Lawmakers keep piling on those convicted of sex crimes
How much is too much? Ma’lik Richmond must be asking himself that very question. The on-again, off-again Youngstown State University football player is embroiled in a controversy of his own making.
Richmond served about 10 months in a juvenile detention facility after he and a high-school teammate were convicted in 2013 of raping a 16-year-old girl.
In January, he joined the YSU football team as a nonscholarship walk-on. In August, Richmond was informed by university officials that he would be required to sit-out a season.
He filed suit against the university, and a federal judge granted him a temporary injunction. He played against Central Connecticut State University on Sept. 16. A hearing on a permanent injunction is scheduled for Thursday.
Richmond was convicted of a horrible crime. People charged with sex offenses are the most rapidly increasing segment of the U.S. prison population, according to Marie Gottschalk, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. Politicians and the general public talk about sex offenders in terms of danger, deviance and pathological pariahs. In some instances that may be warranted, particularly with regard to offenses against children.
Gottschalk said during a recent interview, “According to the latest statistics on federal prosecutions, we are meting out longer sentences on average to people who view child pornography than to people who actually sexually abuse children.”
To use a football metaphor lawmakers across the country keep “piling on” convicted sex offenders.
Just last week, I wrote for GateHouse Media about the proliferation of onerous sentences and ever-longer registration requirements being fueled, in part, by an assertion in a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2002 wherein Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote that the recidivism rate for sex offenders was about 80 percent.
According to Reason magazine, there was never any evidence to support the assertion, and research conducted during the period within which it proliferated indicated that it was not even remotely true. “Nearly every study – including those by states as diverse as Alaska, Nebraska, Maine, New York and California as well as an extremely broad one by the federal government that followed every offender released in the United States for three years – has put the three-year recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders in the low single digits, with the bulk of the results clustering around 3.5 percent.”
If fact, in some states–including Pennsylvania and Ohio – a sex offender can be detained after completing his or her sentence. The process is called civil commitment. Nearly 5,400 people are currently civilly committed in sexually violent predator programs in 20 states and by the federal Bureau of Prisons. According to The Marshall Project, 13 states allow this practice for people who committed their crimes as juveniles.
All 50 states and Washington, D.C., have developed sex-offender registries. More than 800,000 people in the U.S. are registered sex offenders.
While civil commitment and sex-offender registries are perhaps the most extreme examples of “civil” punishment tagged on at the conclusion of the “criminal” punishment imposed on people convicted of sex crimes, they are by no means the only tag -ons.
Driven by a pervasive fear of sexual predators, and facing no discernible opposition, according to the New York Times, “politicians have become ever more inventive in dreaming up ways to corral and marginalize those convicted of a sex related crime.”
As Richmond now knows, marginalizing former offenders is not exclusively for politicians.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino