Saturday, 24 January 2009

Quick hit: Stalking rapists

The Herald reports on a woman who intends to stalk a rapist on his release from prison next week:
The woman, who cannot be named because it would identify her daughter, told The Press newspaper, her daughter, now 19, was terrified of accidentally seeing her abuser again.

She had three cars of volunteers ready to "stake out" the prison and follow any vehicles leaving and was also preparing to hand out leaflets where Harris would be released.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust has advised the mother on how to legally go about alerting Harris' neighbours to his presence.

Safe Network chief executive Robert Ford, who works on rehabilitating sex offenders, said leaflet drops placed the offenders under stress, and under stress they were more like to re-offend.
Will this help? Or hinder?


Hugh said...

I'd say hinder.

anna c said...

Another vote for hinder, but I can't condemn her; I doubt she feels she has anything else she can do.

And I'm so sick of the SST leaping on these cases every time.

Daniel said...

This sort of behaviour is unhelpful, negative, and antisocial.

There are a few assumptions the entire edifice is built on and undermining them won't make the system better, just makes it fail.

Things like:
Presumption of innocence
Only being punished once for a crime
And once a sentence is carried out the convicted get a chance to live and hopefully not offend again.

If criminals are never going to be given any chance at re-entering society then why go the expense of prison at all? Might as well just shoot them. Which is probably something the Sensible Sentencing Trust would approve of.

As a punishment and deterrent prison is fairly effective but as rehabilitation its pretty useless. But the solution is not to make things worse by continuing to punish people after their sentence. That just makes their eventual re-offending almost inevitable.

Arguing for longer sentences is also counter productive. If 10 years didn't work 15 years or 20 or 30 is hardly likely to be much better. It just costs a lot more, compounds the damage done to any innocents wrongly convicted. And sweeps the criminal under the carpet for a while.

Given the spectacular lack of faith most New Zealanders show in prison as rehabilitation I think it's clear that its broken and needs fixing. Which means that the system needs to be changed at the roots not just made more broken.

I can forgive this woman for her actions because she's in a pretty horrible position but it's still wrong.

The SST on the other hand are just a menace.

Brett Dale said...

Help, good on her, people should have the right to know if a rapist is living next door to them. Its abot safety.

Anonymous said...

So Brett, where would you have the released prisoners live? Once everyone says "Not next-door to me".

Anna said...

Yet another vote for hinder.

Daniel, I agree with a lot of what you've said - it makes a mockery of the justice system to continue to punish people once they've finished their sentences, and the SST once again have nothing helpful to add.

The woman's situation points to yet another deficiency with the justice system. Of course her daughter has a right not to be re-traumatised by the sight of her attacker, but the way to guarantee this right is not to go out leafleting, particularly if vigilante behaviour may result. This is a need the justice system needs to meet in an appropriate and sensitive way.

Brett, the public safety issue is likewise important, but the same argument applies - it's not the job of community members to keep the peace, but the job of the police and justice system. That's why we have preventative detention. The utter shitness of our rehabilitative measures (such as they are) is the issue here, as Daniel points out.

I sympathise with this woman, while disagreeing with her actions. The welfare of her child is at stake, and the system isn't set up to protect it.

Deborah said...

I don't like vigilante justice either. I can understand where she is coming from, 'though.

It does seem that this rapist is being released in the right way i.e. after having attempted a course to deal with his offending, and he is being supported in the community.

Having said that, I can understand why the child he raped is terrified, and needs to be sure that she doesn't meet him by accident. It would be interesting to know what Corrections / Victim Support / Justice is doing to assist her.

Hugh said...

Of course her daughter has a right not to be re-traumatised by the sight of her attacker, but the way to guarantee this right is not to go out leafleting, particularly if vigilante behaviour may result.

So what is the way to guarantee it?

Anonymous said...

Not retraumatising the victim is as much to do with the victim as the offender. While it's true that in some cases the support available to victims is better than to offenders, that just means not quite as awful.

It also depends on the victim's mindset - the SST approach ensures that anything at all that suggests that the offender is not burning in hell for all eternity will traumitise the victim. And she will always regard herself as a victim, and never get over it if she can help it.

In all seriousness, you've got to either offer genuine rehabilitation or assisted suicide (or just outright murder the offender). Saying "we're releasing you to be hounded to the ends of the earth by vigilantes, and we're going to help them" is just a cowards way out. Compulsory notification combined with a corrupt legal system ensures that there will always be "leaks" to the vigilantes.

IMO you've got to help the offender live within the law, and that means finding a safe place to live, a job and so on. The more the SST fight that process, the more expensive the process becomes. Because hiding/ anonymising an offender is not cheap, and protecting them from criminals is seriously expensive.

I'd love to see members of the SST in jail themselves, for hate speech if nothing else. They distract from helping people with their insistence on taking the role of their ghod into their own hands.


Brett Dale said...

Public safety is my concern, if he has served his time, then he has the right to live where he wants, but the neighbors also have the right to know, that they are living next to a rapist.

AWicken said...

The last 8 years should have taught everyone that "public safety", while a concern, should never be anyone's _only_ concern.

And even if it were, one would want to look at recidivism rates of re-integrated sex offenders against ostracised sex offenders. No idea what the result is, it just never seems to be mentioned by "public safety" advocates.

Anonymous said...

Brett I hate to tell you this but you probably have a rapist living on your street. He just hasn't been convicted. The amount of my friends who have been raped is ridiculously high. I have yet to meet one who has taken the matter to the authorities. Unfortunately I count myself amongst that number. I know that he's out there. I see him around. Every day I have to live with the fact that he may reoffend and I could have done something to prevent that.

The problem is that he was my boyfriend. I loved him as did the majority of my friends who were raped. Rape is a lot more common than we want to admit in our society.

You want to know if someone living close to you is a rapist? There probably is. One of your friends probably is. One of your family members even.

So how do we deal with THAT? We remain ever vigilant. I have a 4yr old child. One of the nieghbours gives me a bad vibe. I don't like the way he interacts with him. So my son dosn't get a chance to interact with him. I always know where he is and with whom.

When he's older I know I won't always be there. I won't always be able to keep him safe. So I'm trying to raise him to always talk to me. If something happens to him I want him to tell. I'd never want anyone to have the kind of life I've had for the past 6 years, living in guilty silence.

We don't need to lock them up longer. We just need to report more of them.

Anonymous said...

Hinder. But I agree with anna c, she probably feels thats the best option she feels she has. I applaud her attempt to protect her daughter, misguided or not.

Julie said...

Thanks for the interesting comments here, sorry I haven't been back sooner.

I note that the mother in question has decided not to go continue with the stalking plan after reaching a deal with police whereby they tell her where he lives:

[Senior Sergeant Roy Appley] said though it was "not really my role" he had become concerned with the family's plans and decided to contact them. Appley proposed that if the family would trust him to see Harris into accommodation, he would let them know what area he was living in so they would not run the chance of bumping into him.

"Whether we like it or not, he's up for parole," Appley said.

"I'd provide a little bit of information so they'd feel protected and like they had some control. What I could certainly assure them was that something was getting done."