Perhaps no crime inspires more revulsion and disgust than sexual predation, especially of children. Laws have rightly been passed in various places across the nation with the aim of protecting children from molesters.
San Diego voters overwhelmingly passed a law in 2006 requiring registered sex offenders to live at least 2,000 feet from schools and parks or other places where children congregate.
Most of us probably agree with this law. But in “Untouchable,” filmmaker David Feige – using judiciously chosen interviews with victims and offenders – delves deeper than the public’s disgust and desire for protection, into questions of whether these and other well-intentioned laws, in fact, victimize the victimizers by creating a population both homeless and unemployable.
If your response is “So what?” – and especially if your child has been a victim – please keep reading.
Ron Book, a Florida attorney, and lobbyist breaks down in tears as he recounts the time he who discovered that his daughter Lauren was molested for years by her longtime nanny. Book and his now-adult daughter took it upon themselves to get the state legislature to pass restrictive legislation against sex offenders.
“These people need to be put away until they’re too old to walk,” Book says.
Florida now has a 50-year minimum sentence for sexual predators.
But just as the viewer wants to nod in agreement, Feige introduces Shawna Baldwin, a young woman tossed out of her home as a teen by a puritanical mother. She went to stay with a friend in Arizona and her brother. One night, after they partied and drank and a bit, Baldwin had sex with the brother.
Because the boy was underage, Baldwin was charged with statutory rape and is now permanently on the registry of sex offenders. She has been fired from several jobs. It is difficult for her to move. And it prevents her from taking her own young children to local parks and zoos.
Judy Cornett, a working-class mother, started Predator Patrol in response to her son’s son abduction and rape. Her goal is to warn parents when a registered sex offender is in the neighborhood. “I don’t want ’em in my neighborhood,” she says. “Do you want ’em in yours?”
Statistics show that most sex offenders are released. The public fear, of course, is recidivism.
But despite a groundless article in a 1994 issue of “Psychology Today” which claimed that the recidivism rate is 80%, the Department of Justice reports the rate as 5% or less.
There are more than 750,000 sex offenders on the registry, and it’s hard to argue anything other than that one sex crime is one too many. But it’s equally difficult to maintain that the penal system we have is working, at least in terms of preventing sexual abuse, or in rehabilitation.
“We’ve created an endless punishment machine,” says one interviewee.
“Untouchable” is a difficult film, but one every citizen should see and discuss with friends and neighbors.
“Untouchable” will premiere on VOD, Tuesday, January 15.