In Episode 1 of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU) Season 12, two relevant topics are brought up as the plot unfolds. Here, we discuss these at length.
Sex offender registry
In this episode of SVU, the mother of an abducted child told the detectives that she knows who might be the perpetrator. Subsequently, she handed over a file of registered sex offenders residing in her local community. The sex offender population is kept not only under government surveillance upon their re-admittance into society, but their information is made public through a website or via other means. In this way, the community in which the registered sex offender resides can keep a close watch on the activities of the sex offender, and especially keep their children out of harm’s way. However, some that cited the following pitfalls regarding sex offender registries. Crimes that constitute sex offender status are defined at the state level, giving way to a wide variation in the definition of a sex offender from state to state. And there are no categorizations within the sex offender population, which means that the label of a sex offender applies to a child rapist, as much as it applies to an exhibitionist. Since the label is all that matters to most citizens in a community, one can make the case that a minor offense takes as much of a toll on the offender as a major offense such as child rape. For this reason and others, there is much controversy surrounding sex offender registries despite the general consensus that the system in place is fair and effective, as is.
Radio frequency identification
Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is a technology that is traditionally widely used in objects such as toll-booth passes and public transportation cards that use radio waves to send and receive information. More recently, the development of RFID microchips have allowed implantation of these devices underneath the skin of animals and pets so that lost and runaway pets could be easily matched up and brought back to their respective owners. This episode of SVU introduces the controversy surrounding RFID microchip implantation in humans. Implantable RFID chips have been approved by the FDA for use in humans but have seldom been used. Proponents of this device cite advantages such as immediate retrieval of medical records from a patient in an emergency situation and its usefulness in securing access to buildings. However, there are limitations to this device that include adverse health effects and vulnerability to hacking which would compromise privacy. Laws are being put into place so that companies cannot require their employees to implant RFID chips under their skin. The future of implantable RFID devices include the incorporation of GPS tracking, a concept that is already being hotly debated.