Of Sex Offenders and Garage Sales


With ksnhiahzdr
Justice for All
,” a blog about what’s wrong with our sex offender laws, ran this piece about how over the top our fears can go. The blogger, Shelly Stow, consistently nails the media for its craven habit of jumping on any sex offender-related item and turning it into something so scary that it allows us to go about our day feeling  outraged, terrified and angry — three emotions we can’t  seem to get enough of. Embarrassingly enough, the piece she links to is from the paper I worked at for 14 years, the New York Daily News:

The headline screams, “Florida complex for sex offenders blasted for selling children’s toys at yard sale.”  Apparently the Lighthouse Mission, a halfway house for released sex offenders in Florida, was having a yard sale of used and donated items. Among these items were “Stuffed animals, baby toys and strollers….”

The implication given is that the registrants deliberately included items attractive to children in an attempt to lure them within their reach.Neighbors were up in arms, rushing to protect neighborhood children from the danger lurking just inside the door of the mission, danger in the form of registered sex offenders.’
The truth, of course, bears no resemblance to that.The mission, which helps registrants rehabilitate and find employment, is run by a mother and daughter. They hold several of these sales a year, and their tight-stretched budget is dependent on them for income. According to them, several of the resident registrants helped move some of the heavier items before the sale began. They were not involved with the sale at all.But what if they had been? Would children be at risk? Does the near–and mere–proximity of those who have committed any of a myriad of registerable offenses, served prison time, and been released automatically put children at risk? All available studies and research says no.Of course, those frantically concerned neighbors would not know this. Chances are high that they are ignorant of what the literature says on the subject. No, all they need to know in order to spring into action and, ultimately, force the closing of the yard sale, is that sex offenders are somehow involved.

It would be an odd garage sale indeed if children were being dragged off while their parents looked at used golf clubs and toasters. But fear sells. Only in this case it doesn’t sell any items for charity. Only newspapers. – L

Come and get your slightly used children!

Come and get your slightly used children!


20 Responses to Of Sex Offenders and Garage Sales

  1. James Pollock June 28, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    It’s not exactly a trade secret that there exists in media a cadre of professionals who are outraged (OUTRAGED!) for a living. What it is that is outrageous changes daily, but the outrage is persistent. At the risk of offending fans, this tends to be THE staple of talk radio, although other media are also infested. (And no, although I think it’s more popular on one end of the political spectrum, it’s not unique to their side.

    In fact, there’s a touch of it here.
    (“Can you BELIEVE what CPS is doing to THIS family…”)

  2. Paul Bearer June 28, 2015 at 5:09 pm #

    @James Pollock- To be fair, the outrage featured on this site is backed up by statistical data. Outrage is fine if it’s the result of a legitimate issue.

  3. Donald June 28, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

    Fear, outrage, and anger can be addicting. The human brain not only uses electrical impulses, it also releases chemicals to generate emotions. Every emotion is brought on by a chemical. This is normal. However when we get bombarded by the same emotion on a daily basis for a long period of time, they become addicting.

    This is why I compare the media to that of tobacco companies. They take advantage of the addiction and even encourage it! Fear and anger are the most powerful. Although I don’t regard the media as behaving morally, we have to take some responsibility ourselves. We’re not helpless victims. However before we can take charge, we have to understand emotions and addiction.

    Even sadness and despair can be addicting similar to heroine. Obviously there aren’t fun. However many people that are plagued with despair often reach a point, “That’s it! I’m tired of this. I’m going to turn my life around!” One week later they feel the DT’s. They’re not as severe as going cold turkey on heroine. However they still talk themselves into abandoning their efforts. “I’ll turn my life around later. Now is not a good time.” or “My life isn’t that bad. I don’t need to turn things around”.

    This is why I started my blog. I haven’t jumped straight into heavy topics or few people would read my blog. However, I’m laying the foundation so that people will be able to absorb the heavier topics when I write about them.


  4. Donald June 28, 2015 at 6:10 pm #

    I back James in this case. Some of the people that blast CPS for going too far also blast them for not going far enough. They like the outrage of the injustice. They also like the outrage of when CPS failed to act when they should have.

  5. Donald June 28, 2015 at 6:21 pm #

    Sorry I misspoke. I haven’t seen anyone on here change sides as I suggested. I’m just speaking that drama addicts sometimes change sides and I have met many that do

  6. James Pollock June 28, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    “Sorry I misspoke. I haven’t seen anyone on here change sides as I suggested.”

    My suggestion isn’t that people are jumping back and forth (although the public, collectively, will certainly do so. When CPS fails to act to protect a child who needed their assistance, that’s worthy of attention. When they take action that is unwarranted, that also is worthy of attention.

    There are, however, people who will jump directly to outrage before they are anywhere near fully informed. Some who will actually berate you for not being as outraged as they are. We tend to focus on the people who wildly overreact in ways we disagree with, and not notice or excuse people who wildly overreact in ways we agree with. Example: Compare the response here to A) people who wildly overestimate the danger to their children posed by strangers, and B) people who wildly overestimate the danger to their children posed by CPS. In either case, if you let fear of something that is phenomenally incommon rule your decision-making, you are not thinking rationally.

  7. Donald June 28, 2015 at 7:18 pm #

    CPS needs to use their best judgement in determining if they believe a child is in danger or not. If they get a complaint that dug use is present where children are being raised, they use their judgement on how often drugs are in use. They don’t put children in foster care because dad smoked a joint. In this case, they determined that the drug abuse didn’t warrant intervention.

    However months later if the father physically abuses the child, the earlier complaint will surface. The headlines will read, A CHILD WAS HURT BECAUSE CPS FAILED TO ACT!

    This is why CPS is afraid of using their judgement. It’s safer for them to enforce blanked rules. If a child gets hurt, CPS can be in a lot more trouble than if they go overboard and submit somebody to gross injustice.

    I’ll say it again. Many drama junkies change sides.

  8. Abigail June 29, 2015 at 12:30 am #

    Any time it’s a slow day for a news station you could pick on this complex. Regardless of what they are doing, their past defines them. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong – just that they are easy targets in a world where we need to have something to fear.

  9. Reziac June 29, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    Oh, I see what happened. Sex offenders left cooties on everything they touched.

  10. Reziac June 29, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

    The purpose of media outrage (especially via all the “free” outlets) is to collect eyeballs. The more outrage, the more eyeballs. Those eyeballs are then sold to advertisers.

    Always remember — If a for-profit entity offers you a service for free, you’re not the customer — you’re the product.

  11. pentamom June 29, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

    I’m a little bit ambivalent about this one. Just a little.

    Okay — drawing a conclusion about creepy guys sitting there casing your kids at a garage sale, based on no information that indicated that — WRONG.

    Jumping to conclusions despite that lack of information — WRONG.

    Freaking out every time you hear the word “sex offender” in any contest and assuming your children will be in danger if sex offenders are allowed to breathe in public — WRONG.

    However, I think that whoever organized this should have realized that, rightly or wrongly, mixing kids’ toys with an event connected outwardly in any way with sex offenders was going to draw a bad reaction — not because there’s a good reason for that, but because people are what they are. It’s fine to say it shouldn’t be that way, but that mistake is causing them all kinds of bad publicity now and probably undermining their efforts.That’s not to say that they did anything really wrong, or to justify any of the negative reaction, just that I wish they’d been smarter about it, and the reality is, people involved with such programs need to be smarter about it. That’s just reality. They should have refused toys as donations or, if for some reason they couldn’t, donated them elsewhere.

  12. Yocheved June 29, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

    Donald, I love your blog. Bookmarked and added to Pinterest! Thanks. 🙂

  13. James Pollock June 29, 2015 at 10:33 pm #

    “I wish they’d been smarter about it, and the reality is, people involved with such programs need to be smarter about it. That’s just reality. They should have refused toys as donations or, if for some reason they couldn’t, donated them elsewhere.”

    Since these sales are a regular occurrence, it’s likely that they’ve held several sales that included children’s items, without anyone complaining about it.

    That they should have expected unfair, biased, and sensationalist media coverage is probably true, but it’s hard to fault them until it happens the first time.

  14. sexhysteria June 30, 2015 at 1:57 am #

    Kids today want Smartphones and Xbox games, not stuffed animals!

  15. Papilio June 30, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

    Tssk tssk, Lenore, what a naughty caption 😀 Are donations also welcome? 😛

  16. JP Merzetti June 30, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

    Outrage, hmmm?
    How about the outrage of taxpayers forced to foot the bill for processing thousands who didn’t really need to be “processed” in the first place?
    (Including *gasp* citizens who come up on that registry who are still “children” themselves?)

    Outrage: Pre-empted, value-added, and otherwise kidnapped for profit motives…….instead of common-sensible reponse and reaction to stupidity.

    The mother and daughter who hosted the garage sale seem to know what they’re doing (yet no-one wanted to bother asking them their opinions?)
    Perhaps, because there is no ‘news’ there……

  17. Tman July 1, 2015 at 7:50 pm #

    “In fact, there’s a touch of it here.
    (“Can you BELIEVE what CPS is doing to THIS family…””

    Well, I ended up on this site through a clickbait headline where they excerpted a paragraph to make it look as if parents were being told they’re awful if they let their children go outside during the day for any reason. Turned out that it was a warning- perhaps overboard, perhaps not- against letting kids stay up too late and sleep in too late.

    I’ll still look around the site I guess, I agree with many of the principals espoused here, but I know I’ll have to take every article with a grain of salt because they might be trying to Bill O’Reilly it.

  18. James Pollock July 1, 2015 at 8:44 pm #

    “I’ll still look around the site I guess, I agree with many of the principals espoused here, but I know I’ll have to take every article with a grain of salt because they might be trying to Bill O’Reilly it.”

    An accurate story about CPS would say “most of the time, CPS serves childrens’ needs, providing services to families that need them and removing children when it becomes necessary. Sometimes, they overreact and take or threaten to take children who are pretty much just fine where they are. Sometimes they fail to act, and children are subsequently harmed. Neither taking children from perfectly good homes, nor failing to take them from utterly wretched ones, is what we (society) wants, but it’s not nearly the usual case, either.

    So, sometimes people get part of a story, and the part they get is pretty outrageous. Sometimes that’s because all of the facts are not yet known, and sometimes it’s because somebody is stoking things by putting their spin on it. I try to be slow to outrage.. people do stuff that is truly outrageous much less often than media, particularly media trying to advocate for something, will do. The more an outrageous thing matches the bias of the source, the less seriously I take it. YMMV.

  19. ParasamGateZero July 2, 2015 at 4:49 am #

    It’s pretty silly that they’d release these people at all if they’re going to be persona non grata when they get out. Why not just leave them in prison? These people must be terrified to even go anywhere. They might as well create a ‘whole way house’ where they can be permanently housed away from the rest of society. Nevermind that a lot of them are probably innocent, just like a lot of people who were persecuted during the ‘day care scare’ of the 90’s where people were convicted on the flimsiest evidence imaginable. And to even get parole, they have to admit guilt, whether they’re guilty or not. At bare minimum, before deciding what to do about this _horrible_ problem, we need to have a good idea of the actual scale of it – and that means figuring out how many people have been falsely convicted. I invite everyone to check out the innocence project:


    They’ve unfortunately only been able to reverse convictions of about 300 people total, out of 14,000 people who apply each year – and that is NOT because our criminal justice system works. The fact is, in order to perform dna tests to reverse a conviction, they have to obtain the consent of the _prosecutor_ – who will naturally not want to allow it. Reversal of a conviction looks _really_ bad on a prosecutor’s resume. They might have aspirations to become a district attorney or a judge, or even go into private practice, and conviction reversals could hinder them in obtaining _any_ of these jobs. For the Innocence project to _really_ start accomplishing something, they’re going to need a lot of attention from the public, as well as funding. Attention from the public being probably the more important thing overall. Please go check out their site, because if enough of the public becomes aware of what they’re doing, laws can be changed so they will no longer _need_ the permission of the prosecutor to do these DNA tests that are _vital_ to getting good criminal justice statistics – and also saving people from unjust denial of freedom.

  20. BL July 2, 2015 at 6:50 am #

    “Some of the people that blast CPS for going too far also blast them for not going far enough.”

    And they could be right in both cases, depending on the actual facts of the case.