The board of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has voted unanimously to challenge a new Taylors Falls, Minn. ordinance restricting where sex offenders can live.
I think questioning these laws and making sure they don't violate any civil rights is healthy.
If we hope to have an effective system that does its best to protect past, present and future victims without straining the criminal justice system or violating civil rights, we need to begin by accepting that sex offenders are not as different from us as we'd like to believe.
The good news with that concept is it means that at least some potential rapists can change their patterns before they get into a situation where they might rape.
We need a complex and coordinated structure of sex offender prevention, investigation, prosecution, sentencing, treatment and monitoring. And we need to accept that nothing we can do will eliminate all risk.
The best intense supervision programs do a great job of dealing with sex offenders who have set pre-offense triggers (like using alcohol) and who aren't a physical danger to their victims. These programs work because they send most of those who are on the road to reoffending back to prison before they find their next victim. But even the best programs won't work if they doesn't have the funding needed to work as designed.
The worst thing we can do is have a system that does nothing more than catch, hold, tag and then release or kill sexual offenders. Many people crave the idea that the government can have the sex offender problem under complete control without helping these people in any way. However ...
Absolute control of sex offenders is an illusion at best.
The most dangerous and least manageable sex offenders, like sadistic rapists who kidnap their victims, cannot be effectively controlled through electronic monitoring or sex offender registration. By the time we do catch them offending again it may be too late for one or many victims.
Many of the laws do a poor job of responding to the most serious crimes where the sex offender failed to complete the mission. If there is overwhelming evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, that someone planned to kidnap, rape and kill the intended victim, that criminal should never be paroled -- even if the intended victim got away during the kidnap attempt.
If criminals like that are only convicted of non-sex crimes that don't put them on the sex offender registry but all non- predatory sex offenders are put on the list, something's seriously wrong.
A key step to stopping the worst sex offenders from feeling what they are doing is acceptable or not that bad is for all of us to have zero tolerance for rape (even if it lasts for mere seconds) and sexual exploitation. If we make excuses for the least dangerous sex offenders, the most dangerous ones will think what they are doing can be excused just as easily.
Future and present sex offenders are listening. Are you sending them mixed messages?
Technorati tags: rape crime politics sexual assault feminism women