Dennis J. Stevens, PhD
Caging Sex Offenders



In previous generations, Renaissance communities replaced lepers as criminals with tramps, beggars, and disposable children. After all someone had to be the criminal! Criminals were shunned and labeled "mad denizens." The best plan at the time was to transport criminals around the globe. Overcrowded and poorly constructed wooden vessels were utilized as floating prisons and they were referred to as a "Ship of Fools." Those vessels crisscrossed the seas with their chained "comic and pathetic cargo of souls." When the sailors docked their vessels at assorted ports for repairs and supplies, their chained cargo were set out to dry on the docks. Invariably, mobs gathered from villages and towns along the coast to ridicule and mock the powerless creatures. The behavior of the sailors and their commanders encouraged public hysteria, demonization of prisoners, and denial of human decency or rights towards their human cargo. The impulsive yet frightened mobs took their cues from the sailors or prisoner caretakers and behaved likewise towards the tramps, beggars, and disposable children. In contemporary America, sex offenders have replaced the mad denizens as criminals. Impulsive yet frightened citizens of twenty-first century America continue to take their cues from prisoner caretakers who intensify hysteria, demonization, and violations of human rights especially toward sex offenders.

           Seventeenth and eighteenth century western societies experienced immense social turbulence and economic misery. Indigents who were primarily women, children, and mentally challenged were imprisoned with hardened criminals and were referred to as the hordes of humanity. However, the conventional wisdom has been that prison sentences should be structured toward rehabilitation and isolation. Yet, inherent to modern ideals of social control lay the reality that social harm through violence, intimidation, and a loss of civil and human rights are characteristic of the foundations of prison cultures. Those characteristics justify further injustice through sanctions waged against sex offenders as they interface with other social institutions including housing authorities, schools, and job agencies once released from custodial supervision. 


What is known about sexual offenses is that a few predators commit most of the sex crimes yet they are rarely identified or apprehended. If a predator is convicted of a crime, the criminal conviction is rarely linked to a multiple or even single sexual offense. The reality is that one of every ten sex crimes are reported to the police and an estimated four of every 100 reported sex crimes end in an arrest. What will really melt your soul is that only five of every 100 arrested sex offenders' cases typically end in a conviction (reports the FBI).


Finally, as expected the few convicted offenders tend to be the least smart, unemployed, and can represent many young men who are wrongfully convicted. They are sent to prison and are caged like animals. But the predators - the individuals responsible for most of the sexual assaults are rarely identified. However, Draconian criminal sanctions and regulations apply to the few convicted of a sex crime. Those sanctions are linked to the hysteria, demonization, and loss of human rights include sex offender registries rather than those prisoners becoming the recipients of reason, empirical centered research, and justice.

            Defending freedom and individual rights are virtues that have been tipped upside down providing undeniable rights of the individuals and public agencies that interface with targeted sex offenders. They are immune to prosecution regardless of how they treat sex offenders. For instance, through the slings and arrows of justice, where they work or live can be invaded by law enforcement or citizen vigilantes without issue setting in motion collateral damage to careers, employers and communities. Fact is the targeting of convicted sex offenders exacerbates community poverty, cohesion, and safety along with the unending destruction of the individual offender regardless of the validity of the accusation. Convicted offenders must suffer the pains of deprivation, and once released, are stigmatized through a demonization process as the "worst of the worst." For some of us, the "worst of the worst" can be Casey Anthony(relieving herself) or is it Troy Davis (below) whose suspect execution in Georgia raises strong questions about justice. Nonetheless, for those convicted of a sex crime, it is impossible to find descent living quarters, suitable employment, meaningful relationships, and reasonable privacy because their picture and personal information are easily available. Then, too, the social wellbeing of their parents, friends, and communities looks worse than bleak. What about the victims of the sex offender and their privacy?   



Prison sentences are not the best answers to reduce sexual offenses because prison employs caged-centered punitive (punishment) orientations and as a result enhances and justifies violence.