutionality of such a system, and we believe the high court had it right when it listed the following as facts:

1) "Sex offenders are a serious threat in this nation,"
2) "The victims of sex assault are most often juveniles," and
3) "When convicted sex offenders re-enter society, they are much more likely than any other type of offender to be re-arrested for a new rape or sex assault."

We believe that Hawaii's citizens deserve the same protections Megan's laws afford citizens throughout most of the rest of the United States. Thus, we believe our state's Constitution should be amended, with Megan's Amendment.

Mark Bennett is the attorney general for the state of Hawaii.


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