In Massachusetts, two candidates are running for Attorney General. The Republican, Lawrence Frisoli, is already on the air with an aggressive ad. The main point he’s pushing right now is to require convicted drug dealers to register with the state, much like sex offenders. He’s hitting all the big points, too — it’ll be cheap, as the mechanism already exists, and parents have a right to this information to better help them protect their children. (Frisoli’s page has a downloadable MP3 of the ad.)
And if that is his big idea, if that is what he intends to make the focus of his administration, I find myself hoping he’ll lose.
When the subject of registries for sex offenders came up, especially for those who were pedophiles, the civil libertarian in me was troubled. But after some careful consideration of the matter, I accepted them. The unique nature of the crime, the astronomical recidivism rate, and the affect on the victims all combined to convince me that sex offenders were, as a class, far more likely to present a “clear and present danger” to society and such an extreme measure was not only warranted, but necessary to reduce the chances of future victims.
But none of those factors apply to drug dealers.
Drug dealers have no deep-seated psychological compunction to commit their crimes; they’re done out of greed — the desire to make money relatively easily. They do not seek to harm or kill their victims; they know that a dead junkie is not only not going to buy any more drugs, but not going to bring the dealer any new customers. And while they do tend to victimize the more vulnerable members of society, they rarely seek out and victimize people by force. I’ve never read an account of someone being knocked down, their money taken, and later discovering a bag of crack has been left in their pocket.
I don’t know much about Frisoli’s opponent, Democrat Martha Coakley, except she’s currently a county DA and has had some successes and some failures in office. But Frisoli’s desire to expand the sex offender registry has me deeply bothered, and I hope that if he’s elected, that becomes a campaign promise that is quietly forgotten.