My turn: Minimum sentences don't protect public from offenders

Posted: Wednesday, August 10, 2005

We are hearing more and more about convicted sex offenders repeating their crimes. It was recently reported that an 8-year-old was reunited with her mother after being kidnapped and taken to Mexico by her abductor, a convicted sex offender.

As the father of five and the grandfather of one, I am compelled to ask why? Why are those who prey on our children released back into society to repeat their crime on another innocent child? It would appear that many of our nation's judges are under the impression that sexual predators can be rehabilitated and thus feel that plea bargains coupled with minimum sentences are the way to treat these criminals.

Unfortunately, it would also appear we have a couple of those judges among our ranks right here in Juneau. In the past several months, the Juneau Empire reported on two of our judges who seem to be more concerned with the criminals than the society which they have a duty to protect. In the July 31 Empire, it was reported that Judge Larry Weeks, on the advice of a psychologist, is insisting the state pay to "rehabilitate" a 61-year-old man who was charged with sexually abusing a 10-year-old. Meanwhile, in return for his plea to a lesser charge. This predator will only serve eight years, or less because of time credited for good behavior.

Does Weeks really believe that a 61-year-old man just woke up and decided to sexually abuse a 10-year-old child? Does he believe at 61 years of age this was a first offense? Or second? Or third? More likely, as statistics will bear out, he started his predatory ways at a much younger age, for arguments sake 27, which is the age of the man also in the same paper who has been arrested for sexually abusing an 8-year-old. I was stunned to read that although the charge carries a sentence of up 99 years in prison, Judge Levy told the defendant he would likely serve only eight to 12 years if convicted of this crime, because it is his first offense. Does Levy really believe that at the age of 27 this is a first offense? Is he going to let him plea bargain for a lesser offense and punishment? There is definitely something very wrong when a child molester can steal the childhood of his victims, plea bargain, serve a minimal sentence and be released to prey on the innocent again. But, of course, he will be rehabilitated, so my daughters, granddaughter and other young children have nothing to worry about, right?

Studies show that offenders who served time for a sexual assault were 7.5 times as likely as those convicted of other crimes to be arrested again for a new sexual assault. There are currently 217 registered sex offenders in Juneau and seven in Douglas. Now I realize not all of those on the registry molested young children, but I am highly skeptical that those who have could ever be rehabilitated. Judge Weeks was quoted in the paper "that a majority issue is protection of the public." I question how handing down minimum sentence and releasing "rehabilitated" child molesters back into society is protecting public. I certainly don't feel like our judge's actions are protecting my daughters or granddaughter. I pray no other children are harmed by their misguided compassion for these predators.

• Juneau resident Michael Patterson is the emergency programs manager for the city.

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