(This essay is a reprint from an August 24, 2011 post on my previous blog. With the recent killing of 8-year old Leila Fowler in California, I thought it might be a good time for some serious reflection on our handling of known sex offenders. – CW)
“A [known] sex offender brutally sexually assaulted and murdered his 14-year-old neighbour before going on a day trip to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, a jury heard.”
“The convicted rapist and child murderer Peter Tobin drugged and murdered an 18-year-old school-leaver before burying her in his back garden next to the body of another teenager he had killed, it was alleged at Chelmsford crown court today.”
“A twice-convicted child rapist, Abdallah Aid Oud, has been charged with the girls’ [ages 7 and 10] kidnapping and has been held since handing himself in on June 13, three days after police said they were looking for him.”
“A convicted sex offender has been jailed for a minimum of 32 years for the rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl and the murder of her mother.”
“A jury has found a convicted sex offender guilty of murdering 25 year-old Andrea Boyer in 2007.”
“Authorities today charged Fitzhugh Newton, 50, with twice raping a woman before killing her early on Feb. 26 on Columbia Road. Newton, convicted of assault with intent to commit rape in 1979 and of open and gross lewdness in 2007, was already in the South Bay jail on unrelated charges…”
The common element to these horrible crimes is that they were all committed by people who had been previously convicted of sex crimes. The snippets above represent just a tiny fraction of the stories that inundate the internet, but it’s only about three minutes worth of research. I shudder to think of what I would find if I devoted an entire day to this topic.
If I told you that the family pit bull attacked and bit my three-year old child to death, you would be horrified. But if I told you that I locked the dog up for six months as punishment and then let him back in the house with my one-year old and five-year old, you would be rightfully outraged. No one in their right mind would do such a thing, right? Yet this is exactly what we do with convicted sex offenders. We lock them away temporarily, then release them back into the public where there is nothing to stop them from preying on someone else. It’s really amazing when you think about it.
Like the pitbull, sex offenders are instinctively driven to do what they do, just as people with normal sexual urges are instinctively driven to behave as they do. This does not change after serving 5, 10 or 20 years in jail. It’s fair to assume that a man who commits rape knows that it’s wrong and knows that, if he’s caught, he may go to prison, yet he does it any way. What does this tell us about his urge to rape? It tells us that the urge is stronger than his conscience and stronger than his desire to remain free and not deal with the ramifications of being labeled as a sex offender. That’s a mighty strong urge.
So what are we supposed to do? Should we lock up the first-time rapist for the rest of his life? Assuming that the integrity of our justice system is strong the answer is yes, we probably should. A justice system should not be just about punishment but should also be a means of protecting citizens. Look at it this way: if we change the law so that men convicted of rape are facing prison for life, what would that tell you about the men who proceed to rape any way? It would confirm the notion that some men are incapable of controlling their urge to hurt women regardless of the consequences and that they don’t belong in society at all – ever.
In the end it comes down to a question of whose rights should prevail, the rights of the convicted sex offender or the rights of his future victims. That’s not a hard choice for me.