I really try not to turn my blog into a rant or advocacy about what I consider to be negative aspects of our culture and society, but instead try to explore the underlying theory behind our actions. The following situations, however, seem to be increasing at an alarming rate. The number of people being labeled as sex offenders under somewhat tenuous circumstances is reaching obsurdity. Take the following examples:

Genarlow Wilson

A former high school football player in Georgia football player. I found out about Genarlow’s plight after reading an article at Mark Cuban’s BlogMaverick site.

Genarlow Wilson sits in prison despite being a good son, a good athlete and high school student with a 3.2 GPA. He never had any criminal trouble. On the day he was to sit for the SAT, at seventeen years old, his life changed forever. He was arrested. In Douglas County he was accused of inappropriate sexual acts at a News Year’s Eve party. A jury acquitted him of the allegation of Rape but convicted him of Aggravated Child Molestation for a voluntary act of oral sex with another teenager. He was 17, and she was 15.

Along with the label “child molester” which will require him throughout his life to be on a sexual offender registry, Genarlow received a sentence of eleven years — a mandatory 10 years in prison and 1 year on probation.

His case is on appeal, but has been turned down by the Georgia Supreme Court before.

Julie Amero

Think this only happens to guys, guess again. A substitute teacher in Connecticut was convicted and faces 40 years in prison because of spyware and a sexually explicit pop-up ad. Because it happened in the classroom Amero was guilty of child endangerment. Unfortunately she was apparently also the victim of an ignorant jurist and jury.

On Jan. 5, 2007, a Norwich jury found Amero guilty of four felony counts of “injury or risk of injury to, or impairing morals of, children.” Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and while it is unlikely that Amero will receive the maximum penalty, incarceration remains a very real possibility. Even if Amero avoids jail, she will be stripped of her teaching credentials unless the convictions are reversed.

Matthew Bandy

You may remember Matthew from a 20/20 special aimed at drawing attention to the idiocy that surrounded the trial. Initially suspected of child pornography, Matt took two polygraphs and underwent a psychiatric evaluation all of which confirmed his side of the story. Unfortunately he had a terrible secret.

Matthew pleaded guilty to the strange charge of distributing obscene materials to minors — a “Playboy” magazine to his classmates.

“To be precise, he was charged with showing [a Playboy magazine to other 16-year-olds] before school, at lunch and after school,” Greg Bandy said.

But the Bandy family nightmare was not over. While the prosecution deal offered no jail time for Matthew, he would still be labeled a sex offender.

That’s right, labeled a sex offender for looking at Playboy with friends. Fortunately Matt’s story ended on a positive note, thanks to the publicity created in part by 20/20 and a sensible judge, he was not given sex offender status.

This over-reaction to everything sex has even impacted an acquaintance of my extended family. Having been from a rural area, it isn’t uncommon to find a bush or tree instead of running back to the house every time you have to use the restroom. As innocent as it may seem, just don’t do it when a school bus happens to go by, you guessed it, exposing oneself to children and labeled a sex offender.

So where does all this end? I personally believe the sex offender registry is a good idea which is being destroyed by over zealous prosecutors (see Duke rape case) and an ignorant judiciary. Philip K. Howard, lawyer and author of The Death of Common Sense and Collapse of the Common Good, talks about “creating policy solutions that restore rationality and common sense to the law.” So why not start with setting some limits on this insanity?