Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Effective or Not, Here We Come!

Professor Berman has this interesting post, which refers as well to this one by Corey Young, who says:
supplementing residency restrictions with work restrictions, as is the case in Ohio, is the worst of both worlds since it just reinforces the banishment effect and further undermines the ability of sex offenders to reintegrate into society. And while I think work restrictions alone are better than residency restrictions alone, that is hardly a ringing endorsement.
NB. We are approaching this from the wrong perspective. The real issue: not all sex offenders present the same danger to the community.

If an offender has been released it is because society has deemed the price paid AND the offender no longer a danger to society. An offender who cannot be released under these conditions should not be released. This means that attention is required "in the CAN" and in the PRE-release phase. This is so that we stop placing the cart before the donkey once we recognize the donkey won't move the cart. It is beginning to be shown that this conclusion is the only reasonable one. Treating the issue of dangerousness Post-Release is not the answer. UPDATE ADDED: At the same time, respecting sentencing, the length of incarceration necessary should be tied to a real assessment of the immediate risk. I assume that only the dangerous need to be locked up. All others should receive appropriate punishments short of incarceration.

Post-release banishment performs nothing more than ongoing punishment in effect, if not in name AND is only counterproductive. Safety is not the true or objective purpose of registration laws (which are starting to take on all the characteristics of banishment). Safety cannot possibly be the real concern because these laws leave risk undefined and unaccounted for in the registration scheme.

A case by case approach is necessary to deal with each individual (sex offender or not) who might present a risk upon release (or indictment). An approach that treats every sex offender as if he were the "the worst of the worst" is very, very flawed. (A law and economics approach to this might be rather interesting to contemplate.) The laws only make it possible to shift the blame (political risk), allowing unscrupulous legislators to say "we tried," when "the worst of the worst" strike again. Recidivism is extremely rare in any event but gets all the attention when it does occur.

It is important to get this right in advance of painting the entire community of offenders as dangerous, registering and banishing and taking away earning power, as further punishment for what was in many, many cases a youthful indiscretion, mistake, or tryst.

Also, in more cases than we care to admit sex offenders have been convicted on the basis of false accusations by abusive prosecutors who hold (and withhold) evidence. Sometimes they get caught, as we can see from the Duke rape case, which if you missed it, was featured on CNN by Paula Zahn last night. I wonder whether these cases would not already have garnered pleas if the defendants were not rich, or if they were black and/or if the victim was white.

It is so much harder to throw the illegitimately caught fish back into the river when you are so blind (or greedy). In the deep and deeper South, race and being a Yankee also enter, writ large.

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