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May 25, 2009

What should Florida and other states do with all their old sex offenders?

The question of this post follows from reading this interesting local article, headlined "Judge decides sex offender will stay confined at age 89."  Here are excerpts:

He's the state's oldest living sexually violent predator, but who is the real Ralph Hawker?

To some, he's an infirm World War II veteran who will turn 90 in September and uses a wheelchair because of the effects of diabetes, Parkinson's disease, thyroid and heart disease.  To others, he is a pedophile who, despite his age, would continue to prey on young boys if given the opportunity.

"I don't think anybody's concerned about [Hawker] putting on his Nikes and running down the street chasing kids," Palm Beach Circuit Judge Chuck Burton said at a court hearing May 18 to decide whether the convicted pedophile should be released from a civil commitment center where he has been locked up since 2000. "But he's stubborn as hell," Burton said. "What do you do with somebody with an attitude like that?"

You leave him in Arcadia's Florida Civil Commitment Center, Burton ruled Thursday. "If he were in the company of a young teenage boy whom he deemed to be consenting to sexual activity, this Court has no doubt that Hawker would offer sexual gratification to the boy," Burton wrote in his order. "He sees nothing wrong with it as long as the child had participated in some type of sexual activity previously."

In 1988, Hawker was sentenced to 10 years of probation for molesting two pre-teen boys, one of them a relative. Just before the sentence ended, Hawker violated the terms of his probation by being in the company of an unsupervised minor. He was imprisoned.  As his 2000 release date approached, the state began proceedings to have Hawker committed under Florida's Jimmy Ryce Act. Since 1999, the Ryce Act has allowed the indefinite civil commitment of sex offenders after they have completed their prison terms.

In 2005, a Palm Beach County jury found Hawker to be a sexually violent predator — the required designation to commit someone to the center. He has been locked up there since then. He is one of 677 residents at the center, according to state Department of Children & Families.  He is the oldest resident, one of 25 men age 70 or older.

In a written statement to the Sun Sentinel, a facility spokesman said the center can accommodate its elderly residents, who are scattered among the general population.  Officials at the facility are considering developing a 20-bed unit for elderly residents with medical challenges, a criterion Hawker meets.

The problem highlighted in this article — namely deciding just what will be done with (really) dirty (really) old men — is one that lots of states other than Florida will also surely be facing in the years ahead.  With so many long sentences and civil commitment schemes in place for sex offenders, and with so many fearing that sex offenders can never be trusted not to reoffend, it seems likely that all states should be prepared to build facilities to house elderly sex offenders.

Some related posts:

May 25, 2009 at 02:55 PM | Permalink


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One-Two-Three-Dead solves all problems, including sparing him the pain and humiliation of his medical problems. Those are cruel.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 25, 2009 4:32:58 PM

I am neither a professor, student, prosecutor or defense attorney.
I am an et cetera.

If a human being is locked up for life for any reason whatsoever,he should be allowed to make one final decision: To end his suffering at the hands of the state.
We "civilized" members of society might despise these lifers for whatever reason, but our blind hatred aside, these men and women are costing us billions of dollars to maintain their miserable existences.

And many of these people have innocent loved ones who must schlep long distances to visit these poor souls, and spend countless earning on appeals, commissary, etc. on these lost causes. It is unbelievably cruel to torture the families of these lost souls by forcing them to stay alive until the Lord takes them.

I propose allowing ALL convicts the choice to take the shot and if there's anything left on their sentences, the money that would have been spent should be broken up thus: Half to the state, half to the victim. And if there is no victim, the prisoner should be pardoned and repaid (made whole) for all the pain and suffering he's endured at the hands of the state.

Posted by: Doc | May 26, 2009 9:55:52 AM

Cool idea. If the death penalty is so cruel, then why not offer it to the condemned as a choice? I predict half of the sick ones would choose as a less cruel alternative. It is like seeing checkmate in 5 moves. There is no point in merely making the last moves. These inflict more pain than conceding the game.

Forcible imprisonment and denial of the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel punishment, death by lung cancer for example. You be suffocating for weeks. Then you will die. Not a cool idea.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 26, 2009 12:43:34 PM

Actually I am not so much an et cetera as I am an ex-con.
I have met many, many men who will die in prison, and many who did.

Yes, some of these men are horrible people who we don't want breathing free, but the vast majority of them are contrite and would happily give their lives if their victims could be made whole. (Yes, I asked them. I did an informal poll while there. Some asked me, "Hey Doc, you writin' a book?" I told 'em no, I'm gonna be surfin' the web and telling people in the free-world about life behind the walls...)

They realize in hindsight, the pain and anguish they've brought to their victim's, their victim's families and their own families.

We in the free-world, especially those of us who never associate with ex-convicts or who have never been behind the walls (this latter number is dwindling fast in these united States) have no clue how the criminals feel about their crimes. But lifers are very serious people. They come to understand (some take longer than others to reach this conclusion) the gravity of their actions.

I make no excuses for them. They know the horror of what they did; they accept it & own it. And almost every single man I met inside, who would die inside, would have gladly taken the death penalty had it been offered.

I met a man there who was a sex offender, who got 25 years. He had done 10 and committed suicide because he was elderly and knew his health would continue to deteriorate.

As an aside, the "free" healthcare in prison almost killed me, and I was a very-short timer. It was killing this man, and it will kill many of us in the free-world once it's put into place.

Posted by: Doc | May 27, 2009 9:25:13 AM

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