Can't Ride The Rides

According to this Washington Post article, Six Flags theme parks are attempting to exclude sex offenders from their parks by including language on the back of each ticket which reads (in substance):
the amusement park reserves the right to refuse entry to anyone convicted of a sex crime or required to register as a sex offender.
This brings so many thoughts to mind. First, how to they plan to enforce this ban? It is unlikely that Six Flags will be conducting background checks at the gates. Most likely, the only guests that Six Flags will be check are season ticket applicants (since these applicants have to supply their name and it may be possible to do a background check in the time it takes to complete the season pass application process, which typically includes a photograph and other identity verification). But, would it be possible to do background checks at the gates? Possibly. This would require asking every guest for identification, and using their name (and possibly other identifying information such as address or social security number) to log onto the state's sex offender registry or call into the registry. This would still allow some people who have been convicted of sex offenses or sex offenders entry since (1) the person may be registered in another state or not currently registered or (2) the person may have been convicted of a "sex crime" but not required to register or not required to register at a level that makes his or her name available on the internet or by phone.

Second, what is Six Flags purpose in adding this language? Do they think it will actually make the parks safer? Doubtful. First, there are the problems I've already mentioned in enforcing it. And second, there must be at least a few people in the Six Flags offices who figured out that this won't eliminate actual sex offenders who have either not offended yet or have not been caught yet, and will eliminate guests who were convicted of sex offenses but unlikely to reoffend (for example, it's highly unlikely that Mary Kay Letourneau will pick up a kid to molest in a Six Flags park.) I think it's obvious that Six Flags is after the illusion of security. Are parents dumb enough to buy this? "Gee, Six Flags used to have a lot of dark alleys where sex offenders could disappear with our children if we didn't keep an eye on them, but now that Six Flags has banned sex offenders, I'm not worried about that at all!" The truth is that actually making the parks more secure would require money to hire more security guards or to train them better or to install cameras, whereas adding this language to the new tickets was relatively free and got them publicity that makes it sound like they're trying to make their parks safer.

Third, what are the slippery slope implications? Some towns are already creating "pedophile free zones" while prohibit sex offenders from moving in to within 2,500 feet of a school, park, playground or day-care center. I trust that the ACLU will appeal as soon as a proper plaintiff (meaning not too scary or rapist-y) comes forward. In the meantime, who else could (or should) ban sex offenders ban? The most obvious idea that comes to mind is internet service providers. They'd have the means to do a check because subscribers give their names and credit info, they could easily add language to their terms of service that makes it a violation to allow a sex offender to use your account, and I cannot think of a better advertisement for an ISP than "Now Sex Offender Free!" But, who else? Let's think of the non-obvious. What about car dealerships selling vans? Shouldn't they ban the sale of vans to sex offenders (since, according to the nightly news, this is what sex offenders so often use to pick up their victims)? Come to think of it, that might also be a good defendant to add for all of those victims' parents filing lawsuits against the police and their city...

But, back to Six Flags. The Washington Post also reports
In 2000, a 19-year-old ride operator at Great America in Gurnee was sentenced to four years in prison for molesting three girls while strapping them into Yogi Bear's Yahoo River boat ride. The arrest spurred a lawsuit that resulted in $1.4 million payments to two of the victims.

My opinion? Six Flags needs to spend their time doing more thorough background checks on their own employees and increase actual security, if that's a concern, not just print an ineffective message on the back of a ticket.

And if this whole sex offender ban goes through? Maybe sex offenders will need to get their own park.

9 comments:

  1. Funny I was just thinking some of the same thing over at www.thatlawyerdude.blogspot,com

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  2. It seems more like a small legal buffer, if anything. Most likely, if they have to detain someone for some other reason (they get drunk and disorderly, they're making a scene, etc), then they can ID the person, run a check, and then eject them if they find out that they're a sex offender.
    Although, it probably is also to give the illusion of providing a safer environment, which is just bull.

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  3. i'm sure the majority of the people that go to six miles aren't lawyers and don't think like lawyers, they are taking their kids there to have a good time, and if they see that six miles is attempting to prohibit anyone with a criminal records, than that's probably going to be good enough for them, they aren't even going to give how six miles plans to enforce this a second thought.

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  4. My understanding is that they started this because they were sued for some sex crimes that occured in one of their parks. I think they are trying to show that they are taking all reasonable efforts in an attempt to reduce future liability.

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  5. This is getting really really absurd. Starting with Miami's "eviction" plan and now this? Problem is, it's a private institution - so they can keep anyone out.

    I just typed a few more ranting paragraphs, but then I realized it's not a good idea - so I'll just stop by saying this is asinine.

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  6. I'm just wondering what that 19 year old kid could have done that got him 4 years in jail. I've gone on roller coasters and they pull the straps on you when you get in. The whole thing takes like 2 seconds. Weren't there people standing there.

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  7. is it wrong that I laughed out loud at the thought of child molester park?

    Okay it probably is.

    I think it's more about publicity and to appease parents. I think it's unenforceable.

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  8. Stopher asked "what that 19 year old kid could have done that got him 4 years in jail." Depending on the age of the victims, any of a number of things. Fondling the breast or genital areas of a 12 year-old, for example, is a felony in most states. Maximum penalties range from two to 15 years.

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  9. All they have to do is put an ID scanner at the gate and ticket booth, and they could require valid ID (and/or a Verichip) for admittance into the park. No Verichip/valid ID, no admittance. And with the Real ID Act signed into law, it will be VERY possible by 2008 (when Real ID goes into effect).

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