Have you ever read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter?” A classic of American literature, it follows the life of a 17th-century Puritan woman who conceives a child out of wedlock.
When people realize that the woman is carrying an illegitimate baby, she receives an odd punishment by local authorities: She has to stand on a raised platform for three hours wearing a big, red “A” on her chest.
Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Well, such discipline didn’t disappear with the Puritans, although today’s version aims to protect children rather than shame offenders.
And offenders they most certainly are. The people who get Puritan correction today are convicted sex offenders.
The reason why is obvious: Halloween. The year’s spookiest holiday gives predators easy access to children.
That’s why numerous communities have enacted special laws for sex offenders around All Hallows’ Eve, WJXT reported. While they all seek to limit access to kids, they come in various flavors.
Some forbid registered sex offenders from wearing masks or costumes. Others say they can’t distribute candy.
A few compel them to post signs saying, “No candy or treats here.” And still others do the signposting for them.
According to the Florida Times-Union, Nassau County, Florida, has a law that keeps all sexual predators from participating in Halloween activities.
But the county has taken the extra step of having law enforcement post signs outside of an offender’s house so that the public can know where they are. The red reflective signs look as though they belong on a street during construction.
Their messaging, though, leaves no doubt as to their function. “Public Notice,” they say. “Pursuit to F.S. 775.21 (insert proper name) is a convicted sexual predator and lives at this location.”
Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper explained, “By law, sexual predators are not allowed to participate in any Halloween activity or give out candy to children, so this is just an added notice to the public when they are out. … I knew it was being done in some other counties and had a suggestion from some residents to consider and thought it was a good idea, especially before Halloween.”
The restricting isn’t just limited to Halloween, either. The convicted must stay away from all children’s events.
The penalties for violating the ordinance are stiff. Offenders can face a fine of up to $500 or spend 60 days in jail.
However, the signs don’t stay up forever. They come down once the holiday is over.
Though there are around a dozen homes in Nassau County that receive the signs, officers also spot check some of them during the holiday to make sure that the residents are obeying the rules.
The means may seem a little in your face, but the goal is a good one. As a father, the steps we take to care for the smallest among us show where our priorities lie.
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