National sex offender registry among goals sought by Vachss
By Craig McDonald
Andrew Vachss has no children of his own, but his endeavors in the fields of law, activism and writing fiction have long been focused on furthering the cause of children's rights.
He has been credited with the National Child Protection Act (NCPA) that was adopted in December 1993. In his autobiography, "My Life," former President Bill Clinton credits Vachss with the act and notes how important it was to him and wife Hillary. But there's a catch, according to Vachss:
"It's very nice that Clinton in his book gives me credit for writing that and all," he said. "The only problem is that it's never been funded."
Among the items called for in the NCPA was the creation of a national data base for registration of sex offenders. The sundry data bases currently posted on the Internet are constructed and maintained by individual agencies -- in Ohio, by county sheriffs' departments.
Vachss fears the existing, fragmented and freestanding data bases are more dangerous than useful.
"They're a joke," he said. "They're a joke. In other words, when you're checking your data base, you're not checking a national data base."
According to Vachss, an estimated 100,000 registered sex offenders have fallen through the resulting cracks.
"Their addresses are no good and there is no money allocated to find them," he said. "And, when they are found, there's not political will to put them back in prison for the crime of absconding. So that's two reasons why the data bases are nonsense.
"What I've said, over and over again," he said, "is if a guy who raped a dozen babies moves without notifying the authorities, he will be pursued with far less zeal than a guy who fails to show up having posted a thousand-dollar bond, because the bondsman will go after him."
"There has to be a federal data base," he said. "And the specific crime of moving or failing to maintain registration has to have specific, incarcerative penalties. And money has to be allocated for a squad to track down absconders."
The other danger of the existing, non-comprehensive data bases, according to Vachss, is the fact that those parents who rely on them are operating from a treacherous premise:
"A guy just moves in down the street," he says, setting up an example. "You look him up on the Internet, and he's not a registered sex offender. OK. So now he comes over and he says, 'You know, I teach kids martial arts in my basement. How about if I teach your 6-year-old?' You gonna say 'OK?' There's a danger to registries. The danger of all registries is a false sense of security. Because if you're going to follow the logic, what's going to happen, my friend, is people are going to start saying, 'Well, I looked him up on the Internet and he wasn't registered.' This is like a seal of approval, now."
Like many others, Vachss also questions the reasoning of placing designated "sexual predators" back into a civilian setting.
"The name implies that treatment has had no impact on them," Vachss said, "that they are as dangerous now as they ever were ... probably more, because their time in prison has educated them to better techniques. They have more technology working for them than ever before. As far as I'm concerned, the public's really been chumped off with the idea that we're doing something about this. The truth is, these people shouldn't be at large, period."
Vachss is particularly pleased by the formation of the National Association to Protect Children.
"It's something I've called for for a million years and a zillion speeches and a thousand articles, which is essentially an NRA for child protection," he said. "I'm tired of people who would always give me this silly, kind of pontificating kind of wisdom like, 'Well, children don't vote.' And my answer always was, 'Guns don't vote, either, but they've got plenty of lobbyists.' In this case, kids now have lobbyists."
According to Vachss, the association is "a straight-up, political action committee. It's not a Christian Children's Fund, it's not a Boys Club. It doesn't provide services. It directly advocates for child-protective issues. It just won a major battle in California closing the incest loophole. It's a straight-up membership organization. It costs you dinner and movie -- $35 and you're a member. It's totally transparent. You can see every single person associated with it. You can follow every action that they take. It's fully participatory."
The Web site for the National Association To Protect Children can be found at http://www.protect.org/
Vachss' own Web site, "The Zero" -- which includes many other resources related to child protection issues -- can be found at http://www.vachss.com/
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