Sunday, March 09, 2008

Weekend Edition: A Modest Proposal

Woman With a Mission: Keeping Tabs on Sex Offenders

Published: March 8, 2008

STONY BROOK, N.Y. — After a quick aerial survey of Long Island and the sites where its 1,200 registered sex offenders reside, Laura Ahearn used her computer’s mouse to swoop down on the Nassau County village of Hempstead, dotted with 50 icons resembling pushpins: green for Level 2 offenders, blue for Level 3. She headed east over Brentwood in Suffolk County, home to about 60 offenders, and zeroed in on the thickest cluster: the Gordon Heights section of Coram, with 69 pushpins, more than a dozen crowded onto a single block.

—The New York Times

Seems like a great idea, doesn’t it—using modern technology to keep tabs on perpetrators of one of the world’s oldest crimes after their release back into society?

Not to the Civil Liberties Union.

“Mapping out sex offenders makes them greater social lepers than they already are,” said Seth Muraskin, executive director of the Suffolk County chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “You’re fostering punishment, not rehabilitation, and you’re leaving them very vulnerable to mob justice. You’re basically challenging vigilantes to come to their doors.”

Mr. Muraskin’s spin here—which makes the criminal the victim—is not quite as nauseating as the crime in question. But it is close.

After all, the median age of victims of “imprisoned sexual assaulters,” according to the Justice Department, is less than 13 years old; the median age of rape victims, about 22 years.

Does Mr. Muraskin not know any 13 year old children he’d personally be distraught over to know they'd been abused by a recidivistic sex offender?

Furthermore, of released sex offenders who commit another sex crime, 40% do it within a year of prison discharge. With about 60% of convicted sex offenders out of jail and under “conditional supervision in the community,” is it any wonder Ms. Ahearn wants to keep tabs on them?

So we here at NotMakingThisUp have a modest proposal. Let all the members of the New York Civil Liberties Union take sex offenders into their homes following release from prison.

What’s good for the goose, after all, must surely be great for the gander.

Jeff Matthews
I Am Not Making This Up

© 2008 Not Making This Up LLC

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Matthews. Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews' recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes a solicitation of business or investment advice. It is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.


Josh said...

I'm not sure where your 40% statistic comes from, but the "of released sex offenders who commit another sex crime" is a rather large caveat as only 3-5% of sex offenders re-offend within the next 3 years.

I found this blog interesting when it provided some insights into the ongoings of the financial sector (on which I otherwise have very little access to information) but lately it seems to have become a soap-box for whatever topic springs to mind...

I'm just one reader, so it's probably not terribly troubling, but the trend is making it increasingly likely I'll be taking NotMakingThisUp out of my bookmarks, which kind of saddens me...

geerussell said...

I'm old school.

Do the crime. Do the time. Done.

The whole minority report pre-crime punishment out of concern for purely hypothetical "victims" strikes me as pandering to the mob.

Jeff Matthews said...

The apologists miss the point.

Sexual assault is not shop-lifting. It is not white-collar crime. It is not stealing cars.

The victim's life is ruined. Rather than let them ruin another victim for the sake of being politically correct, why not ask the good folks at the ACLU who want to let them free look after them?

Nobody's answered that one.

Phillip Charles said...

These situations pose a dilemma simply because they are not 'crimes' in the conventional sense, but are, in my amateur opinion, either chemical dysfunctions of the brain and/or the result of similar abuse to the offender experienced at a much earlier age. Because of this, because they are 'programmed' as such, and any long-term rehabilitation seems nil and ineffective. What is my point? I do not know that I have one other than the fact that the dilemma exists because as a society we have limits to state-sponsored punishment while there are a limited number of humans among us for whom this extreme deviant behavior is as essential as oxygen. It seems to be presumed that many of these people upon release will cross that line again. As a civilized and progressive society we should want to exterminate this behavior in the most efficient way possible. We could start with longer prison sentences that could be made possible by modifying the obscenely draconian punishments for drug possession in the states of this country.
As an aside, I come to this site because over the years I have gained an appreciation for the crisp, keen, enlightening and sometimes comedic perspective that you offer on the dramatic dysfunctions of financial markets. I am just one reader, as well, and your educated and reasoned muses on random, relevant topics makes this blog all the less vanilla and all the more enriching. With all of the mind-numbing noise that passes as television news and commentary these days, this site continues to be a nice reprieve.

geerussell said...

Then make a more apples to apples comparison. Sex crime to violent crime. In both cases you have a victim. In the case of violent crime it can quite literally, physically ruin someone's life in addition to psychological/emotional damage.

It's neither apologist nor politically correct to suggest that the same fundamentals of the justice system that apply in one should apply in the other.

I don't see anyone diminishing the impact or seriousness of sex crimes here. What's being suggested is that punishment shouldn't be imposed in anticipation of a crime that has not happened for the sake of a victim that doesn't exist.

Johnny Debacle said...

The apologists haven't answered a lot of questions. Why don't we just gas sexual offenders? Why don't we send them to an island filled only with vicious starved hippos? Or dip them in honey and cover them in fire ants? Or make them watch that Caveman sitcom on repeat for the rest of their lifes? Apologists for sexual offenders, answer these questions now!

Nosedive said...

Assult is not a victimless crime. However people who serve seven years for assult are not treated this way.

I assure you the odd bashing has ruined many a person's lives - often with physical brain damage and the like.

The question remains as to what the appropriate sentence is. If you think the appropriate sentence is branding accross the forehead then just say it. Because roughly that is what you are proposing.

I happen to think that is way too harsh.

It surprises me - but some US conservatives would - at least on matters of crime and punishment - fit quite well into Saudi Arabia.

In Saud the punishment for sexual assult of a minor is death by hanging.

You know the big advantage of a death penalty. There is a very low rate of recidivism.

But then just to prove that governments get some things wrong in crime and punishment in Taliban Afghanistan the punishment for sexual assult of a minor was death by hanging FOR THE MINOR.

Its easy to disagree on crime and punishment. There are no right answers. There will always be some recidivism (except with a death penalty). In any crime where the punishment is less than death we are weighing recidivism risk versus the rehabilitation of the perpetrator.

We just weigh it differently.


Michael said...

There's a difference between "revenge" and justice. Revenge is nice, cathartic, but it's no way to run a post-hunter gather society.

If we keep these guys banished from society, then they'll act out in anti-social ways. If they are not a part of society, they have no stake in it's outcome. That's why a guy who's out of prison "Paid his debt to society." He doesn't owe us anything more, he's paid in full. He has a stake in society functioning well.

Now what if we said, "You'll never be able to pay your debt to society." Now if we were to draw a parallel to the housing bubble, when a family is faced with "You'll never be able to pay off your debt..." What actions do we expect them to take?

Now there was an interesting article written in New York Magazine describing the post prison life of a 1/2 dozen sex offenders. It's a good read.

We should also note that these laws, are causing sex offenders to cluster in poor and minority neighborhoods, so I guess it's ok to Jeff that poor kids are sexually victimized.

Jeff Matthews said...

Michael, you miss the point, as all the apologists have.

Sex offenders aren't "cured" by doing time. This is not a shop-lifting. This is a disease.

So if you want them back in society, go ahead, take them into your neighborhood.

No takers, so far. Speaks volumes.

Johnny Debacle said...

The fact that you label people who disagree with you apologists in a derisive fashion is as cheap as the rhetorical frame you use to approach this entire subject. Kind of a hallmark of what your blog has become in general.

"Sex offenders aren't "cured" by doing time. This is not a shop-lifting. This is a disease.

So if you want them back in society, go ahead, take them into your neighborhood.

No takers, so far. Speaks volumes."

Based on recidivism rates, most criminals are about as cured as sex offenders are cured. Would you want people who had done time for regular assault in your neighborhood? What about armed robbery? What about murder? What about burglary? What types of convicted felons WOULD anyone WANT in their neighborhood? Unsurprisingly, there are no takers.

"A society should be judged not by how it treats its outstanding citizens but by how it treats its criminals."

I think the largest volume is being spoken about the type of society that Jeff Matthews advocates. Making people stakeless in society only ensures that they will be much less likely to adhere to society's laws, which is precisely what the effect of these mappings will be/are. Incentives matter. Society would be better off killing them all or imprisoning them for life.