I've written in the past about how this country needs to rethink the way it deals with sex offenders--the story about how parolees in Miami have to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway because there's nowhere else they can go without violating their parole is just one example of how ridiculous our system is.
But this story is worse, and it pains me because it comes from a city I love, namely, New Orleans.
New Orleans city police and the district attorney’s office are using a state law written for child molesters to charge hundreds of sex workers like Tabitha as sex offenders. The law, which dates back to 1805, makes it a crime against nature to engage in “unnatural copulation”—a term New Orleans cops and the district attorney’s office have interpreted to mean anal or oral sex. Sex workers convicted of breaking this law are charged with felonies, issued longer jail sentences and forced to register as sex offenders. They must also carry a driver’s license with the label “sex offender” printed on it.There's a part of me which would like to follow any district attorney or cop who's been involved in one of these arrests and convictions with a video camera, and see if I can't catch them involved in a "crime against nature" myself, because I'd take any odds that they're all guilty of it, given that definition.
And the cruelty here is unspeakable. We're talking about people who are at the bottom of the economic food chain, who are already abused daily, and the legal system--because I can't call this justice--is crapping on them even more. We're not even talking about cops being able to consider the number of condoms you're carrying as evidence when deciding to make an arrest for prostitution--we're talking about a sex offender tag that gets marked on your driver's license for 15 years.
Again--we're not talking about child abuse here. We're not even talking about a crime where the person being arrested is harming anyone. And most importantly--we're talking about actions which over 90% of the population take part in regularly. I'd think that this law is unconstitutional after Lawrence v Texas, but what do you suppose the chances are that one of the people who gets arrested for this will be able to mount that sort of a defense?
The rest of the article will break your heart. People who are trying to get themselves straight are being tagged as sex offenders--and seriously, no one on this planet thinks "prostitute" when they see "sex offender." We think "kiddie diddler"--and so can't get hired for jobs. And if you wonder why some of these people don't challenge their sentences, well, according to Josh Perry, a former attorney with the Orleans Public Defenders office, “The way Louisiana’s habitual offender law works, if you challenge your sentence in court and lose, and it’s a third offense, the mandatory minimum is 20 years. The maximum is life." Why would you take the chance, if the system has already crapped on you like this?
Usually, this is the part of the post where I urge people to get involved, where I ask them to change the way they look at the world and try to do something about it, but right now, I'm at a loss. I'm despondent over this, because I don't know how to respond to this sort of hypocritical cruelty, to this willingness to actively ignore the humanity of others. It makes me angry--it makes me want to punch the next smug, moralistic sonovabitch I see right in the goddamn face. And then find another one.