What List Are You On?

Posted on March 23, 2011


Author: Stan Moody

In my work on prison reform in Maine, I have noticed that there are pockets of activists, some organized and some not so organized, each with a certain niche but with no collaborative agenda.

Several weeks ago, I had lunch with the founder and executive director of one of those well-organized but rather esoteric activist projects. In the course of conversation, the founder allowed as how I was doing incredible work but was grossly deficient in collaboration, with which the Chief Executive Officer in me quickly and proudly agreed.

I then learned that his collaborative project had lost 3 of its former prisoner clients to probation violation for going out to breakfast instead of to church.

My non-collaborative brain was calculating how long it would have taken me to find them and get them out of jail – an hour, maybe, barring the need for a board meeting? A week or two had passed.

Reflecting on that and on the sex offender registry that has been occupying my mind of late, I began to consider that the American public is being systematically divided into separate and distinct lists. The digital age has greatly enhanced that outcome.

In the criminal justice system, there is a master list of folks distinct from society. It is the criminal list comprised of the incarcerated, probationers and parolees. Within the prison system itself, however, other lists emerge – murderers, sex offenders, druggies, homosexuals, etc., with their accompanying master pecking order.

For every list, there is an assigned authority structure, either formal or informal. In the case of sex offenders, the federal government, under the Adam Walsh Act, has thrown 189 categories of sex offenses onto its required list.

I’ll bet you could only think of a half dozen categories of sex offense. There are 189, all on one list! I wonder if one is lustful thoughts.
The authority structure for the criminal list is the corrections industry, one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation. Probation officers comprise the authority structure for the probation list. Law enforcement is the authority structure for the sex offenders list.
Sometimes they work together; more often, they don’t.

The more lists, the more authority is needed. It is something of a government job creator – one list being hired to watch another list. In a world in which we used to be employed doing each other’s laundry, we are now employed maintaining each other’s lists.

When thinking of the few lists on which it has been my pride to be counted, I once was a Republican of sorts and now am a Democrat of sorts. Color me half-tone. If you are an Independent, or Un-enrolled, you have been delisted and must face the loneliness of exile.

Of late, as a result of my activities in exposing the absurdities within the fear-driven Department of Corrections, I am on a virtual list that begins with S.

I also am a registered Baptist preacher but am careful to whom I divulge that secret for fear of reprisal.

One of my proudest accomplishments is that of being a Registered Maine Guide. That’s a list that is only half-jokingly referred to as Registered Maine Poacher, present company excepted, of course, lest I be put on another list, or, at best, simply delisted.

A list I recently joined was that of the unemployed, my chaplain position at the Maine Department of Corrections having fallen victim to the politics of austerity. The government has my stats well in hand, and I therefore am comforted.

Wait ‘till you hear this one!

The 125th Session of the Maine State Legislature will shortly be collaborating on developing another distinct list. LD760 is “An Act to Establish an Animal Abuser Registry.” All the bells and whistles of a high-tech sex offender registry are imbedded in this classic piece of legislation – fines, increased law enforcement, notification of residents within ½ mile, web presence, fingerprints, tattoos, place of employment, etc.

I see a collaborative coalition developing – the unemployed list into which has been merged nearly the entire sex offender list and, with any luck, a newly-developed animal abuser list, also largely unemployable for no reason than that the corporate world doesn’t really take to lists. Too messy!

Anybody for the PIE Party – People in Exile? In your face!