What do we do with sex offenders?

Push for GPS tagging after more sex offenders caught in child-heavy areas

It is a constant argument, how do we deal with sex offenders in the community?

I feel as though every month, at the least, there is a new article surrounding community safety in relation to sex offenders.
To be honest, I do not blame the public for their concerns; it is the correctional departments duty to protect us, after all. However I can not help but think that too much energy and resources are being allocated to post-crime measures rather than preventative solutions.
But how do we implement preventative solutions? Perhaps this is a question that belongs in the ‘too-hard-basket’ for judicial departments.
Of course there are prison sentences to incapacitate sex offenders and places such as Corella Place (a.k.a. Village of the Damned) to assist corrective services in better monitoring and regulating behaviour, though the pressing question is how we can prevent ‘normal’ people from becoming convicted sex offenders.
Unfortunately, sometimes it is too late. In many instances I have witnessed offenders go from having no criminal record or low-grade convictions to being a convicted child rapist.
There is almost no in-between.
Although this is very concerning, it is not every offender that comes into the justice system, only a very small percentage.

The article linked above argues that all serious sex offenders should be under an electronic monitoring regime. But the question that first comes to mind is if this would be used to prevent offenders from entering certain areas or as a measure to link them to reported crimes?
Secondly, the language and phrases used in the article are clearly fearmongering. The statements that sex offenders are likely to re-offend and are known recidivists is inappropriate without factual evidence and statistics. It also automatically labels all sex offenders as a threat to the community when this is most definitely not the truth.

The truth is there are many types of sex offenders, many of which I have come across in my work. Of course there are extremely dangerous and high-risk offenders who are deserving of harsh sentences and post-release monitoring, however there are sex offenders who do not fit the stereotypical characteristics of what is commonly thought about these types of criminals.
For example, a 20 year old male who obtains intimate photos of his 15 year old girlfriend by consent is technically in possession of child pornography and will be treated the same as a 40 year old male who is in possession of a photo of a naked 10 year old boy by non-consent in terms of sentencing and being a Registered Sex Offender.

Should the 20 year old be subject to electronic GPS monitoring despite the photos being consensual?

The arguments surrounding sex offenders, their motives, regulation and treatment are ones I am constantly analysing and wanting to engage in as I find it a very fascinating area of the criminal justice system and Criminological theories, so do expect more writing surrounding this topic!

I would love to hear any queries, comments and/or concerns relating to the treatment of sex offenders in the community and whether you think there are any potential solutions to regulating their behaviour or preventing future attacks.

L.

 

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Scandinavian Exceptionalism

The Netherlands keeps having to close its prisons due to a lack of prisoners.

At a time when punitive punishment is at an all time high, to hear of prisons closing (and staying closed!) sounds like a surreal concept. Not in the Netherlands.
The article recently written by Frida Garza and published on QUARTZ begins by outlining the reasoning behind the decision to close five of its prisons, it is simply too costly to maintain, particularly with their declining crime rate. An interesting statement seeing as though many western nations (i.e. the United States, Australia and New Zealand) are experiencing exponential growth in crime rates.
Dutch News reports that crime rates in the Netherlands have dropped by 0.9% and at the same time, judges have been sentencing offenders to shorter incarceration terms.

Everything I learned from my studies about crime and prisons revolved around longer and harsher prison sentences aimed at deterring criminals from committing crimes, particularly in the United States. Meanwhile, the Netherlands is experiencing a decreasing rate in crime whilst judges are handing out shortened sentences.
This tells me that what is generally thought about prison sentences being a considerate deterring factor is not all it is made out to be.

The Netherlands is not the only country experiencing this ‘good-to-have problem’. Sweden is also having to close down prisons due to a gradual decrease in crime rates and prison populations.

Whilst these northwestern European nations are indefinitely shutting it’s prisons down, others are building more and more to accommodate the ever-increasing number of offenders sentenced to prison.
How and why is this issue so contrasting to what other countries are experiencing?

Scandinavian Exceptionalism

One of the most intriguing areas of Criminology.
How is one concept, crime, carried out consistently across different nations, cultures and languages yet treated so inconsistently?

Here, I have taken the words describing Scandinavian Exceptionalism directly from Prof. John Pratt* in his journal article titled Scandinavian Exceptionalism in an Era of Penal Excess

low rates of imprisonment and humane prison conditions…the roots of this exceptionalism in Finland, Norway and Sweden, arguing that it emerges from the cultures of equality that existed in these countries which were then embedded in their social fabrics through the universalism of the Scandinavian welfare state.
…I could not have put it any better myself.
My fascination in this area grew rapidly after attending a lecture given by Dr. Anna Eriksson on SE in my third year of Criminology where I learned how instead of treating crime as a deviancy, it is perceived as a mental illness and ‘treated’ accordingly. Furthermore, there is no power hierarchy that is apparent in nations with rising prison populations. Prison Officers are willing to do their job because they like to work with people rather than wanting to have power over people or minimal job prospects with no other option.
I will be leaving at that for now as my first real blog post however expect more to come surrounding this topic as it is one that I am very interested in.
I would love to hear any comments, queries and/or concerns surrounding SE and whether it would (ever) be possible to implement in justice systems facing an inundation with crime rates and prisoners.
L.
*Professor John Pratt is the Director of the Institute of Criminology in New Zealand
Featured image found here