Jessica’s LawPosted by on November 25, 2010 in News
For those of you who don’t know much about Jessica’s Law, it is designed to prevent sex offenders from re-offending by placing harsher restrictions on them. Some of these measures include wearing Global Positioning System devices on their ankles after their initial release from custody (CA spends approximately $70,000/day on these and they don’t even necessarily track of offenders in real-time!), random checks to be sure they are residing where they say they are, and not being able to live within a certain distance from schools or parks.
Now, I can’t deny I love the way harsher punishment for sex offenders sounds; however, lately I’ve been forcing myself to look at the bigger picture—in a more rational way. Just like each victim is different from one another, so are the offenders. We tend to think of the situation like it’s “us” vs. “them”. We prosecute, convict, and then forget about them for a while when they’re incarcerated. But in reality things are not that straightforward.
Prisons are not good places. As much as I hate the idea of putting any thought into the lives of these people, the reality is they won’t be in there forever. Eventually, they will get out and be back in our neighborhoods. If this doesn’t leave you with some concern about the treatment of offenders, then I don’t know what will.
Violent offenders of all kinds need some help, some counseling. I’m not saying that I know they can be “cured”; actually I’m sure many of them can’t. But we have to remember that each one of them have different motivations and circumstances that lead them to offend. For some it has to do with sexual interest, emotional attachment, power/control, or anger. This combined with their willingness to offend, which could be due to stress, attitudes/beliefs, substance abuse, or criminality lead to the commission of their sex crimes. Legislators and judges need to consider if the violation was planned, manipulated, forced, or if the offender just happen to have the opportunity that triggered their actions. There are pedophilic offenders, non-pedophilic offenders, rapists, etc. and each individual needs to be addressed in a different way if we’re going to try and prevent them from committing more crimes.
Recent new laws make it extremely difficult for offenders to reintegrate into their communities, so they end up living in bad areas or they become homeless. I’ve heard of homeless sex offenders sitting inside Starbuck’s charging their ankle bracelets so that they don’t get in trouble with their parole officers if the battery dies and they can’t be tracked. That is not something I want to see when I’m stopping by to pick up my soy latte!
These laws are focusing on stranger offenses, when in fact, most of the perpetrators are known to their victims. Most of the time adored by the community in which they live, are adults that children are dependent on, or are intimate partners of the victims. When looking at potential legislation, it is vital to consider what kinds of crimes we are trying to prevent from occurring and if the laws will actually help to prevent them from happening.
I know it’s not easy to think this way since in a way you feel like you’re looking out for the best interest of the sex offenders. But actually looking out for their interest is looking out for our own safety and that of our communities. If these sex offenders do not get help, the chance of reoffending is higher. In a workshop I attended I heard someone say, “How we respond to sexual abuse can help us prevent sexual abuse”. We need to be sure that everything we do in regards to sex offender management is done in a smart, efficient way. It is up to us to create the world we want to live in.