Well, if we can't just kill them or lock them up forever…

Most of the time, I have no problems expressing my opinions on a story. Hell, usually I can’t hlep but do that. Every now and then, though, I encounter some item in the news that leaves me profoundly perplexed and with absolutely no clue what should be done about something — or just how I feel about it.

This is one of those stories.

I think I’ve made it abundantly clear that I have no truck with sex offenders, especially those who abuse children. I would have no problem with mandatory life sentences for them, and wouldn’t be too upset if they were executed.

But that isn’t the way the law works. Sex offenders, as it stands now, can do their time, pay their debt to society as determined by the courts, and then be released back into the general populace. We’ve made strides towards imposing restrictions on them to prevent their re-offending (sex offenses have one of the highest recidivism rates of all felonies), but we can’t — under current laws — simply lock them up because we think they might offend again.

So we put a great deal of time and effort and thought into keeping them from re-offending, into outlining just what they can not do, where they can not go, who they can not see. We put them in boxes, and watch them like hawks (most of the time) for them to stray across those boundaries, when we can pounce and toss them back into incarceration. And good for us.

But for all the things we tell them they can not do, what can they do? Where can they live? What kinds of jobs can they accept?

God knows I’m proud of my reputation as a law-and-order, tough on crime hard-ass when it comes to criminals. But it seems to me that we have a surfeit of “sticks” in this situation, and damned few carrots. There has to be some sort of program, some guidelines, some lifeline we can offer these people. Something that will give them at least a fighting chance to leave their past, resist their urges, and actually do something besides wait for an opportunity to commit their offenses again.

I don’t know what sort of thing would work, or even where to start. But it seems to me that if we’re going to have a system that allows for sex offenders to eventually be released back into the general public, we ought to at least spend a little time and effort thinking of what they’re going to do — and how we can keep them from going right back to their old ways. Simple deterrence and vigilance isn’t enough.

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