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Battling Rape: Is Expanding Incarceration the Answer?

Friday Nov 18th, on Sex Crimes |

Penalties for sex crimes are some of the harshest in the criminal justice system. That being the case, it is crucial for accused individuals to consult with a New York sex crimes defense attorney as soon as you possible to discuss all potential legal options. Recently, however, there have been calls to toughen penalties in light of what some believe was a too-lenient sentence in a high-profile case.

While there is widespread public outrage over the sentence in question, making public policy based on a one-off incident may not be a wise approach. Toughening penalties for sex offenders could have many adverse consequences and may not be the best approach to actually fighting sex crimes. In fact, New York Magazine argues that longer terms of incarceration are not the right way to fight rape culture.

Why Tougher Sentences Aren't Effective at Fighting Rape Culture

The calls for stricter penalties for sex offenders originated out of a case involving a Stanford University student named Brock Turner who was convicted of a sex crime for sexual activities with an unconscious woman behind a dumpster after a fraternity party.

Although prosecutors wanted the student to be sentenced to six years, the judge indicated that such a sentence would have a “severe impact” with “collateral consequences.” Instead, Turner was sentenced to six months’ incarceration and was released after three months.

Not only did this result in an online petition calling for the recall of the judge, but it also led to California lawmakers passing a bill that mandates prison time for raping an unconscious or incapacitated victim.  While some touted this as a victory, the problem, as New York Magazine put it, is that imposing a new mandatory minimum sentence makes “our exceptionally punitive justice system even more draconian.”

Accepting the premise that rapists will be deterred by longer prison sentences means widespread acceptance of the mass incarceration that is already a major problem within the United States. The U.S. imprisons a larger portion of its population than any other developed country in the world and mandatory minimums, along with a general tendency towards lengthy prison sentences, are a big reason why this happens.

Penalties for offenses in the U.S. are much more draconian than they are elsewhere. While murderers routinely get life sentences for murder in the United States, similar sentences for murder are very rare in other countries. Penalties for sex offenses within the United States are also the most severe penalties within the entire developed world.

Sex offenders are the fastest growing segment of the prison population in the U.S., and imposing even harsher penalties is not the right answer... especially in light of the fact that it is public outcry and not sound public policy that often results in such harsh sentences. 

Unfortunately, things are unlikely to change any time soon within the overly-punitive U.S. justice system and those accused of sexually-based offenses should consult with a skilled sex crimes defense attorney as soon as possible to try to fight against being caught up in the harsh criminal justice system. Contact The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC right away.

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