Turning inner space into outer space

December 17, 2010

What do we do with sex offenders?

It’s tough to know how to react to Lowell Swetman — the man convicted of leaving sexually explicit letters at North Shore schools — being sentenced to time served. He’s out on bail, and this immediately raises red flags. Will he offend again? Is there anything anyone can do to stop him from offending? And if he does re-offend, will it be something worse — possibly involving harm to a child?

No one can predict the future. Short of keeping him in jail permanently, it would appear the justice system has done all it can. He has several conditions attached to his three years of bail, including counselling, and he is now a registered sex offender.

Plus, there is some comfort in knowing that the odds on our side. Many people erroneously believe that children are at risk mainly from strangers. While there have been some high-profile cases of this nature, statistics show that the main risk comes from family members or trusted authority figures. There is also evidence that most offenders, once they’re caught, can indeed be treated and never again commit a crime.

On top of that, there are serious cases where people have been declared dangerous offenders. They are locked up and the key — as they say — has been thrown away.

Of course, all of this can be reassuring, but only up to a point. Parents will always worry about their children being hurt. And our governments and justice system must constantly be on the alert for new ways of protecting them.