This story focuses on the costs to Minnesota counties to deal with sex offenders who are believed to be too dangerous to be released at the end of their criminal sentences.
A steep increase in the rate of sex offenders required to stay incarcerated for treatment after their prison terms is racking up expensive bills for Minnesota counties. Such "civil commitments" have spiked considerably since the 2003 kidnapping and murder of college student Dru Sjodin by a previously convicted sex offender, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. The civil commitment process can take more than a year, with the county where the offender was convicted paying for hearings, psychological evaluations and other expenses.
I'm sure many people have ideas about how to finance civil commitments or alternatives to civil commitments. Some of these ideas are great, but the best ideas of what to do with convicted sex offenders who are a persistent danger to the public is inadequate if there isn't a strong and consistent focus on prevention that gets to the source of the problem.
Traditional prevention has focused almost exclusively on how to avoid becoming a victim of a sex offender, but this focus passively accepts that all we can do is learn when to run or when to banish someone from the vicinity of potential victims. Only when someone hasn't been able to run fast enough, and we can prove this in the criminal justice system, do we as an entire society begin to address prevention by dealing with the sex offender.
This must change.
We must begin to address what really drives people to commit sex offenses -- and what positive feedback is given for certain rapes -- before these people join the ranks of registered sex offenders.
It isn't about de-manning men. Rape may happen through sex organs, but it comes from the thinking of the rapist and from the thinking of those who make excuses for particular rapists.
When people say certain girls or women were asking for it through something they view as risky behavior, they are communicating that they are willing to sacrifice those girls and women to the rapists. When people say that certain victims can never have their testimony taken seriously at trial, they communicate that it is open season on those who meet the non-credible standard.
Many people balk at being called a rape enabler, but that's what a person is doing when they hold the position that rapists who pick certain victims should never be convicted. They don't word their position like this, instead they word it to focus only on those they claim could be wrongly accused.
If we were to focus all our efforts only on those who might be wrongly accused of any crime, we would have to eliminate all confessions since some can be coerced. Fighting injustice cannot be focused solely on one group. We need to focus on all the pieces and all of the side effects of systemic policies.
The government needs to be part of this systematic approach to preventing rape attempts, but if it is the sole driver the results will be patchy at best and there will be a huge backlash from those who love telling some rape victims, "I told you so."
The bottom line is that unless society as a whole accepts that the majority of would-be sex offenders can change their thinking and their beliefs before becoming a registered sex offender, taxpayers will continue to pay for this lack of prevention.