Underground Railroad For Sex Offenders?

During the years preceding the civil war, a netword of abolitionists developed in the United States. These folks helped spirit African-Americans to slavery by forming an underground railroad. It appears that something similar is taking place today, although the goal is far different.

Inclusion on a list of sex offenders is intended to serve as a means of making the unsuspecting public aware of the risk of harm in their neighborhood. The theory goes something like this: If a violent sex offenders moves next door, a person should know about it so that they can avoid the risk of vicitimization. We have a few isolated acts of horrible violence to thank for these laws.

The problem with such laws is that these laws are undiscriminating. We fail to distinguish the dangerous from the benign. It is far too easy to be make your way onto one of these lists. It is almost impossible to have your name removed. The courts, frankly, fail to take responsibility for the havoc these lists cause: registration, we are told, is not punishment.

Tell that to a person on the list who is shunned by neighbors, denied employment and treated as a social pariah. Registration is social damnation, and it often comes with other conditions, too. Sex offenders are often forbidden to live near or with other children. Failing to register, or failing to abide by the conditional liberty they enjoy, can result in fresh prosecution and significant prison.

It is no suprise, then, that something like an underground railroad is emerging in the United States. Ordinary citizens opposed to the madness of treating all sex offenders alike are opening their homes and hearts to those stigmatized, knowing full well that in so doing the sex offender breaks the law. Offenders drop off the radar to live with family and friends who assess them to be no threat at all.

Expect fresh prosecutions for aiding and abetting a felony as law enforcement officers discover these networks. Unforunately, there really is no where to send these poor souls for freedom. At least not in the United States. We're on another moralistic toot that is more hypocritical than ever: We use desire to market everything, but once desire overs steps a boundary, whether in a manner that causes harm or not, we brand the offender.

Lawmakers will soon have a choice. Will they create a separate crime: harboring a sex offender, and require that those found guilty also register by some theory of guilt by association? Or will lawmakers realize that when it comes to justice, one size does not fit all? I am not betting on restraint, at least not yet.

Perhaps when some politicians son is branded for life and treated like a pariah things will change. We're not there yet, so underground shelters will continue to emerge.
Comments (3)
Posted on December 28, 2009 at 3:58 pm by RPUSA
Norm..What a wonderful comparison you have put for...
Norm..What a wonderful comparison you have put forth. Those who took part in the underground railroad are looked at now as people who stood for civil rights. The same will happen in time with this issue. I have read countless stories about judges,politicians, and their kids getting in trouble but the chargesa re always lowed to a point that they do not have to register. Look at congressman WU, Oregon Governor Goldschmidt and others who have never been charged. It's ok for the everage person to be labeled and ruined but it's too punitive for them. I like to think I am part of this modern day underground railroad. I recently launched rallypointusa and a meeting ground for those who oppose the registry laws. Communication between groups and individuals is key to creating change. This is mine and my business partners contribution..we hope it helps. Thank you for everything you are doing as well.

Posted on December 1, 2009 at 5:55 am by Chris
And by the way, Norm, it is already a crime to kno...
And by the way, Norm, it is already a crime to knowingly harbor an SO who is not registered...or to rent to one, etc...

Posted on November 25, 2009 at 1:37 pm by bvuolo8748
If you search stories, you will see that a politic...
If you search stories, you will see that a politician nor his family members will end up on a registry. Charges will be reduced to avoid the label. Look at Joshua Lundsford, son of Mark Lundsford's, Michael Philbin ,son of Green Bay Packer, Joe Philbin, The cop with the Smithton Police Department in Illinois, Jeffrey Lister, son of a Churchill County judge (Illinois) etc.....This list goes on and on. They are all exempt! Go to www.love-is-not-a-crime.com to read these stories and more
For Display:
(Won't be displayed with comment)

Comment must be approved,
then will show on this page.

Number of states in the U.S.

About Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

Personal Website


Law Firm Website


I believe that the state is a necessary fiction and that failing to combat it is the first step toward tyranny.
– Norm Pattis


Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice about your case. You need a lawyer who understands the context of your life and situation. What are offered here are merely suggested lines of inquiry you may explore with your lawyer.

Pattis Video