|PREDATORS OR CITIZENS?|
November 19, 1997
in this forum:
Do we offer molesters necessary privacy or do we condemn offenders to life sentences? What are the statistics regarding effective therapy programs in keeping offenders from repeating their crimes? Is there leniency of sentences in the first instance by the criminal justice system? Why should someone who harms children not be denied the right to be out among potential victims undetected? What is an offender? And what is the purpose of the laws that make registered sex offenders addresses publicly available?
June 2, 1997
Should convicted sex offenders be freed after serving their sentences?
December 10, 1996
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments over a Kansas man convicted of child molesting whose prison term is complete, but who the state does not want to release.
January 31, 1996:
In Washington state, there's a debate over whether sex-offenders should remain incarcerated even afterserving their sentences.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of law.
Martha Mitchell Provo, UT asks:
People who make the consious decision to rape,molest or otherwise sexually abuse children should be aware that there will be lifelong consequences for having commited their particular crime. Jail terms aside, communities should certainly be warned when this type of offender comes to live among them. People who commit these types of crimes play on the trust of adults whao act as guardians and that of the children they victimize. It is for that reason that it would be particularly perverse to release one of these people back into the world without providing the community with the proper tools with which to defend itself; awareness and a good measure of wariness.
If giving a community fair notice that there is a convicted sex offender living among them is a violation of the right to privacy than so be it. Since we no longer string people up by their toes or draw and quarter them and jail over-crowding has criminals walking free after fractions of the time sentenced to them we must find some other way to send the message clearly that there are certain things that will not be tolerated-you will not be sent out to the world after serving two years for having raped children, move anonomously to new territory and begin again. Rights are taken away from perpetrators of any crime when they serve a jail sentence- think of this as a continued sentence, or a vital part of sentencing. Your "hardtime" may be over but you will have to live with the consequences of your acts and that includes the lifelong portion of the sentence which will follow you wherever you go. Repeated drunkdrivers lose their licenses, crooked doctors and lawers lose their right to practice. Why should someone who harms children not be denied the right to be out among potential victims undetected?
Ms. Sarah Sappington responds:
Ms. Mitchell expressed understandable anger at the specter of convicted sex offenders being released into the community, only to offend again. In response to this concern, Washington State, in 1990, enacted the nation's first community notification and registration law. Many states have, since that time, enacted their own notification laws. The exact provisions of these laws vary from state to state. It is important to understand, however, that the registration/notification laws which have been enacted around the nation are not intended as a form of punishment, or as a continuation of the offender's criminal sentence. These laws have been enacted to protect the public and to prevent future crimes. These laws provide law enforcement with the tools necessary to monitor the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders, but not to inflict further punishment.
Dr. Jerome Miller responds:
I have no quarrel with the moral argument presented here. The problem is that it will not work and will likely lead to more violence. 1 think we are seeing the results of the approach implicitly recommended here in the recent tragic events concerning the murder of a young boy by another youngster - within shouting distance of the creators of "Megan's Law." Community notification was in this case irrelevant - as it is likely to be in such tragic, violent events. No amount of community notification would have prevented this tragedy. On the other hand, the threat of such notification will drive the truly dangerous (for the most part, undetected) further underground - thereby "upping the ante" and leading to more egregious violence.