Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Is Caylee's Law a good idea?
As pointed out by Maia Szalavitz over at Healthland.Time, when ever there's a big, emotional verdict involving the mistreatment of a child, the understandable, knee-jerk response is to enact immediate legislation that will prevent this in the future. The law's are inevitably named for the child whose murder or whatever, it would have prevented. There's Jessica's Law, Megan's Law, Three Strikes, and Adam's Law, and others. Now in the wake of the Casey Anthony not-guilty verdict, lawmakers in dozens of states, eager to pander to outraged voters, are introducing versions of Caylee's Law which would make it a felony to not report a dead child within an hour of death or a missing child within 24 hours. But should legislation formed in the heat of the moment be adopted this quickly as law? There are unintended consequences of such hastily enacted law.
Megan's Law is intended to harshly restrict any sex offender(even if it's a high school kid who forwards a topless pic that his teen girlfriend sent to him) in terms of where they can live and work. What its done is force these guys off the grid entirely where they are much harder to keep up with.
Three strikes laws are to protect victims from repeat felony offenders. Sounds great, but it was written too broadly and now virtually every state that has a three-strikes law has extreme prison overcrowding because kids who get caught with pot three times are being sent away for 25 years with no chance of parole.
The instances of negative consequences are numerous, but they all stem from politicians' willingness to curry favor with voters by quickly, and without much thought, enacting legislation in the heat of the moment.
Take a look at Caylee's Law. Can all parents be expected to know the exact time of death of their child? What if it drowned in a pool, unknown to the parents for an hour and a half? Caylee's Law as written would make those parents felons. Who would be the arbiter of the clock regarding time of death? Can time of death be pinpointed to within a couple of minutes? Other than the Casey Anthony example of not reporting as missing or dead, her daughter Caylee, how often does this sort of thing happen? Is a new sweeping law necessary? Name one other crime that it would have prevented.
These laws named after the children whose victimization the law is intended to prevent are bad ideas because they are borne out of emotion and very little reason and logic.