Sunday, March 14, 2010

Balance Between Hysteria and Legitimate Concern

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered a review of the way the state handled a molesting case involving a man who is now charged with murdering one California teenager and is under investigation in another killing.

The order came a day after The Associated Press reported that the man, John A. Gardner III, could have been sent back to prison in 2007 for parole violations and evaluated for possible commitment to a mental hospital as a sexually violent predator.


A terrible crime has been committed and the Governor of California is correct in his assertion that a review of this case is in order so that we can learn from this incident. But too many will size on this case as a justification to continue to expand the criminal justice-industrial complex.

The article points out that the suspect's parole could have been revoked because of a technical violation. True. But that is part of the problem now facing prisons and community corrections. Too many people in the system and too few treatment options. Too many people now have to be released, and there are simply too many to now supervise in the community.

Thus the answer is to focus on the truly dangerous offenders, put more money into treatment, and more effective community supervision. But too many politicians will cave into the pressure from police, prosecutors, and an uninformed public and thus more bad policy will result from this tragedy. In turn, new victims are waiting because of yesterday's and today's bad policy decisions.

This article focuses on examples of bad policies that have followed tragedies. Not only do these policies not work, they frequently make the situation worse.

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