The Hill’s January 31, 2017 piece by Opinion Contributor/Attorney Michael Dolce, struck a chord with me. A very negative chord. It reminded me just how terrible an ill-conceived “opinion piece” can be perceived by the public as being “the whole truth”.
Although Michael Dolce certainly has a right to his opinion, as do I, I believe the author’s view of sex offenders in general is definitely scewed by his having been a victim of childhood sexual abuse as reported in the piece.
The article’s headline “Say no to restorative justice for sex offenders” kind of says it all regarding the author’s view of sex offenders, no second chances, no need for rehabilitation programs, just punishment, lock them up and throw away the key.
The author, an attorney who represents survivors of sexual assault states that “restorative justice is not only horribly insufficient for handling sexual abuse but, in many cases, actually serves to leave an offender free to offend again.”
Now as those of us in the trenches know, prison rehabilitation programs for sex offenders, drug/alcohol abusers, whatever your particular problem is, are all good things. They help people become better people. Why would a rational thinking person object to that?
While the author admits that these type programs have had some success in educational settings, he claims that these programs can’t work for sex offenders because they lack empathy for their actions.
The author’s information purportedly comes from studies done by forensic researchers Drs. Daryl Kroner and Adelle Forth, and I’ll say right now that I plan to look up these folks to find out how old their information is and exactly what level sex offenders they’ve included in their study because it seems to contradict everything we know in 2017 about sex offenders and their low recidivism rates.
According to the Drs. and this will make those reading this just as furious as I was, “that about half of convicted sex offenders are skilled manipulators and incapable of feeling remorse or empathy regarding their victims.”
Where did they get do their research, I wonder?
Mr. Dolce makes several points regarding his concerns that in a restorative justice program setting, these “master manipulators” would fake remorse for their victims. His example is in that of a college assault setting where college administrators as well as a victim could be easily “fooled” by an alleged assailant’s remorse. He certainly isn’t giving much credit to the leaders of higher institutions of learning for being able to use basic common sense. Most people can discern “fake” remorse from “real” remorse, it’s not that difficult.
A second point Mr. Dolce seems to want people to believe is that sex offenders are no where near the same as habitual drunk drivers. He states that according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, some offenders drink before committing sexual assault specifically to later justify their behavior. Again, I’m interested in finding out where and when these people did their research. Some people just drink, especially on college campuses. They don’t set out to commit a sexual assault; they get drunk at a party, things happen, on both sides, it becomes “he said, she said” and someone goes to jail. It just doesn’t always happen the way Mr. Dolce would have us believe.
And the author’s third point seems to be that in school settings where restorative justice is used in situations that don’t involve actual contact physical assault, such as sexual harassment, that those who sexually harass may go on to physically assault at some later date.
Don’t you love those people who have crystal balls? They think they can predict what someone’s future holds!
Mr. Dolce makes this blanket statement, “I believe the majority of sex offenders are largely incapable of empathy and that two- thirds of male sex offenders will re-offend if they are not treated and restrained as criminals.” He goes on to say that most mental health and criminal justice professionals think that “sex-criminals” (I can’t believe he used that term) cannot be reformed. The only treatment for this type criminal is that they be monitored, controlled and contained. This is the 21st century Mr. Dolce, we just don’t do that anymore. I’ll spell it out for you, R-E-H-A-B-I-L-I-T-A-T-I-O-N.
Current studies show that many sex offenders respond very favorably to rehabilitative programs and that the recidivism rate amongst offenders is one of the lowest in the justice system.
I have met sex offenders who are truly remorseful and I didn’t need my 40 year mental health background to know genuine remorse when I saw it. People are people, they all make mistakes, some have remorse, some don’t; this isn’t exclusive to sex-offenders as Mr. Dolce would have us believe by reading his article.
Mr. Dolce names the law firm he works at in the article. Is that important as anything but an advertisement?
He makes this final “tear-jerking” comment regarding sex offenders for effect “these are people who look at the tears and agony on victims’ faces, show no mercy and then quickly move on to their next victim”.
Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, even Mr. Dolce.
But, as the saying goes, “Opinions are like (fill in the blank), everyone’s got one.” Some people should just keep them to themselves!