Ohio legislators are considering a bill which would require sex offenders to display a green license plate on their cars.
While intentions of those proposing these latest identifying license plates are to ensure the safety of women and children, a number of possible side effects of the change raise doubts about the prudence of the measure.
The main objection is a doubt about its effectiveness. Sexual predators would be unlikely to linger at schools or playgrounds in a car sporting what is already being called "the perv plate." This does not stop him from scoping out the area in a car not bearing his registration. The benefits of having a child or his parents aware of a sex offender nearby are outweighed by the false sense of security the labeling would foster. No green plates -- an OK person? Not always.
Consider the green plates would only be issued to newly convicted offenders, leaving 157 registered sex offenders in Erie County and 15,716 in Ohio without the plates, thus reducing the effectiveness of identification.
Green plates would label anyone driving the auto -- or riding in it. This vehicle may be transportation for a family who is already dealing with difficult issues. The labeling of innocent members and their subjection to ridicule and ostracism is inevitable. Protection for innocents, including those who happen to be family members of an offender, is vital.
The sex offender plates are the 21th century equivalent of the Scarlet A. As despicable as a predator may be, the law sets limits to the punishment he would be expected to endure for his crime. After serving his sentence and adhering to state registration requirements, a person is considered to be free.
The green plate is a life sentence for anyone determined to live within the law. Community labeling would encourage vigilante justice, hinder chances for employment and housing.
The laws we have in place, if enforced to the letter of the law, are fair and effective. The license plate add-on is more feel-good, look-at-me-I'm-tough-on-crime and ultimately useless legislation.