Parole ineffective for sex offender

September 14, 2009 — by Robin Liu

The recent case of Jaycee Dugard has sparked alarm among parents of young children. Phillip Garrido, convicted of kidnapping Dugard and keeping her hostage for 18 years, was already a registered sex offender in the 1970s.

Garrido first kidnapped and raped a woman in 1976, but before he finished his jail term, he was released on parole. A few years after in 1991, Garrido struck again by taking Dugard off the streets. Parole officers should have been able to find Dugard during their monthly visits, and the fact that it took so long to arrest someone under such close supervision is frightening.

Parole officers had made regular visits, some unannounced, to Garrido’s home in Antioch. However, Dugard and her children were never discovered in the complicated arrangement of tents and sheds in the backyard. If authorities had searched more carefully, the case could have been closed much sooner.

In addition, Garrido allowed Dugard to work with him and even interact with neighbors, but few noticed anything out of the ordinary. Those who knew Garrido to be a sex offender kept their distance, shying away from reporting their suspicions. People are, oftentimes, much too oblivious and self-absorbed, thus standing by while atrocious criminals like Garrido roam the streets.

In the Dugard case, there were too many places where officials had gone wrong. Sex offenders like Garrido should never be released from prison in the first place. Once a criminal shows what physical and psychological damage he is capable of committing, it should never be assumed that he has learned his lesson after a brief jail term.

In addition, many offenders do not have adequate supervision. Offenders placed on parole should not be able to get away with holding a victim captive if authorities make monthly visits to their homes. Knowing Garrido’s history, officers should have known to keep him under close watch. Their failure to do so reveals the insufficient surveillance over sex offenders.

Although jails in California are overcrowded, it is better to have sex offenders in prison than have them out on the streets. Even if they are released on parole, authorities should keep a close eye on offenders in order to prevent any kidnappings. When people like Garrido are managed more carefully, many children can be saved from the hell that Dugard went through.