Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Illusion of Safety

COLUMN NOTES: This is the second column I wrote on the Jeffersonville Sex Offender in the Parks Ordinance and I refer to this column in this post.

HARBESON:Jeffersonville creating illusion of safety in sex offender’s case

Local Guest Columnist

I suspect most of you reading this have little sympathy for anyone who hurts a child. If so, then you’re going to really get mad because I’m about to show you that’s exactly what a local city government is doing.

Officials in Jeffersonville are still trying to keep Eric Dowdell from watching his son play baseball, due to the recently passed sexual offender ordinance. Mr. Dowdell was convicted of a sexual offense 12 years ago, served his time and he’s no longer required to register with the state as an offender. So, shortly after the law was passed, he decided to try to get an exemption from this new law. At that time, Mr. Dowdell was denied permission because he was missing the proper documentation. Apparently he has jumped through that hoop and turned in “zee papers” but city government is still fighting with him.

Now he’s being told that he can’t wipe off the muddy footprints and sit on Jeffersonville’s government funded park benches because he’s had some offenses since then. They were not sex offenses against minors; they were battery offenses against adults. Of course, we all know this is an offense that other citizens have on their records — citizens who also go to government funded parks.

Mr. Dowdell obviously cares for his child to continue to fight and endure intrusive questioning in a court of law. And the mother too, since she testified on his behalf. Certainly Mr. Dowdell’s behavior leaves a lot to be desired, and it looks like the parents’ relationship could use some help, but they are trying to do the right thing for their child here.

So how is the government helping this family by adding to this father’s frustrations? Is this guy really going to be sexually dangerous watching a ballgame? My goodness, we will all know where he is if he attends his kid’s games. Plus, he’s being kept busy doing something useful and productive. It’s one positive thing he wants to do and government officials stubbornly refuse to let him.

The same people responsible for this fiasco will sit in their government funded cushy chairs and offices and lecture citizens on the importance of relationships, especially fathers, in a young boy’s life. So if he is denied permission, we will once again see the immense hypocrisy that occurs when government interferes. All because officials can’t see past their selfish interests to let a father watch his son catch a fly ball.

It must be very annoying for Jeffersonville taxpayers to see all the time and money wasted on this law so far: paying attorneys to create it, council members to discuss and vote on it, paper pushers to enter it into the official records, additional police time spent for enforcement needs, and once again, attorneys to defend it, (and perhaps soon to defend its constitutionality). It’s especially interesting considering all the recent news about how Jeff needs to lower expenses. Do you really think this is necessary to protect children?

Mr. Dowdell has followed the rules so far. He’s jumped the hoops required. In return, they only create a new hoop for him. Why can’t they just let this man spend more time with his son? Well, because it’s important to create the illusion of protecting citizens. They need to do this in order to justify their existence and continue to take money from other people to make their living. Maintaining this illusion is so important, they’ll even hurt a child to do it.

Which is supposedly what everyone wanted to avoid in the first place.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson often falls on her face when she tries to jump through hoops.

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