The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Garrido, Sowell examples of a failed system

Convicted offenders repeat sex crimes

Two months ago, when Jaycee Dugard was discovered to be alive 19 years after her abduction in South Lake Tahoe, the nation was shocked. But when it was revealed that the 29 year old was now a mother of two and that her and her children were living in makeshift tents in the backyard of sex offender parolee Phillip Garrido and his wife, that shock turned to outrage.

Yesterday the California Inspector General’s Office determined that the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation “failed to properly supervise Garrido and missed numerous opportunities to discover his victims.” I would certainly agree.

The fact that a couple could hold a 29 year old, and 15 year old and an 11 year old hostage in their backyard without anyone knowing is unfathomable. Garrido was convicted in 1977 for the kidnapping and rape of a 25-year-old woman and was under federal parole supervision when he allegedly kidnapped Dugard in 1991. And as a California parolee, Garrido wore a GPS ankle bracelet and was subject to surprise home visits. But the backyard compound was never discovered.

There is almost no excuse for this major oversight, besides the fact that the system is overworked. When violent sexual offenders are let out on parole early or receive lenient sentences, the people that have to watch over them in the real world become overwhelmed. While you wouldn’t think that walking through a house to the backyard would be too hard, I don’t think we can blame one individual or even one department. The whole system needs to be revamped.

Sentences for violent sexual offenders must be strengthened. Unfortunately that is the only way to keep a repeat offender from becoming a repeat offender again. I am not talking about the 17 year old that flashed his friends at the high school prom and is sadly now a registered sex offender, but the ones who maliciously attach young victims and keep them hostage for their sexual pleasure.

Some people argue that these crimes are not as bad as murder, but when a young child is kidnapped and sexually abused it is likely that they will never be the same. And even once they are free from their captor, it is likely that they wish they were dead, or could become an offender themselves. These crimes hold horrible long-term effects, but somehow these offenders are allowed to continue on with their lives, taking new victims under the not-so-watchful eye of the system.

We learned over the weekend that this is a nation-wide problem. As of press time Wednesday, authorities had found the remains of at least 11 victims in the house of paroled sex offender Anthony Sowell. Sowell spent 15 years in jail for a 1989 attempted rape. In this case, parole officers did not have the right to enter his home, but they could check up on him. Officers checked on him on Sept. 22, hours before a woman reported being raped by Sowell.

Possibly the most disturbing part of the Sowell case is that neighbors said they smelled something rotting for the past few years, but thought it was from the sewer and grease pipes of Ray’s Sausage nearby.

In both cases, the system failed, the parole officers failed and most importantly neighbors failed. As citizens it is our job to report suspicious behavior. I’m not suggesting that we all become the old lady on the block that sits with binoculars looking out her front window, but taking time to observe the unusual behaviors of others could end up saving lives.

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