I love metaphors. They help words paint pictures; they make meanings clearer; they are usually beautiful and always descriptive.
I read one this morning that, while very descriptive, misses the mark quite a bit on beautiful. It does, however, get high points for misleading, inflammatory, and downright sickening.
It was used in an on-line article that, not surprisingly, is very well written. The editorial is not attributed, but whoever wrote it was paying attention in journalism school. It has a very effective “hook”—the lead-in. It follows standard usage and punctuation rules. The vocabulary level is above average, and it makes good use of the well-chosen words.
This writer, however, fails in one lesson that surely is still stressed in journalism school: even in editorials and opinion pieces, stick to the truth. This writer, again not surprisingly, is clever. The untruth is presented in the metaphor. It is therefore implied, not directly stated and is all the more effective—and misleading, inflammatory, and sickening--due to that fact.
The metaphor, in words and graphic, implies that all who are listed on a sex offender registry are dangerous—and not merely dangerous but wild-animal dangerous, raging wild lions that need to be caged and constantly monitored, even in the cages, to keep them from terrorizing the community.
This is a lie, and it is no less a lie for being clothed in figurative language and vicious-appearing cartoon-figure graphics.
I know it is a lie from personal experience. I know many on the registry. They are good husbands and fathers, good neighbors and employees and employers and fellow church members. They are good citizens and good people. They are as far from being dangerous as I am from qualifying for the Olympics.
A large volume of literature says it is a lie.
The Federal Probation Journal, Volume 74, Number 3, in an analysis of the Kentucky Prison System specifically, a study titled, “Evaluation of Kentucky's Early Inmate Release Initiative: Sentence Commutations, Public Safety and Recidivism,” has this to say:
THE PRISON SYSTEM is one of the most expensive and largest public systems in the nation….
…41.2 percent of drug offenders returned to prison are reincarcerated for a subsequent drug offense, 31.2 percent of reincarcerated public order offenders are reincarcerated for another public order offense, 21.6 percent of violent offenders returned to prison are returned for a subsequent violent offense, and only 2.5 percent of reincarcerated rapists are returned to prison for a subsequent rape….
Hmmm; only 2.5% of rapists are convicted for a rape re-offense.
And, from Sex offense recidivism, risk assessment, and the Adam Walsh Act, a study published by Dr. Jill Levenson at Lynn University in Florida:
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, 5.3% of American sex offenders are rearrested for a new sex crime within three years (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003).
Sex offenders are among the least likely criminals to kill their victims (Sample, 2006).
Harris and Hanson (2004) concluded: “Most sexual offenders do not re-offend sexually over time … this finding is contrary to some strongly held beliefs.
Sex offense recidivism rates are much lower than commonly believed. The best estimates suggest that 5-14% of known sex offenders will commit a subsequent sex crime within three to six years, and after 15 years, three-quarters will not have recidivated. These recidivism rates are far lower than those for other types of criminals.
Media attention to child abduction and sexually motivated murder creates a sense of alarm and urgency among parents and often inspires sex crime legislation. Such cases are actually extremely rare; it is estimated that about 100 such events occur in the United States each year (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 2005). By comparison,…over 1100 children died in 2002 as a result of physical abuse or neglect at the hands of their own parents or caretakers (Child Welfare League of America, 2003).
Those are the extreme cases. Certainly more than 100 on the registry rise to the level of dangerous and in need of law-enforcement monitoring, but surely that point can be made without resorting to images and comparisons with wild animals in cages. And many, many more than 1,100 children each year suffer abuse and neglect at the hands of their parents or caregivers but stop short of being murdered. In fact, we know for a certainty that virtually all sexually abused children are victims of those parents and caregivers and others close to them in their lives, not of anyone already on a sex offender registry.
However, no one would compare all parents, as a group, to dangerous, ravenous lions that must be caged in order to protect society. It is even less appropriate to suggest that all on the public registry must be so treated.