Preying on children: Let punishments fit the crimes

Here we go again Ö unfortunately. Although the official police report concerning the abduction and subsequent murder of Sarasota, Fla., sixth-grader Carlie Brucia does not indicate exactly how she was murdered or if she was raped, it is safe to assume her last minutes on Earth were tortuous at best. Her kidnapper, 13-time loser Joseph Smith, was quickly apprehended because the car wash security camera captured a dozen haunting seconds of him leading Brucia away by the arm. What followed is not difficult to imagine, though it is extremely difficult to comprehend.

Yesterday, Sen. Leo Foley, DFL-Coon Rapids, presented a proposal to increase prison terms for predatory sex offenders to a maximum of 60 years on a first conviction and life (with the possibility of parole) for a second offense. Foley has the right idea, but the House Republicans have an even better one: sentencing the most heinous sex offenders to life without parole. That maximum life sentence is currently imposed only against qualified first-degree murderers.

My idea, however, is the best one of all: Any sexually motivated crime against a child should be met with life in prison among the general inmate population (no special protection from those who feed on child molesters and murderers), no parole, no mail, no TV, no books, no posters, no magazines, no music, no pillow, no blanket, no toilet paper, no cigarettes, no soap, no rope, no visits, no conversations, no human contact (outside the formerly mentioned inmates), no newspapers, no interviews, no photographs, no longer a factor. Gone. Away. Them from us, and us from them until they die anonymously.

You might be thinking this is simply my bimonthly knee-jerk reaction to the latest tragedy perpetrated by an adult against a child. Not satisfied with simply feeling bad and supporting new legislation, I indulge myself in ranting and raving a bit in print with ludicrous sentencing ideas no one would ever really take seriously. If that is what you are thinking, you might be right except for one thing: I take it seriously.

It is time to absolutely squash individuals who prey on children. With a horrendous penalty for undisputed sexual or extremely violent crimes against children, we can send a message to all the “I-can’t-help-myselfs” roaming the baseball fields, malls, playgrounds, parking lots and celebrity ranches out there: If you don’t take one for the human team and end your own life, what remains of it will be less than adequate.

Brucia’s murder and possible sexual assault is not the only hot poker jamming my backside on this issue. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children announced Friday that messages sent to its CyberTipline increased 750 percent over the last five years. One reason might be a greater use of the Internet in general, but the center’s leadership feels there are also increases in cases of child pornography, child prostitution, online enticement of children, online child pornography and the growing child sex tourism “industry” in countries around the world.

If pedophiles and other losers feel the benefits of their actions outweigh the relatively soft punitive costs, this trend will only increase as access to avenues of exploitation grows.

While the type of punishment I have suggested for the most heinous crimes against children might sound absurd, the concept that millions of adults worldwide prey on the inherent weakness of childhood borders on the surreal. Our national mission to eradicate global terrorism should serve only as a precedent to see if we can tackle the elimination of a much more pervasive and serious set of crimes publicized too infrequently and too often.

Aaron North welcomes comments at [email protected]