There was a story out of South Carolina today about a man who was convicted of child molestation in the early 1990's, served his time in prison, got out, and this week two girls escaped from a dungeon he had set up in his basement where he had kept, tortured and raped them.
This is nothing new. The fact is, that pedophiles can't change their sexual appetites. They may be able to control it if they are in an environment where there are no children (such as prison) but there is a great deal of research on the topic, all of which suggests that pedophiles will remain pedophiles despite whatever drugs, physical or psychological therapy they receive, and in many cases despite an earnest desire to change. It is not a choice that one can make (for example, if you are not a pedophile, try to imagine a day when you changed your sexual orientation-- to kids; chances are you can't imagine that, because it isn't who you are. Similarly, pedophiles is who pedophiles are, and they will always be pedophiles).
I've blogged on child molesters before. In a couple of my early posts (such as this one) I proposed that registered sex offenders should be required to wear a tracking device, similar to the one that Martha Stewart had to wear. This would serve two purposes: 1) if a child was abducted it would allow police to quickly get a fix on where any known molesters were in the area, and 2) knowlege of this fact might deter pedophiles from committing this crime in the first place.
There has been some concern that these tracking devices could be an imposition on freedom. I disagree. When a person is convicted of a felony, they give up a number of freedoms that we take for granted, including the unrestricted right of privacy. Sentences can range from a complete loss of privacy (a prison cell) to a small loss of privacy (a weekly meeting with a probation officer). In this scheme, the tracking devices are in the middle; they allow for twenty four hour monitoring as to location, but as long as the offender is behaving hiself (or herself), they don't allow monitoring of specific activity. It is true that a person who is very knowlegeable about tools can remove one without setting off the alarm, but the large majority of people could not do this, and would probably set off the alarm if they tried.
I also favor tougher sentences for child molesters. Child molestation is rape. Period. Rape is the most serious crime except for murder that a person can commit (for that matter, many rapes and molestations include murders, sooner or later as the perpetrator tries to cover his tracks.) And the fact is, that no child molester is 'cured.' So prison at least prevents this from harming others.
However, tracking devices and longer sentences, while they may help, won't by themselves solve this problem.
I would propose that we rebuild institutions which may not be prisons but are designed to separate out people who are a threat to society. These would be similar to mental institutions which were closed in the early 1980's, except that those placed in them would not be mental patients but rather persons like child molesters, repeat drunk drivers and others whose behavior makes them a demonstrable threat to others. These would not be prisons (although their occupants could certainly be sent to prison if they committed a crime while in the institution). Let people in them run a business from 'home', have unlimited (but monitored) family visitation, or even use the internet (with the best possible blocker).
Yes, this would cost money. But it would cost so much more not to.