Perhaps society holds the lowest regard of all for sex predators, those evil men who prey on that which we hold closest to our hearts as people and parents ñ our children.
The recent news about John Mark Karr, the former school teacher who allegedly sexually molested and killed 10-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, has been a jarring experience that has reminded us of their ruthlessness and savage nature. Once again, we find ourselves asking, how do we put an end to all this?
Social scientists say that one of the things that make it difficult to stop sexual predators is the fact that their anti-social behavior is mostly invisible to most, except, sadly, to their victims. They are not the type of criminals that are easy to spot or who act suspiciously and avoid coming into contact with law enforcement officers or agencies. On the contrary, many sexual predators have established themselves and are familiar figures in the community or neighborhood. They make their dark side known only when they strike. Oftentimes, they are people whom their victims trust ñ uncles, neighbors, teachers and the like.
Studies have shown that sex criminals have deep psychological problems as well as physical ones. Social scientists have concluded that these sex offenders are the least likely to reform among all types of criminals. They should be held up to different judicial and legal standards as other criminals considering the high rate of recurrence. In fact, the justice system in some areas already has a different way of dealing with sex offenders.
In California, for example, courts penalize convicted sex criminals with a ìcivil commitmentî in addition to the original sentence that has been handed down in their case. This civil commitment involves incarceration for another two years in a locked-down facility. This is so in recognition of the fact that sex offenders are more likely to re-offend than other criminals and are probably not ready to return to society yet.
The California law that provides for this civil commitment will be brought up before California voters in November, with the key issue being whether these civil commitments should be extended indefinitely for certain criminals that psychological experts consider as continuing threats to society.
Today in California, convicted sexual offenders face up to a two-year “civil commitment” to a locked-down facility in addition to whatever prison sentence they receive. This is because it is considered likely they may re-offend and are not ready to be returned to society.
The rest of the country will likely keep its eyes trained on California to see how effective their approach to sex offenders will be and if it is worthy of emulation.