Sex Offenders

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Yesterday I went to a rally in Olympia, the state capital of Washington, for Jessica's Law. This is a law named after Jessica Lunsford, who last year was abducted, raped, and killed by a convicted sex offender in Florida, a man who obviously never should have been let out of prison.

The law -- essentially -- would require a mandatory 25 years to life for those who rape or molest children under 12, with lifetime monitoring of those who do get released.

At the rally, crowded into the top of the steps of the Capitol -- we could not go inside, as no lobbying is allowed in the door, and it was raining so we couldn't spread out much -- Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford, spoke. He has travelled the country trying to make sure other states protect their children.

Part of the problem in Washington is something called SSOSA, the "Special Sex Offender Sentence Alternative." Basically, it allows rapists of people whom they know to escape significant punishment, getting short sentences in exchange for treatment.

Another parent, a mother from Washington, spoke about her daughter, who was raped repeatedly over a period of two years by a neighbor. The rapist also repeatedly raped another neighborhood boy. He got six months in prison under SSOSA, because he knew his victims. Now a teenager, the daughter -- who also spoke -- has to live with the knowledge that he is out there, and despite violating the terms of his release three times (by, among other things, refusing to register: and Jessica's Law would also require a minimum one year in prison for that offense), the state refuses to do anything about it, and just recently dropped his 10 more years of required treatment, declaring him cured (whatever that means).

Not that I care much about the treatment, since I don't believe it works. But it shows you how sick and twisted the system is. This one story is not nearly alone, there are scores like it all across the state. But WA doesn't hold a candle to Vermont, where a judge recently sentenced a man in a similar case to 60 days in prison, saying he doesn't pose a serious risk to reoffend (bullshit), and that jail isn't a good place for him.

I don't care what a good place for him is. He should be locked away for a long time, preferably until he is dead. Although a significant number people in WA seem to think people like him would be better off with a noose around his neck, and I can't say the idea's a bad one.

What's most puzzling to me is that there has thus far been party-line opposition to Jessica's Law, as though this is a partisan issue. It's incredible. Mind-boggling. I don't understand it at all.

The Democrats give various excuses, but none of them stand up to logical scrutiny. They say it will be harder to prosecute some offenders, because people will be less willing to come forward. That might be true in a few cases, but if you are only giving them six months in prison, what's the point? That's not even a school year of time the guy is in prison, then he is out again to try another time, or to carry out his threat of murdering his victims if they ever told.

Also, of course, it's easier to plead guilty in exchange for 6 months than it is if you've got a mandatory 25 years. So yes, this will cost more money, to prosecute the crimes. I can think of few better ways to spend the billion-dollar surplus our state recently found for itself.

The prosecutors and some other groups are against this law, as they are against pretty much all mandatory sentencing laws, which make their job more difficult. Normally, I have some sympathy for them. But they've had decades to try to get tough on sex offenders, and they continue to fail the citizens of the state. Enough is enough: if you can't put them away for long sentences without legislative requirement, then you will get a legislative requirement. You've no one to blame but yourselves and the short sentences you've been getting.

One Democrat attacked the young woman who told her story, saying it was shameful for the Republicans to use her (and other victims who testified in the House and came to the rally) as political pawns, being exploited for political gain. That's a terrible statement to make for many reasons, because it's very difficult for them to do what they did, and most people don't even see this as a political issue. But even worse is the fact that none of the victims were asked to appear by anyone in the House, they came on their own. So he's actually criticizing the victims themselves for using themselves as political pawns. Nice.

The bottom line though is that, yes, I am perfectly willing to "exploit" these stories and many others for political gain, if you define political gain as working to get this laws passed, and if it doesn't, going after each and every politician who voted against it, regardless of party. If I was being in any way deceptive or partisan, I might feel guilty about such "exploitation." But this is about one thing only: protecting children by putting away convicted offenders for as long as possible. And I don't really care how that gets done.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on January 14, 2006 11:07 AM.

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