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Op-Ed: How to Punish Convicted Sex Offenders

By John Dewar Gleissner     Dec 14, 2011 in Crime
Allegations against Jerry Sandusky bring up the ugly topics of child molestation and sexual offenses. The U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the death penalty for certain sex crimes, but American society can increase punishment in other ways.
American society periodically wonders what to do with child abusers, rapists and sex offenders. Some people would prefer to shoot them. Others are content to send them to prison to be abused by other prisoners. The rehabilitation option is not readily available, because pedophiles and other sex offenders do not change their goals and sick needs often enough. The situation cries out for new punishment after U.S. Supreme Court rulings eliminating the death penalty for certain sex offenses. Whatever else we do, sex offenders should be properly labeled.
If sex offenders are released, paroled or given probation, there is a better solution than what we are doing now. The process of tracking sexual offenders is time-consuming and burdensome for law enforcement authorities. Sex offenders ought to bear the burden of their deviant criminal behavior.
The most efficient and foolproof method of tracking sexual offenders is to permanently or semi-permanently place a metal collar around their necks. Wearing a metal collar should be a condition of their probation, parole or release from prison. If they remove the metal collar, then they should be sent directly to prison. Such a metal collar could be constructed to clearly show signs of tampering. Periodically, sex offenders would appear before probation officers to verify that their collars had stayed in place.
The metal collar would clearly identify sex offenders of all types. Potential victims and all others could then clearly identify threats to the community. Collars could be color-coded or made larger or smaller according to the specific crime committed by the offender. Collars worn at all times lessen the burden of law enforcement officials and provide continuing adjustable control into the future.
Collars could be adjusted or changed according to the behavior of the convicted offender. If the convicted offender obeyed all of the other terms of probation, then the collar might be made lighter, more comfortable or less conspicuous. If the convicted offender violated probation terms, such as contacting young people, stalking, appearing in prohibited locations or otherwise demonstrating unrepentant behavior, then the collar could be made heavier, less comfortable and more conspicuous – or the offender could be sent directly back to prison.
Yes, a convict with a metal collar around the neck would attract significant negative attention. We can scarcely envision a more powerful social stigma. The stigma would tend to keep the offender more docile and out of trouble. Better yet, the mere threat of having to wear such a collar indefinitely would prevent many sex offenses. The collar could be constructed to disadvantage the convicted rapist in any subsequent violent encounter, by simply constructing a handle on the collar. A potential victim could fairly easily pull the extension to disable the violent offender. Sex offenders could not without giving notice move to a different region of the country or part of the world to repeat their crimes.
Placing a permanent metal collar around the necks of sex offenders would cost far less than sending them to prison for multiple years or monitoring their conduct after release from prison. Mass incarceration is costing us a fortune in economic and social costs. When released, sex offenders would have to keep a low profile to avoid violence or detection from outraged members of the public. We could easily educate our children to avoid those wearing collars. Date rapists would bear the burden of their prior date rapes. Electronic enhancements of metal collars might further facilitate the ease of tracking offenders.
Shaming is powerful punishment. We have yet to fully explore its value as an alternative to expensive, destructive and wasteful incarceration. Historically, Chinese society and the American plantation regime used collars effectively to shape human behavior. Today, metal collars would be considered “community corrections,” an increasingly favored correctional mode. Centralized incarceration within a fortress cannot provide the benefit of example because it is hidden from the eyes of the people.
Employment opportunities, friendships and social contacts would lessen for those wearing collars. Suicide and mental illness might increase. But rapists would have trouble raping again. Child molesters would be easily identified and more readily prevented from molesting. Date rapists would not easily pass on college campuses and in gathering places. Law enforcement would not be forced to track sex offenders, because the sex offenders would always be obvious to the community. Monitoring would still take place through probation officers, but the probation officer could tell at a glance whether the probationer had retained his collar. Better yet, a wide variety of observers would then in effect monitor sex offenders: real estate agents, employers, authorities, neighbors, church members, teachers, parents, children . . . everyone who can see.
Sex offenders too often tend to be “serial” sex offenders. That’s one huge problem with U.S. Supreme Court decisions eliminating the death penalty for rape and child molestation. Let’s put a metal collar on sex offenders at the start of their criminal careers and keep it around their necks indefinitely or until the danger of recidivism is over. American society is entitled to impose more punishment on convicted sex offenders now that they’ve taken away use of the death penalty.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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