Thursday, July 07, 2005

On tracking sex offenders

The news came today that there is now evidence that Joseph Edward Duncan III, a level three registered sex offender, was the killer of three people in a trailer, in addition to the crimes which he has already been charged with involving kidnapping and molestation of a child, and very likely the kidnapping, molestation and murder of another. Duncan was supposedly out on bail while facing charges in Minnesota, but he had disappeared.

We have recently seen another case in Florida, where a registered sex offender named John Evander Couey moved away from where he was supposed to be living without the knowledge of the authorities, and proceeded to rape and murder a girl.

Earlier this week, the news came out here in Arizona that we have just about a thousand high level registered sex offenders who are not living where they are registered and whom authorities frankly have no idea how to find.

Most disturbing of all, are Mr. Duncan's own ramblings, in which he describes 'demons' who drive him to do terrible things.

There are some who would describe these writings as part of some cold calculated plan to get him off the hook after he carries out his particular crime in case he gets caught, but that seems to be giving too much credit to a guy who would go to a restaurant late at night, with the victim, just a few miles from where the crimes occurred. No, what he describes as 'demons' are what virtually all sex offenders who have discussed the topic admit: there is no cure. The standard that we hold in society that once someone pays his dues (or, sadly increasingly, her dues) in jail, we should ignore them and let them get on with their lives, may work (and does work) for most crimes, but not for sex offenders, whose sex drive is often only satisfied by the rape, molestation, torture or murder of victims, and then only for a short time after which the same compulsion returns, and another victim is targetted.

What should we do? The answer is as plain as Martha Stewart's wrist. In order to make sure that she does not violate her home arrest, she wears a tracking device. Remove it or try to tamper with it, and an alarm alerts the police instantly. Keep it on, and they have a running record of where the offender is, at what time, and the offender knows it. Why no one has proposed that this piece of equipment be issued to all high level sex offenders is beyond me.

This is not an infringement on civil liberties if it is included as part of the sentence, just as probation can be, but this becomes a continuously monitored probation. This is not any more a violation of rights than the device that some jurisdictions have mandated be connected to the ignition of a DUI offender's car. Blow into the device, and if your breath has too much alcohol in it, then you can't start your car. The purpose would be the same-- to protect the public, and so long as the sex offender doesn't commit a crime, the law could easily enough say that the data would be destroyed after a period of time (maybe keep it up to one year back).

I just know I find Joseph Edward Duncan to be a lot more frightening than Martha Stewart, so whatever technology they are using to keep tabs on her, they should use it to keep tabs on people like him.

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