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The Economist: "Unjust and Ineffective" [View All]

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MissMillie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-10-09 09:45 AM
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The Economist: "Unjust and Ineffective"
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ONE day in 1996 the lights went off in a classroom in Georgia so that the students could watch a video. Wendy Whitaker, a 17-year-old pupil at the time, was sitting near the back. The boy next to her suggested that, since it was dark, she could perform oral sex on him without anyone noticing. She obliged. And that single teenage fumble wrecked her life.

Her classmate was three weeks shy of his 16th birthday. That made Ms Whitaker a criminal. She was arrested and charged with sodomy, which in Georgia can refer to oral sex. She met her court-appointed lawyer five minutes before the hearing. He told her to plead guilty. She did not really understand what was going on, so she did as she was told.

She was sentenced to five years on probation. Not being the most organised of people, she failed to meet all the conditions, such as checking in regularly with her probation officer. For a series of technical violations, she was incarcerated for more than a year, in the county jail, the state womens prison and a boot camp. I was in there with people who killed people. Its crazy, she says.

She finished her probation in 2002. But her ordeal continues. Georgia puts sex offenders on a public registry. Ms Whitakers name, photograph and address are easily accessible online, along with the information that she was convicted of sodomy. The website does not explain what she actually did. But since it describes itself as a list of people who have been convicted of a criminal offence against a victim who is a minor or any dangerous sexual offence, it makes it sound as if she did something terrible to a helpless child. She sees people whispering, and parents pulling their children indoors when she walks by.

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more at the link: http://www.economist.com/printedition/displaystory.cfm?...

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A thoughtful article
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