The Plank

Penal Dysfunction

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CNN has a characteristically alarmist piece on its site about how members of a Connecticut town are up in arms to learn that a serial rapist is being released to come live in their neighborhood with his sister.

Well, duh. Of course these folks are upset. No one wants any type of sex offender moving in next door, much less a full-fledged serial perv. But even convicted felons have to live somewhere. So if the penal system is confident this guy is sufficiently rehabilitated to rejoin society, I reckon his living with his sister is better than having him flopping alone in some sleazy motel, watching porn all day.

Then again, in between interviewing distraught neighbors, CNN mentions that, during his nearly 25 years in the slammer, this guy never admitted his guilt and never underwent any sort of therapy. If this is indeed the case, I question the sanity of the penal system's releasing this guy--or anyone like him--period.

Even within the skeevy criminal subset of sex offenders, not all offenses are created equal. A 19-year-old busted for boinking his 16-year-old girlfriend technically may be a felon, but he's probably not a sicko. A serial rapist on the other hand...

Some sex crimes point to an underlying illness that calls for more than locking a guy up for x number of years and hoping he'll magically learn to control his baser urges. (Full disclosure: I'm all for voluntary castration of pedophiles.) A serial rapist seems to fall into the category of someone with "issues" that need to be dealt with. But apparently, this guy hasn't even gotten past that first 12-step stage of admitting he has a problem.

One would hope that even our overburdened criminal justice system would make therapy or some other form of rehabilitative treatment mandatory before turning this sort of animal back out on the street. Barring that, I say keep the sicko locked up until he's so old that not even a triple dose of Viagra will enable him to pose a public threat.

--Michelle Cottle

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