I was just interviewed by a crime reporter for one of Toronto's major dailies - The Sun, which is the more sensational rag, for those who know the media in this town.
It seems that a potentially dangerous sexual offender may have been transferred to a local halfway house to begin a 10-year period of mandatory supervision (I say may because the papers say he's there, but the authorities will not confirm the report). There's a story on the front page of The Sun today, and likely some of the other papers, and from what facts are given, there's little doubt that this person has some high risk factors for re-offending.
From the article:
Christopher Goodwin, 26, was moved to the Keele Centre yesterday after completing a 21/2 year lock-up in Kingston for the shocking assault of a 6-year-old girl in a Scarborough mall in 2003, sources said.
In October, the National Parole Board ruled Goodwin remains a "high risk for reoffending," despite having undergone intensity sex offender treatment.
In the 2003 attack at the Cedarbrae Mall, horrified shoppers were forced to pull a crazed Goodwin off the young girl after he pounced on her ... and attempted to sexually assault her after lifting up her dress, according to National Parole board documents.
After doing time for that brazen assault, Goodwin served a 150-day stretch for distributing child pornography, according to the documents.
In sentencing, the court also imposed a long-term supervision order of 10 years.
Goodwin also admitted to having sexually assaulted six children, the documents say.
"Most disturbingly, you have stated a number of times that you fantasize about holding a young girl prisoner as your sexual slave for a while and then killing her. You have indicated that you fear you may carry out these fantasies," the documents read.
So, yes, his fantasies are violent, he has offended in the past and not been caught, he thinks he may re-offend, and most studies of sexual re-offenders indicate that age is a factor - the younger the person, the more likely to re-offend, and he's only 26. He's not a person I would want interacting with anyone's children.
However, I do believe that I disappointed the dear reporter by not screaming for blood, or at least immediate re-incarceration in a maximum security prison, and, if that wasn't possible, dumping him in some community other than mine (ah, NIMBY, how easy it is to invoke you).
Because I know that unless we as a society choose to lock all sexual offenders up forever, there is no way to guarantee they will never re-offend.
And I know that sexual offenders who are slowly introduced into the community, with graduated supervision and on-going treatment and assistance in getting their lives in order - without the kind of stress that a media shit-storm creates - have a better chance of learning to modify their behaviour so as to reduce the chances that they will re-offend.
And I know that while every two or three years, the media gets wind of a sexual offender at the local halfway house and makes a huge media circus about it, in fact, every day of the year there's probably at least one sexual offender in residence there, and no one outside of the system has known they were there. Someone who didn't hit the media radar because their original offense wasn't considered newsworthy (maybe they only assaulted women of colour, or members of their own family, instead of pretty white strangers), or because no one told the media, or it was a busy news week and there were bigger fish to fry.
And I also know that for every person like this who has been identified and placed in the justice system and is being monitored (which means it's more difficult to commit another assault), there are several more who have never been caught or charged and are walking around unsupervised and untreated and are just as much, or perhaps more, of a danger.
So the reporter is wondering if I feel people, especially children, in this neighbourhood are being endangered by the possible placement of this one person who is known to the system and is under supervision in a halfway home near me? And I tell him that I'd rather see sexual offenders go through gradual supervised release into the community than being dropped back into it stone-cold at the end of their incarceration. And I don't want the papers plastering the worst possible picture of an offender all over the newswires, so that he will be under increased stress which will increase the likelihood that he will re-offend. and so that people will have their image of paedophiles as creepy-looking guys with long hair and poor grooming reinforced. And I don't think the one that we know about is any more dangerous than all the ones we don't know about.
Because, folks, the people who perform sexual assaults are always there, not just when they're in the news. They are your neighbours, your colleagues, your priests, your fathers and brothers and uncles and sometimes your sisters and mothers and aunts, too.
Anyone who thinks that their neighbourhood would be safe from sexual assault if all the known sexual offenders were ridden out of town on a rail, or locked up for life, knows nothing about the nature of sexual violence.
I shall have to read the paper tomorrow to see how badly my opinions have been presented. Or if I've just been edited out because my views weren't sensational enough.