I don’t want to live next door to a convicted rapist any more than you do. So I don’t blame the residents in Palmdale who are up in arms over a Santa Clara judge’s ruling that convicted serial rapist Christopher Hubbart, 62—better known as the “Pillowcase Rapist”—can be released to a location in the unincorporated Palmdale area. But beyond the anger, disgust and just plain ick factor—where should Hubbart and others like him live after they’ve served their time and are deemed fit for parole?
Murderers and would-be murderers are paroled regularly back into the same communities where they committed their crimes—some even receiving welcome home celebrations. Believe it or not, most convicted murders and those who attempt murder, go on to reintegrate back into their communities without the scarlet letter that is given to sex offenders. However, when a rapist is paroled in California, it becomes breaking news—literally—with some suburban community up in arms over the newly released sex offender coming anywhere near their homes.
Something’s got to give. In 2006, we put Jessica’s Law into place to impose strict residency requirements on all sex offenders, regardless of the age of their victim. Sex offenders in California cannot live within 2,000 feet of any public or private school or park where children regularly gather—almost making it impossible for a paroled sex offender to find a place to live.
We can’t have it both ways.
Society needs to come to a definitive conclusion on whether sex crimes are psychological or just plain criminal. Because if we truly believe that people who commit sex crimes are mentally ill and just can’t help themselves—prison isn’t where they belong. Mentally ill people, who commit crimes, including sex crimes, belong in a hospital for the criminally insane where the presumption is that they’ve been healed when or if they are ever released back into society.
The reality is, excluding life without the possibility of parole and the death penalty, the law as it stands now pretty much dictates that if you commit a sex crime, serve your time, and are still alive at the end of your sentence, at some point, you will be released. Given the highly publicized state of our overcrowded prison system, it should not be a surprise each time a sex offender is granted parole.
For those who think that the penalties for sex crimes are too moderate and that people who commit sex crimes are mentally ill and more likely to be repeat offenders, instead of being reactive when the system does its job—which is basically to babysit the offender for a set number of years before releasing him or her back into society—lobby to change the laws.
Instead of prison, why not mandate that sex offenders be committed to mental health facilities where they can presumably get the help they need for an undetermined period of time. That way if and when they are released, it would be with the belief that they are actually cured and not just sent back into society with no assurance of being rehabilitated increasing the odds that they'll be the next repeat offender headed to a home near you.