Children, innocent and unsuspecting, have become targets for perverted and violent acts, as seen in the case of Jessica Lunsford, who was molested and murdered. And public outcry demands justice for those children and the future of all children, hence the enactment of Jessica’s Law.
Jessica’s Law requires a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and lifelong monitoring upon release. But after countless violent attacks against children, many beg the question, “Is that enough?” Many are seeking harsher methods of punishment for those who harm children. So what should be done to punish child molesters? Is there a standard that can be agreed upon so that children be protected in our society?
Opinions on the matter run rampant as current punishments seem to be doing little to stop the terror. Policies and ideas for punishment and protection range from life in prison and the death penalty, to castration and lifelong monitoring of offenders. These policies, with the possible exception of lifelong monitoring, are effective at reducing the rate of recidivism. However, with the focus of the justice system being reform, these policies are considered too harsh and are rarely, if ever (castration) implemented. And there are lobbyists and other groups fighting for the rights of offenders in such a manner that these attempts at protecting our children will be attacked and ultimately squelched.
Protection of our children is first priority, as seen in the attempts at reforming offenders to prevent recidivism. But society has focused too much on punishment of the criminal and neglected protection of the children. While each of the above mentioned punishments have their advantages, and few disadvantages, the American legal system is focused on reform- training and retraining these offenders in hopes that they become productive members of society. So, in light of the current system, our focus must change from punishing criminals, to protecting children. And how are the children best protected?
Jessica’s Law is a good start. Imprisonment and lifelong monitoring are necessary to punish the offender, but more must be done. Registration of offenders and readily available information to parents (though not necessarily freely publicized) will allow parents the tools necessary to protect their children. It is up to the parents, society and the community to serve in keeping children safe from harm. “It takes a village to raise a child,” and it takes a community of people working together in their best interest to keep them safe.