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Well, if we can't just kill them or lock them up forever...

Most of the time, I have no problems expressing my opinions on a story. Hell, usually I can't hlep but do that. Every now and then, though, I encounter some item in the news that leaves me profoundly perplexed and with absolutely no clue what should be done about something -- or just how I feel about it.

This is one of those stories.

I think I've made it abundantly clear that I have no truck with sex offenders, especially those who abuse children. I would have no problem with mandatory life sentences for them, and wouldn't be too upset if they were executed.

But that isn't the way the law works. Sex offenders, as it stands now, can do their time, pay their debt to society as determined by the courts, and then be released back into the general populace. We've made strides towards imposing restrictions on them to prevent their re-offending (sex offenses have one of the highest recidivism rates of all felonies), but we can't -- under current laws -- simply lock them up because we think they might offend again.

So we put a great deal of time and effort and thought into keeping them from re-offending, into outlining just what they can not do, where they can not go, who they can not see. We put them in boxes, and watch them like hawks (most of the time) for them to stray across those boundaries, when we can pounce and toss them back into incarceration. And good for us.

But for all the things we tell them they can not do, what can they do? Where can they live? What kinds of jobs can they accept?

God knows I'm proud of my reputation as a law-and-order, tough on crime hard-ass when it comes to criminals. But it seems to me that we have a surfeit of "sticks" in this situation, and damned few carrots. There has to be some sort of program, some guidelines, some lifeline we can offer these people. Something that will give them at least a fighting chance to leave their past, resist their urges, and actually do something besides wait for an opportunity to commit their offenses again.

I don't know what sort of thing would work, or even where to start. But it seems to me that if we're going to have a system that allows for sex offenders to eventually be released back into the general public, we ought to at least spend a little time and effort thinking of what they're going to do -- and how we can keep them from going right back to their old ways. Simple deterrence and vigilance isn't enough.


Comments (19)

Jay, I think the problem is... (Below threshold)
goddessoftheclassroom:

Jay, I think the problem is that pedophilia is NOT a controlable impulse. No "carrot" can overcome the drive.

At least with chemical castration, they can't hurt anyone again.

I give you credit for raisi... (Below threshold)
mikem:

I give you credit for raising the issue. It needs to be discussed. I think most people, including myself, have tended to avoid alot of issues about sex offenders (other than the common "hang 'em" attitude) because of the yuck factor and just hope that people are thinking things through and not being irrational.
I'm not comfortable with the attitude that tends to classify too many things in one category as child sex abuse. To be honest, I'm not sure just what is considered to be child sex abuse, but it seems that there is nothing that we used to call inappropriate that is not CSA today, and does not demand lifetime public shame. The thing is, children need to be protected and I would agree with a lot of harsh punishments, including life sentences and even the Big One for actually having intercourse with a child. But I think punishments and, to your point, public shame and banishment from employment (other than the traditional shunning, "gossip" and warnings) should not always apply to all that passes for CSA these days.
Sex with a child is a crime of special violence against a special victim and that is where the harsh measures should be implemented. But I don't want to see someone convicted of possessing pictures of naked kids or of something like inappropriate touching (that seems to get a lot of teachers and estranged husbands) getting similar treatment. I'm sure the rapists get much harsher sentences but I also think that both categories get the same measure "not in my neighborhood" public condemnation. There should be a difference.
And don't get me started about trying to prevent future crime. In DC, Marion Barry and 10/12 City Council members approved a bill barring employment etc. discrimination against convicted felons. Te mayor says no dice for now, but just wait. That's for bank robbers who apply for bank teller positions. So how do we punish someone as a future rapist who has never committed a violent crime?
Common sense needs to be applied.

We don't tell people what t... (Below threshold)

We don't tell people what they can do. The default is that we can do anything unless it is forbidden.

The list of forbidden activities for sex offenders is a long one, but choices exist for them. Unfortunately 90%+ of them reoffend within a year of release.

Umm..Jat tea were did you g... (Below threshold)
khansgod01:

Umm..Jat tea were did you get your info about sex offenders having the highest re-offense rate? I got a DOJ report that says otherwise:

Reoffense Rates of Sex Offenders

Are ALL sex offenders predatory pedophiles?
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Are much ower than you might think

Reoffense or "Recidivism" Rates of Sex Offenders
According to a recent report by the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Of the 9,691 released sex offenders, 3.5% (339 of the 9,691) were reconvicted for a sex crime within the 3-year follow-up period." It also states, "Within the first 3 years following their release from prison in 1994, 5.3% (517 of the 9,691) of released sex offenders were rearrested for a sex crime."

In United States v. Mound, 157 F.3d 1153, 1154, (8th Cir. 1998) (en banc), four dissenting Judges cite Law Review articles citing statistics finding the recidivism rate of released sex offenders is the second lowest rate of recidivism of all convicted felons. In State v. Krueger, Case No. 76624 (December 19, 2000, Eighth Judicial District of Ohio, unreported), two female Judges reversed a Sexual Predator adjudication, finding the statute is based on a false assumption and in essence, an "old wives tale" of popular beliefs contradicted by empirical data.

By writing the National Criminal Justice Reference Center, P.O. Box 6000, Rockville, Maryland 20849-6000, you can obtain the following reports.

NCJ-163392 (February 7, 1997), Sex Offenses and Offenders: An Analysis of Data on Rape and Sexual Assault, finds the recidivism rate of 2,214 convicted rapists released from prison was 7.7% after three years. The only category of crimes with a lower recidivism rate are those persons convicted of murder (6.8%).

NCJ-193427 (June, 2002), Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994, finds the recidivism rate of 3,138 convicted rapists released from prison was 2.5% after three years. The only category of crimes with a lower recidivism rate are those persons convicted of murder (1.2%).

In April, 2001, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) released a report also on the recidivism rate of released sex offenders. In Ten-Year Recidivism Follow-Up of 1989 Sex Offender Releases, Office of Policy, Bureau of Planning and Evaluation, Paul Konicek, Principle Researcher, (available at www.drc.state.oh.us), the recidivism rate of 879 sex offenders released from Ohio's prisons in 1989, after ten (10) years, was found to be 8% for new sex offenses.

The ODRC study finds its results as typical, citing to:

1) Gibbons, Soothill, and Way, found in Furby, Weinrott & Blackshaw, 1989. (Twelve year study finding sex offender recidivism rate of 4%).

2) Gibbons, Soothill, and Way 1980, found in Furby, Weinrott & Blackshaw, 1989. (Thirteen year study finding sex offenders recidivism rate of 12%).

3) Hanson & Bussiere, 1996. (Mega-analysis of sixty-one sex offender studies with a total of 28,972 sex offenders finding recidivism rate for new sex offenses five years after release was 13.4%).

4) New York Department of Corrections, nine year follow-up study. Finding a 6% rate of recidivism for new sex offenses.

These studies are cited on page 11 of the ODRC report.

At page 15 of the report, the overall findings are summarized. The ODRC finds, "Contrary to the popular idea that sex offenders are repeatedly returning to prison for further sex crimes, in this population a sex offender recidivating for a new sex offense within 10 years of release was a relatively rare occurrence." Id. at page 15, ¶ 4.

( Love 2002 )

This is in stark contrast to what is presented by politicians and the mainstream media. The amount of occurrences of violent, brutal rape and murder of children is minute. Unfortunately, the public pays the price for this massive and ongoing campaign of misinformation in multiple ways:

Firstly, the public funds the registry (staff to keep up with the registrants, etc.), secondly, the public is subject to loss of property values (due to proximity of a registered sex offender), decreased family and social cohesion with the associated increased crime and longer-term social problems, and thirdly, an increased level of anxiety with little benefit from the knowledge.

It does the public no real good to have to wade through 95 lowest risk former offenders to find the 3.5 who are considered a risk to reoffend

This crime is a tough call.... (Below threshold)
Diane:

This crime is a tough call. Has it always been this prevalent? Is there just more publicity or has our more "loose" sexual customs contributed to what seems to be a growing number of offenders?

I agree, Jay, there does not seem to be enough differential of how offenders should be punished...and then helped. However, because one offender does not actually "rape" but touches "inappropriately", the level of control over a victim can be just as offending--the physical act may be just "touching", but the victim's family or pets might be threatened (emotional rape) if the victim talks.

I do not believe all of these offenders are "out of control". Behavior is often a choice. Once caught, many may choose to never "touch" another child again, just to stay out of trouble, keep jobs, wives etc. For repeat offenders, castration is always an option--and I vote the old-fashioned forms of this procedure.

khansgod01,The stu... (Below threshold)
faith+1:

khansgod01,

The studies you cite refer to all sexual offenses not just child molestation. I'd be interested in seeing one focused on the recidivism rate of pedophiles.

I'd agree that pedophiles are most likely a small percentage but if the recidivism rate they posess is higher than other sex offenders then the studies you cite are meaningless--and misleading.

There has to be some sort o... (Below threshold)
Ric:

There has to be some sort of program, some guidelines, some lifeline we can offer these people. Something that will give them at least a fighting chance to leave their past, resist their urges, and actually do something besides wait for an opportunity to commit their offenses again.

OK ... tapped the wrong but... (Below threshold)
Ric:

OK ... tapped the wrong button on that last one ...

There has to be some sort of program, some guidelines, some lifeline we can offer these people. Something that will give them at least a fighting chance to leave their past, resist their urges, and actually do something besides wait for an opportunity to commit their offenses again.

There guidelines and a lifeline, it's called the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It provides more than a fighting chance.

New York's been trying to d... (Below threshold)

New York's been trying to deal with this issue for about a year now with not-very-good results. The first thing Pataki tried was to simply keep sex offenders locked up after they served their time in mental institutions or something like that. In other words, they were convicted, did their time...and were simply not released, they were kept locked up. From the beginning I said it was, frankly, completely illegal and unconstitutional to do so. Not surprisingly the courts finally said 'you can't do that'. To be honest I'm not sure if they tried anything else, yet, the courts only ruled against this 'plan' recently and with the change in governors, etc...

Just thought I'd point out an unconstitutional tactic that's already been tried and failed. I don't know why they don't just change the laws to make the sentences longer, at least that would have been a legal way to do it.

Oh, and like many other places in other states, cities around Albany are getting their sex offender mapping together with their 'can't live here' circles and finding there isn't anywhere sex offenders are allowed to live within their city limits. I wonder how long it will be before a registered sex offender sues to prevent a park or day care from being built or licensed a few blocks away because it would deprive them of their home.

Just how effective is chemi... (Below threshold)
OregonMuse:

Just how effective is chemical castration, anyway?

The simple solution is the ... (Below threshold)
cubanbob:

The simple solution is the obvious one. Life without parole. If the crime is sufficiently heinous why not impose the proper punishment in the first place instead of worrying about and risking further offenses by the criminal?

You raise a child. You inst... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

You raise a child. You instill in them right from wrong and how to become a future contributor to society. You expend alot of time, just about all of your time actually and a great deal of expense. But you do not consider that a burden because it is done in love and faith. Some sicko comes by a ruins that innocence and scars the child for life. For LIFE. I too believe they should be released. What I propose is to let the family decide what to do with the pedophile. If they choose to let him or her alone or hurt, maim or kill them, it is a free pass. Society does not have a dog in this hunt. It is all about family. For the record, I am normally peace loving, but some crimes are just evil, and evil has no place in a functioning society. ww

Pedophilia is involved in a... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Pedophilia is involved in a broad spectrum of crimes, but the crime of child abduction is so egregious that society has responded out of proportion to the risk offenders of lesser crimes pose upon their release from prison. Child abduction so frightens parents that in order to protect their own kids, some parents actively assess the behavior of adults in the vicinity of their kids or kids in general. Innocent men sometimes get caught up in this paranoia simply by taking pictures in a park, hanging around places where kids congregate, volunteering with groups that involve contact with kids, etc. If you're a man and don't have your wife or own kids with you, it's best to say away from places where there are kids. Sorry, but to protect children, society views all men through a paranoid eye. Yes it's sexual profiling and discrimination, but not the kind society cares about.

I say banish them to Sex Of... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

I say banish them to Sex Offender Island. There they can live out their lives sexually molesting each other to their hearts content.

Then again we could alway deport them to Amsterdam where they would be welcomed as brothers & sisters.

Society has the right, the ... (Below threshold)
Matt:

Society has the right, the responsibility to lay down absolutes about what is and is not acceptable. Sexual abuse of children has to be one of those offenses that is never, ever acceptable. For that type of abuse, because the damage it causes to the individual victim, their family and society is so great, life imprisonment or death is the best answer.

However, child sex abuse and related crimes have to be defined in detail. An 18 year old having "consensual" sex with a 15 year old shouldn't be considered equivalent to a 45 year old abducting and raping an 11 year old child.

My humble opinion is that many sex offenders wouldn't commit the crime, or recommit if they were sure that they could expect exceptionally harsh, immediate repercussions. For the worst, quick execution after determining of guilt would not be to severe. Fear of a family member killing the offender in a not so delicate member would cut the rate of sex offenses greatly as well.

If a pedophile just can't help themselves, no matter what, then they need to be removed from society permanently. We don't reform viscious dogs that attack our children, why should we try to do so with sex offenders?

Long story short: I went to... (Below threshold)
MunDane:

Long story short: I went to the local Megan's Law database and found out that there were two within the defined 1000 yard limit.

One was a female arrested indecent exposure one was a male arrested for stautory rape. Now, both of these are rather one time events, and very low on the "offense-o-meter" but the question gets asked: Why is it necessary to tell me that one of my neighbors was arrested for exposing her bewbies in public? I would rather know if I had a neighbor who was arested for burglary or a child arrested for arson or cruelty to animals.

While my neighbors arrest by the Orange County Sherriff's Dept 20 years ago when she and a boyfriend were having sex in his car is public knowledge* (thanks to Megan's Law) the fact that I have a budding pyromaniac or murderer is not.

*She actually had her house picketed by some self-righteous types because she is a little weird even today. (One of the "black helicopter" types.) That is how the whole story came out.

Most states have involuntar... (Below threshold)
observer 5:

Most states have involuntary indefinite commitment to sex offender treatment centers if the person is judged to be "sexually dangerous." It's similar to the mental health standard of "danger to self or others." The commitment can begin after the person has served their sentence for the crime.

The offender can petition for release after treatment.

Theres some wacko who says ... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

Theres some wacko who says its his constitutional right to molest kids and frankly it should be the cosntitutional rights of all those parents to lynch this pervert

I took a very hard stand co... (Below threshold)
grandma:

I took a very hard stand concerning pedophiles until my son was convicted of having sex with a 12 year old. No she wasn't threatened, but she was only 12 years old. My granddaughter is 13. There is nowhere to go to say I hate what he did, but I still love the son I knew before I realized that I could never turn my back on him and trust him to do the right thing. Yes I want him to go to pedophile island and take his chances. I hate to think of him setting in jail wasting away. Would I want him out? Not arount children ever again. Pedophilia scars the victim for life, family members every time the subject comes up publicly and you secretely think you are awful because you still love the little boy he was, because he is your only son, because he was a good part of the family and helpful, caring. I can't write to him because I don't know how to seperate my feelings. I miss him. I'm getting older and will most likely be gone when he is freed. Maybe that is a good thing because along with the victim, I just could not face this again.




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