Newbie Georgia Republican legislator Sam Moore has struck a blow–albeit an unpopular one–for constitutional rights, fact-based legislation, and common sense. His bill would remove restrictions on registered citizens, once their sentences are satisfied, that restrict their movements and prohibit their presence in places such as schools and parks.
Shocking as it is in Georgia, there are many jurisdictions throughout the U.S. that do not place these restrictions on registrants. Following what research shows, that these restrictions offer no public safety benefit and that community re-entry is the best path to rehabilitation, which in turn is the strongest deterrent against re-offense and the greatest assurance of increased public safety, these towns and counties follow as a matter of course that which Georgia finds shocking; furthermore, they do it with no increase in sexual re-offense or children being snatched from school playgrounds and parks by registered citizens on the prowl.
At least one representative of the Georgia law enforcement community appears not to have read this research or, if he has, gives it no credence. ” ‘In my 34 years of law enforcement I have never heard of such an insane law having been introduced,’ said Cherokee Sheriff Roger Garrison Friday. ‘Sexual predators are one of this country’s most violent (type of) offenders.’ ” Sheriff Garrison appears not to know that those who can be classified as predators make up only a very small portion of the total of all registrants. He seems to make the same uninformed and ignorant mistake made by many, that of thinking that everyone on the registry is dangerous or has offended against a child or children.
As a member of law enforcement and thus one sworn to respect and uphold the rights of all citizens, not just the ones he likes, the sheriff’s stance is troublesome. Furthermore, as one who is charged with fulfilling the dictates of the criminal justice system, which includes rehabilitation as well as punishment, it goes far beyond merely troublesome.
The Utah state contact of Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc. took exception to Sheriff Garrison’s harsh words and wrote him a letter. He began by saying, “I respect the office of the Sheriff where I live and anytime I see the police in my community. It is a tough job, dangerous, and takes a lot of dedication.” Then he continued, saying to Sheriff Garrison, “You sir, disappoint me,” and he told him why. His primary points are that the good sheriff is indulging in generalization and fostering an attitude of hate toward all registered citizens.
Sheriff Garrison replied immediately and succinctly. He wrote, “Your [sic] right I do hate sex offenders. I’m glad you don’t live in Cherokee County. Stick to the issues in your community not mine!”
I contend that a person with the inability to show respect to all persons in his jurisdiction is unfit to hold an office of public trust. Nor is this limited to the state of Georgia or to a specific sheriff. I hear from many registrants and family members of registrants, and the attitude Sheriff Garrison displays is experienced by many.
But thankfully, so is its opposite. Many registrants and their loved ones have reported being blessed–and that is exactly the way they describe it–with parole officers, probation officers, and/or law enforcement/registration/compliance officers and personnel who treat them with decency, dignity, and respect. These individuals have not only learned the golden rule but apply it in their everyday lives and work.
That is a lesson that Sheriff Garrison of Cherokee County, Georgia, would do well to learn.