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Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Saturday, July 09, 2005

Equal Rights and Recidivism

Joseph Duncan's monstrous mind is yet another unfathomable that defies human understanding. Blaming the Fargo police, Megan's Law, the MN judge and/or prosecutors, society, Duncan's parents - these are all attempts to fit an imponderable into an understandable matrix. If we can understand it (the thinking goes) we can fix it.

We can't fix it. We can't categorize it. We can't understand it. Near as I can tell, society can't protect our children from it, either.

It is widely held that recidivism rates for violent sexual offenders (specifically, pedophiles) are extremely high, and that they cannot be successfully treated (read: cured). As it happens, recidivism rates can be measured and presented to support almost any theory. How many years are we measuring? Do we define recidivism as the same type of offense? Does it count if they were accused but not convicted?

The Center for Sex Offender Management, a project of the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), U.S. Department of Justice, has some interesting information here.

For the sake of discussion, let's use a recidivism number like 50%. Of ten pedophiles, five of them will never touch another child. Which five are safe? How do you know that? And are you so confident that you would leave your child alone with them? Dr. Richard Wacksman (a pediatrician, of all things!) thought so, but not me.

Do the civil liberties and rights of those five people who will never re-offend balance the rights of an innocent child? I don't think so. The scales are not equal and the risk is too high. Yet even if we painted all ten pedophiles fluorescent orange, it would not have helped the Groene children. The only thing different today would be a description of Joseph Duncan as the orange man who carried the children to the pickup truck after tying up the family. What a mess.