Thu, Jul 10, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Letting a wolf into a henhouse, safely

The "Wolf of Hwakang," who was convicted of 25 cases of sexual assault and nine thefts, is in the news again, as he has been for the two last years, over the question of whether he should be paroled so he can matriculate at National Taiwan University (Taida). Not to make light of the seriousness of his crimes, but given what is turning into an annual rite of officious pronouncements, psychiatric babble and general hand-wringing, this issue is becoming Taiwan's own version of summer madness.

The Wolf, surnamed Yang, received a 17-year sentence for his crimes. Whether one thinks this was adequate punishment is not the issue here. After serving one-third of his sentence, he took and passed an admission exam two years ago, winning a place at Taida's sociology department. His bid for parole was rejected that year, as it was last year. He has applied again, hoping to be freed in time to start the fall semester.

Serial rape differs from other crimes as it raises the question of the perpetrators' ability to control biological responses. Such a psychological disease must be treated with drugs. Moral exhortation simply does not help.

People concerned with the Wolf's case have said he has been a model prisoner and has expressed remorse for his crimes. The Ministry of Justice rejected his previous parole applications basically because of concerns about recidivism.

Psychiatrists who participated in the reviews of the Wolf's case have also expressed such concerns. At one point, Yang said he would be willing to undergo chemical castration in order to suppress his biological urges. This means that he knows that he may not be able to control his urges even though he may have sincerely repented -- especially if placed in an environment teeming with the kind of victim he favored, college students.

The aura attached to Taida is another reason why this case has received so much media attention. It is the nation's premier university. Its coeds are the darlings of the nation, so few people appear willing to risk exposing them to even a penitent Wolf.

Almost every women's group in the nation is against granting him parole. Supporters of the reformed Wolf point out that his test scores were quite impressive and that he has the right to receive education and should be given a chance to remake himself. They have also pointed out that he can only be kept isolated from society for the length of his 17-year term, so he will be released within a decade. Depriving him of an opportunity to study at the university could create a lifelong bitterness in him -- which could lead to a desire to retaliate against society after his release, they say. Yet women, whether at Taida or elsewhere, also have the right not to be placed at risk.

The best solution appears to be a compromise -- some special arrangement that will allow him to start his college studies, through correspondence courses or long-distance learning via the Internet, yet keep him off campus. Officials and experts have yet to determine if there is a legal basis for paroling inmates who are taking correspondence courses.

If there is no legal basis for such a move, a law should be enacted quickly. According to Taida, the Wolf's test qualification will only last for another year. If he can't matriculate this year, the Ministry of Justice will have another year to work out regulations tailor-made for him.

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