Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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Beyond Forgiveness?

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | November 30, 2018

No. 1,589

Can there be a second chance for sexual predators?  And if so, what is necessary for the wrongdoer to do to earn it?

At the present time, consensus seems to be that a convicted child molester can never be trusted again. This is reflected in registration laws for convicted offenders and required notification of neighbors. Offenders frequently fail to register and, when that happens, they are imprisoned again.

Judge Donna Jo McDaniel of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas was recently barred by the Superior Court from sentencing sexual offenders because she has continually exceeded sentencing guidelines. Nevertheless, I suspect that the public thinks more like Judge McDaniel than the Superior Court. If current sentencing guidelines for sexual predators were put to a referendum, would the maximum sentences win in a landslide?  Probably.

In the aftermath of the Penn State scandals, there have been numerous enactments by the Pennsylvania General Assembly which close loopholes and increase punishments. Unfortunately, these statutes sometimes infringe on civil liberties, create traps for the innocent and ultimately do not overcome the problem.

In light of the recent Grand Jury report, bishops have been strongly criticized and even threatened with criminal prosecution for allegedly covering up crimes and permitting priests to return to ministries that give access to children. This approach has been abandoned today as a blind refusal to accept facts or at best a failed experiment in rehabilitation. Priests today are suspended from duties immediately upon credible accusation.  So are school teachers and other public employees.  This reflects the growing viewpoint that the risk to the public of future crime exceeds the rights of the accused to be considered innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law.  In practice, this has created a de facto presumption of guilt that is unlikely to be erased, even after acquittal.

At the present time, there does not appear to be a viable legal solution that actually works. Shunning doesn’t work in modern society,  And disturbing science fiction solutions, like the one proposed in the novel made movie Clockwork Orange, are unlikely to have much appeal in a society that values civil liberties.

So, where do we go now?  Longer jail terms only postpone the eventual reintroduction of the uncured predator into society.  Is it to be life in prison, or perhaps in a more humane mental facility?





CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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