Saturday, June 8, 2013

"Sex offenders should be in jail--or a cemetery"

This appeared under the heading Letter: Sex offenders: Put them in jail at June 7, written by Kim Dienstmann of Fargo, North Dakota.

This is my answer to her letter.

Dear Kim,

First of all, I will do you the courtesy of taking your letter at face value and resist the urge to believe that you wrote it as farce or some sort of sick joke.  I will respond to each portion seriously. Your words will be in black; mine will be in blue.

In reading about the challenges of sex offenders finding housing in Fargo, I have the solution. They should be in jail, or perhaps in a cemetery.

Really? You are publicly advocating for the murder of every man, woman, and child on the registry in North Dakota? Or is it just in Fargo?

They took away the “freedom” of each and every one of their victims forever with their acts. Their victims’ lives have been ruined, and where is their help? The victims require counseling; they must pay for their own and, in many cases, are unable to afford it.

You are aware, are you not, that many are on the registry for acts that in no way fit the description you have just given--even that some were falsely accused and wrongly convicted?

Anyone with professional knowledge about the ability of these men and women to be rehabilitated understands it’s not possible.

Did it occur to you to do some research before you made such a statement? Even if you choose not to believe the studies and research showing the efficacy of treatment, the countless thousands—nationally, not just in Fargo—of registrants who are living law-abiding lives in the community, working, raising families, benefiting society, many for twenty or more years after a single, youthful offense, show how ill-thought out your pronouncement is.

We are willing to put other men, women and children at risk so we can provide them housing until their next arrest.

If you mean their next arrest for a repeat sexual offense, this is true of only a tiny fraction of registrants. You can find this in research also. If you mean arrest for a parole violation or another category of crime, such as theft, those arrests would be significantly reduced were it not made so difficult for registrants to secure housing, a job, and re-assimilate into society.

We are not protecting our community at all. The bigger picture would be to understand that communities are full of sexual predators. There are just so many more who haven’t been caught or required to “register.”

This is to some extent true. So why don’t you advocate for programs of awareness, education, and prevention that would help solve this problem?

The predators are usually those closest to the family; they are “friends” or relatives, not the stranger down the street. Why, oh why, are we allowing them to walk free?

Again, very true. You are arguing against yourself, Kim. They are walking free because they have not been accused or arrested. With every focus on those who have been accused, arrested,  paid their debt, and are at very low risk to commit another sexual offense, the overwhelmingly larger problem does not get addressed.

Do I believe in second chances? Not when you have ruined someone else’s life forever ... you might as well have killed them.

I am reluctant to reach conclusions when I do not have all of the facts, but this to me sounds like a cry from someone who has been victimized, and, if true, my heart goes out to you. If true, I pray you find healing and the knowledge that you need not remain a victim. I know many former victims who refuse to let the abuse define their lives. I am both a mother and a sister to former victims. Each person must deal and must heal in his or her own way. 

I pray for you the strength to find your way.


1 comment:

  1. Yes there are definitely unintended consequences with treating all sex offenders with uniform harshness. I know statutory rape laws for instance in the Las Vegas area put a lot of people in jail around the Las Vegas area without just cause. I don't think a seventeen year old who makes a mistake and "sleeps" with his 15 year old girlfriend, should have his entire life ruined or be branded a 5 star pervert for life. But I've seen it happen before.


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