Some states have enacted "sexual predator" laws to try to prevent similar horrors. These laws allow the state to commit pedophiles to maximum security mental hospitals after they have served their criminal sentences, a practice the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld on the grounds that these men (and offenders are almost exclusively male) are being treated, not subjected to preventive incarceration. Frankly, for most of these deviants, no treatment is possible. Men who prey on little boys, in particular, are likely to do so again and again. Some estimates put the re-offense rate (which is different than the re-arrest rate) upwards of 80 percent, with the average pedophile likely to commit 13 offenses before he is caught. So why should such men ever be put back on the streets?
The punishment for raping a child ought to be life in prison, period. There ought never to be a second chance for such persons. And while lesser sexual crimes -- fondling or possessing child pornography, for example -- might deserve a second chance, it must come under the most restrictive circumstances: life-long, electronic monitoring. Any second offense of such crimes should earn a life sentence, with no possibility of parole. Does that mean tens of thousands of ex-sexual offenders (some estimates put the number at 500,000) might end up in jail for life? Not likely, since most of these are not pedophiles, the category of sexual offenders least likely to be rehabilitated. But even if we have to build many more jails to keep such criminals behind bars, wouldn't it be worth it to save the lives of children like Jessica, Sarah, and so many others who have died because of our failure to do so?
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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