Sun, May 06, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Effective solutions require hard work

Last Tuesday, the Ministry of Justice came out against the idea of introducing caning and chemical castration to punish sexual offenders. It said these forms of punishment violate the fundamental human rights of sexual offenders.

The ministry is right. However, against the backdrop of a rapid increase in the number of sexual offenses, the ministry needs to come up with other ideas to combat the problem.

The recent proposals and discussions on toughening punishment for sexual offenders were prompted by a highly publicized rape case in March. One reason the case gained so much attention was that the victim was abducted shortly after midnight as she walked from the Shilin Night Market toward a parking lot opposite the Jientan MRT Station. The fact that the kidnapping occurred virtually under the nose of the crowds at the night market was enough to make people feel that such a thing could happen to anyone.

Rapists and perpetrators of other forms of sexual assault deserve serious punishment, but caning and chemical castration are not warranted. Even the most despicable criminals do not lose their human rights.

Moreover, such measures, while constituting punishment, do not seem particularly efficient when it comes to accomplishing the goals of crime prevention and prisoner rehabilitation. There are alternatives that are far more effective in accomplishing these goals.

Statistics show that a high percentage of sexual offenders will repeat their crimes. Adopting measures modeled after Florida's "Jessica's Law" -- which entails longer prison terms and even life-long electronic monitoring of repeat offenders -- would be a sensible direction to take.

However, Taiwan's law enforcement authorities must appreciate the importance of follow-up work and monitoring.

Mandatory and frequent visits to convicted sex offenders who have completed their sentences or have been paroled would give authorities a better chance of preventing recidivism, or of catching them if they re-offend. This means ensuring these ex-offenders receive psychological counseling.

Such a system requires a lot of time, personnel,money and other resources as well as detailed planning. Are the government and the justice ministry really willing to invest that kind of money? If the government is serious about combating sexual offenses, such determination would only be the beginning of measures that need to be taken.

For many people, locking up sex offenders and throwing away the key might seem like a much easier solution. But prison cells are already over capacity, which is one reason the government has been working on a plan for a general amnesty for those jailed for minor crimes.

If the only solution the government can think of to combat violent sex crimes is caning and castration, it shows that it is not serious about addressing the problem.

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