Every two and a half minutes, a sexual predator steals a person's innocence. Whether they are rapists, assaulters or child molesters, sex offenders are ruining the lives of others, and although their crimes are among the most horrific and traumatic known to man, the punishment they receive is nowhere near as severe as it should be.
Just recently, a Vermont judge sentenced a sex offender to a mere 60 days in jail. Mind you, this was not a case of indecent exposure or some less horrendous offense; the convicted man confessed to raping a girl repeatedly for four years, starting when she was only 6 years old.
While this sentence has outraged people across the country, and rightfully so, another facet of the case slipped through the cracks: The prosecutors were asking for a contemptible eight-year minimum sentence.
That's it - eight years in jail for tearing away an innocent girl's emotional life. These offenders are killing people emotionally, and by not treating these crimes with appropriate severity, the justice system is propagating the problem.
At this juncture, harsh mandatory sentencing for sex crimes must be implemented to protect the innocent in our society.
Whether their sentences are 60 days or 20 years, sex offenders are not punished enough for their crimes. Granted, eight years in lockdown, with no freedom, is a tough sentence. However, it hardly stacks up to the emotional prison in which victims may remain for the rest of their lives.
The justice system fairly punishes murder with life in prison - a life for a life, so to speak.
By the same token, sex offenders should be punished far more harshly. Even if the Vermont offender had been sentenced to the maximum of 20 years, the child he raped would likely still be emotionally devastated upon his release, as sex crimes take a lifetime to cope with.
Washington state provides a shining example of a justice system moving in the morally right direction. Its two-strike rule sentences any two-time child molester to life in prison without the possibility of parole, effectively removing the variable of a weak-handed judge.
The effects of a sexual crime are psychologically powerful; according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, victims of sexual assault are three times more likely than the average person to suffer from depression, four times more likely to contemplate suicide, and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
The effects of being violated can irrevocably affect victims' future lives by destroying their trust in society, warping their views of sexual and emotional boundaries or simply blunting their emotions. How does the legal system punish the depraved ravaging of innocent victims, the majority of whom are younger than 13? In most cases, with weak sentencing, pathetic counseling and worthless probation measures.
According to the Department of Justice, more than 234,000 convicted sex offenders are under governmental control in the U.S. every day. The major problem is that 60 percent of them - or about 140,000 convicted sex offenders - are on probation or parole in the community.
The department also admits that sex offenders rarely "grow out" of their crimes and continue to re-offend unless closely monitored. A look at the justice system, with its overloaded courts and probation officers, shows that it does not have the resources to closely monitor anyone. The country is littered with people who have already been convicted of sexually defiling another person, have been to prison for a pitiful stretch, and have been released even though there is a good chance they will strike again.
The sentences laid upon sex offenders bring shame to the judicial system. In the interest of moral clarity, it is time to raise the issue of harsh mandatory sentencing for sex crimes around the nation. The duty of the government, whether state or federal, is to protect its citizens from harm, and it is time for it to fulfill its charge.
Mike Morefield is a political science senior. He can be reached at email@example.com