Is a life sentence for child sexual abuse just?

Is a life sentence for child sexual abuse just? July 19, 2018

From the Chicago Tribune, “Defrocked priest committed indefinitely to state facility for sex offenders.”

Arguably Chicago’s most notorious figure in the national Roman Catholic priest sex abuse scandal was committed indefinitely Wednesday to a state facility for sex offenders.

In refusing to release Daniel McCormack under strict monitoring, Cook County Judge Dennis Porter noted that the defrocked priest had never cooperated with treatment or even admitted to a problem.

“I can’t disregard the fact that he has never been of the belief that he has a problem,” Porter said. “The first (step) of treatment here is recognizing there’s a problem that has to be treated.” . . .

A state Department of Human Services psychologist who testified for prosecutors last month said McCormack needs the intensive treatment only the department’s Rushville facility can provide. Amy Louck Davis said she had diagnosed him with pedophilic disorder and voyeuristic disorder.

With McCormack refusing to cooperate, doctors drew conclusions by examining voluminous records by police, the archdiocese and other agencies.

McCormack’s attorneys on Wednesday pointed out both his spotless disciplinary record during his time in custody and a psychologist who testified for the defense at trial who found that the former priest was not “substantially probable” to re-offend.

A strict release with GPS monitoring and professional help would be sufficient for McCormack, along with the limitations imposed on any convicted sex offender, attorney Matthew Daniels said.

I don’t quite know what to make of this.  (I suspect that over time, many of my posts will be like this; if I knew what to make of it, I’d be submitting an article to The Federalist or suchlike.)

After all, for many years prior to the coming-to-light of child sex abuse by Catholic priests, the issue was not simply “swept under the rug” by bishops, but they sent priests to “treatment facilities” whether they were meant to be given therapy that would “cure” them of their desire to abuse children, then, after this “treatment” deemed them ready to resume their duties.

This was foolishness, of course.  And I’m not going to make any claims about whether those doing the reassigning truly believed they were cured.

But this new process of keeping these men confined for what amounts to a lifetime (the Trib reports that virtually none of the men confined to this “treatment facility” are ever released) is based on the premise that they are mentally ill, and need to be given “treatment” until they can be “cured” of their “disorder” so that they are not a danger to the public.

Do these “experts” (yes, that’s a lot of scare-quotes) actually believe this?  Near as I can tell, it is a farce, and a means to keep people confined after serving out their sentence out of a belief that they will re-offend, inevitably, unavoidably, because we have no other means of protecting children.  (Is this true?  Articles I’m reading, for instance this one, say that the real rates of recidivism are much lower than the “almost everyone” conventional wisdom, and that this belief, which also drives the restrictions on lives of sex offenders which leave them homeless, actually causes more repeat offenses because they can’t rejoin society.)

Does treatment work?  An undated (early 2010s?) government report says yes, a 2013 Psychology Today article says there is no statistically-valid proof.  Some time ago, I recall reading articles about sex offenders gaming the system and enjoying talking about their crimes in their group sessions.

In McCormack’s case, he pled guilty to the original crime.  Is he now claiming that he is actually innocent, and just judged the evidence against him to be strong enough that he wouldn’t win in court?  Or is he not cooperating now, out of a belief that he is not mentally ill, and he no more needs “treatment” than a thief or a drug dealer, and doesn’t need a cure but has been cured by not wishing to be imprisoned a second time?  Or is his “refusal to cooperate” a rejection of whatever methods the psychiatrists might use, whether it’s compulsory medication or some sort of talk therapy that he finds objectionable enough to be unwilling to go through?

Of course, I have not had the experience of being assaulted, nor have my children nor anyone I love.  But our criminal justice system, our constitution, and the fundamental principles of human rights say that you can’t imprison someone after they’ve served the sentence they were originally given.



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