Monday, April 14, 2008

Sex offenders and the presidential campaign

It won't be an issue during this presidential campaign, but it should be: What is this country going to do with the growing number of sex offenders, both violent and "nonviolent?"

As awareness and enforcement of sex crimes picks up, so does the prison population. There's been talk about mental health counseling and behavior modification programs for "nonviolent" sex offenders, but as you'll see in a moment, the effectiveness of those diversionary programs, as defined by the successful release of an offender back into society without a repeat offense, is sketchy, at best.

Yes, I know that this is a state issue. But I also know that there is a security component to it. Presidential candidates could provide leadership on this issue by using their platforms to talk with the nation's governors about how the federal government can be good partners with the states as they grapple with this worsening problem -- and I would bet that better funding of law enforcement, courts and corrections facilities would be at the top of the governors' wish lists.

With that said, I give you this story about 49-year-old Freddie Johnson, who was recently picked up in New York City for groping a woman on the subway.

Johnson has served time in prison for persistent sexual abuse and has been labeled by district attorney staff as a "recidivist transit grinder."

Nothing remarkable yet. But then again, I haven't yet told you that the arrest mentioned above was Johnson's 53rd collar.

Yes, you read that right: Johnson has been arrested 53 times for groping women on the subway.

Johnson, a registered sex offender, has been convicted at least twice of persistent sexual abuse within the last decade, prosecutors said. And he has a lengthy rap sheet, with 30 arrests for sex abuse, 13 for jostling and two for grand larceny, police said.

He was released from prison on March 25 after serving four years for persistent sexual abuse, according to correctional records. The state attorney general's office had argued that the 49-year-old should be confined under the state's civil commitment law for sex offenders, which went into effect last year, because he was at risk for repeat offenses.

But a Manhattan Supreme Court Judge disagreed and instead placed Johnson on strict court-ordered supervision and electronic monitoring.

Whether he should have been confined speaks to a larger issue about what authorities should do with criminals who are habitual offenders, but aren't violent.
For the rest, check out the story at the link above.

What do you think?