Moving beyond harsh punishment of sex offenders

Ever more punitive punishment of offenders neither deters new crimes nor help sexual assault victims. So argues Sarah Cate, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Southern Mississippi, in an online editorial for Common Dreams.

Victims of assault experience physical and psychological consequences that require adequate health care, financial support and paid leave time if they are employed. Maintaining employment and thereby economic security and access to health care is critical to helping someone recover from assault. About half of all sexual assault victims lose their jobs or are forced to quit their jobs after their victimization. Workplace flexibility, providing time off and medical care coverage are all essential ways to support sexual assault victims. We leave women “on their own” every day by not providing for everyone a safe workplace, housing, public transportation and employment with adequate pay and benefits.

Regarding sex offender registries, Cate says they are not effective.

Despite the persistent belief that punishment increases public safety and “sends a message,” research suggests that increasing already long sentences has no deterrent effect. Additionally, the United States’ exceptionally broad sex offender registries, community notification, and residency restrictions have not been found to promote public safety. These harsh punishments may even be counterproductive as they marginalize people so severely it increases the likelihood they might offend again.

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