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Same old trick: restrictions on sex offenders on Halloween

Sex offender registration carries consequences all year long. For one thing, placing someone on such a list shows society's attempt to impose a certain stigma. That stigma may not be justified for people whose convictions were not for serious offenses. But society tries to place the stigma nonetheless.

Many states also place restrictions on where convicted sex offenders can live. This is often expressed in laws that place limits on proximity to schools or parks where children congregate.

Last week, on Halloween, there was a reminder of another type of restriction on sex offenders. Missouri is one of the states that restrict registered sex offenders from participating in Halloween activities.

We last wrote about this in our October 5 post last year.  As we discussed in that post, Missouri has passed laws requiring registered sex offenders to keep outside lights off and refrain from giving out candy to trick-or-treaters. The law also requires the posting of a sign warning that there are no treats available at the residence.

Missouri is not alone among the states in seeking to impose these types of restrictions. It is by no means clear, however, that such restrictions actually make Halloween safer for kids.

Indeed, researchers have questioned whether sex offender Halloween restrictions play any useful public safety role. It may be that Halloween restrictions are more about trying to shame people who have committed sex offenses than actually protecting kids.

To be sure, it would be a different case if someone is on probation or parole for a sex offense committed against a child. But across-the-board limitations on Halloween participation for all registered sex offenders seem overly broad.

Source: The Atlantic, "When Halloween Means a Personal Visit From the Police," Svati Kirsten Narula, Oct. 31, 2013

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