Monday, February 15, 2010

Time For A New Approach To Released Sex Offenders Time For A New Approach To Released Sex Offenders - Rethinking Crime And Punishment.

New Zealand seems to be "getting it" long before the USA does :

"Sex offenders and paedophiles present the greatest challenge in ensuring their effective reintegration into the community", says Kim Workman of Rethinking Crime and Punishment. He was commenting on the case of Justin Ames Johnston, a released rapist who planned to live with his sister in Raumati. "The public are more afraid of sex offenders than any other kind. Typically, their release is often accompanied by police/media/community scrutiny increasing ostracism and subsequently reducing the likelihood of a successful reintegration. Of all offenders, this group have the least support from the community, even though, especially in the case of paedophiles, the risk of re-offending is very low at around 5% . "

"It is not logical to suggest that these offenders not live near schools. In any New Zealand urban community, the nearest school is probably less than a kilometre away. Children are more at risk where there are less of them; in public parks, swimming holes, or bush walks."

"We have to find some way of increasing the community sense of safety, without resorting to vigilantism, and harassment of people that have served their sentence. Groups such as Prison Fellowship, provide a successful response, through Circles of Accountability and Support (COSA). Around 5 - 7 community volunteers, who are committed to public safety, undertake to monitor and support such an offender, thus lowering any risk to the public, and at the same time assisting the ex-offender with work, housing, and social support. This approach has been operating for more than a decade, and none of the ex-prisoners have reoffended.

This programme is delivered in the absence of government funding. With a bit more government support, it could be expanded and picked up by other voluntary organisations, who have the same commitment to public safety.