Your article “Case shows difficulty of tracking sex offenders” (Metro, June 7) illustrates the folly of our current approach to this highly charged subject. High-risk sex offenders have a compulsive illness that can’t be cured, but it can be managed. As your story indicates, at least one sex offender, desperate not to give in to his compulsion, would call the police for help when he feared he might reoffend. We’d be much safer if we provided supervised residences, practical support, and treatment geared to management of this disorder.
There is a lot we could learn from Canada. Our northern neighbor has a national sex offender registry, but it is only available to law enforcement. A number of other countries have registries, but the United States is the only one that makes the information public.
Major Canadian cities provide the most dangerous offenders with circles of support and accountability, or CoSAs. Trained volunteers, part of a team with parole and treatment professionals, meet regularly with high-risk sex offenders to provide support and to make sure the offenders are following their treatment regime. Offenders who participated in these circles were shown to be 70 percent less likely to reoffend than those who did not.
Vermont and Minnesota have recently implemented this model, with beneficial results. It’s time we moved beyond the punitive policies that stigmatize offenders and only drive them into ever more desperate behavior.
The writer is a licensed independent clinical social worker.