Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Reason and the Law:I've been thinking a lot today about the Dru Sjodin case. For those of you who don't know, Sjodin is a 22 year old who was abducted from a mall near Grand Forks, ND. An arrest was made last night; a convicted sex offender is now the prime suspect.

A lot of calls for vengence are taking place now even from our "enlightened" governor, Tim Pawlenty who wants to reinstate the death penalty in Minnesota. Mind you, the abduction happened in North Dakota, not Minnesota. It's not uncommon for politicians to grandstand during a tragedy, but this takes the cake. I will leave the tounge lashing the governor so deserves to my fellow Minnesotan, Jeff Fecke who did a superb job.

My thoughts are how we deal with sex offenders. While such sex crimes sadden and anger me, I think that we as a society have not really dealt with this issue. First off, I have never understood the logic of releasing level 3 sex offenders, the ones that are most likely to reoffend. As a Christian, I am guided by the belief that we are to care for each other and to love our enemies. I think we are not caring for the community if we release people who are likely to do harm to the community. Sexual predators are usually dealing with some sort of sexual addiction. If they can't control that among the general population then they should be kept away from community and also be given effective treatment.

I also think we need to give more sustained treatment to level 1 and 2 sex offenders. Since they will be out in the community, we have to find ways that they can control their illness and learn to be a productive member of society.

Now this is not coming from some starry-eyed liberal. I do believe that sex offenders are responsible for their crimes just as alcoholics who get behind the wheel of a car are responsible. I also believe that they should do time for their crime and in the cases of level 3 offenders, shoud receive life sentences. But I also know we have to deal with this issue not simply as a crime but as people who have an illness and need treatment. It's one of those places where crime and health seem to intersect.

Part of my reasoning comes from knowing a convicted sex offender. He has long since paid for his crimes and attends counseling. For the most part, he is your average joe who is devoted to his friends and attends church regularly. This man did do harm to others and rightfully paid the price, but he is also a human being, a child of God, with a problem.

I guess for me this issue has to be dealt with a mixture of good cop/bad cop. We need to be tough on the crime committed and willing to help the person who committed the crime. That is not easy. But we need to find a way to protect our communities from these people and get them the help that they need as well.


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