Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Because everyone deserves another chance (sob)

When I first read this story, I was outraged, and instantly concluded that Howard Dean may come by his crazed world view honestly, living as he does in Vermont. How else to explain a Vermont judge who said that a man who repeatedly raped a little girl should get only 60 days in prison, since it was infinitely more important that he should get treatment rather than punishment. I'll explain at the end of this post, however, why things are a bit more complicated than they at first appear:

Burlington, Vermont -- January 4, 2005 [sic] There was outrage Wednesday when a Vermont judge handed out a 60-day jail sentence to a man who raped a little girl many,many times over a four-year span starting when she was seven. The judge said he no longer believes in punishment and is more concerned about rehabilitation. Prosecutors argued that confessed child-rapist Mark Hulett, 34, of Williston deserved at least eight years behind bars for repeatedly raping a littler girl countless times starting when she was seven. But Judge Edward Cashman disagreed explaining that he no longer believes that punishment works. "The one message I want to get through is that anger doesn't solve anything. It just corrodes your soul," said Judge Edward Cashman speaking to a packed Burlington courtroom. Most of the on-lookers were related to a young girl who was repeatedly raped by Mark Hulett who was in court to be sentenced. The sex abuse started when the girl was seven and ended when she was ten. Prosecutors were seeking a sentence of eight to twenty years in prison, in part, as punishment. "Punishment is a valid purpose," Chittenden Deputy Prosecutor Nicole Andreson argued to Judge Edward Cashman. "The state recognizes that the court may not agree or subscribe to that method of sentencing but the state does. The state thinks that it is a very important factor for the court to consider," Andreson added. But Judge Cashman explained that he is more concerned that Hulett receive sex offender treatment as rehabilitation. But under Department of Corrections classification, Hulett is considered a low-risk for re-offense so he does not qualify for in-prison treatment.So the judge sentenced him to just 60 days in prison and then Hulett must complete sex treatment when he gets out or face a possible life sentence. Judge Cashman also also revealed that he once handed down stiff sentences when he first got on the bench 25 years ago, but he no longer believes in punishment. "I discovered it accomplishes nothing of value; it doesn't make anything better; it costs us a lot of money; we create a lot of expectation, and we feed on anger,"Cashman explained to the people in the court. The sentence outraged the victim's family who asked not to be identified. "I don't like it," the victim's mother,in tears, told Channel 3. "He should pay for what he did to my baby and stop it here. She's not even home with me and he can be home for all this time, and do what he did in my house," she added. Hulett -- who had been out on bail-- was taken away to start his sentence immediately. [Emphasis mine.]
The judge's tactlessness and bleeding-heart psychobabble notwithstanding, the core issue hides in the paragraph I've highlighted: the State's own corrections code means that sex offenders cannot simultaneously be incarcerated and treated. There's a problem, though, with simply throwing those vile creatures in prison without treatment. It turns out that sex offenders who merely spend time in prison, whether for the short or the long term, come out again as sex offenders. Imprisoning Hulett would definitely have kept him off the street for a while -- a very good thing -- but he's a young man and would have come out again doing exactly the same thing (only maybe worse after his prison experiences). There's also a slow but steady trickle of data showing the some sex offenders can be helped through treatment, although that's still unclear and hard to quantify. The ideal thing, therefore, would be to take Hulett and throw him into prison for a long time, both to punish him and to keep him away from other little girls, and to put him into some treatment program that might lessen the chances of recidivism upon his release. I don't say that the judge made an intelligent or appropriate decision, and he phrased it in the worst bleeding heart way -- a way that puts the pervert's, uh, perpetrator's interests ahead of the victim's -- but there is a weird logic to what he did. Hat tip: Michelle Malkin