Guest Post: Incarceration beyond sentence for habitual sex offenders – deeply problematic but necessary

A guest post by David Garrett:

The case of Stuart Murray Wilson – the so called “beast of Bleheim” – has prompted the National led government to finally grasp  one of the most difficult of legal nettles. Our entire judicial system is based on “do the crime, do the time”, and no imprisonment for what one  might do in the future. But what do we do with individuals like Wilson or Lloyd MacIntosh – habitual sex offenders who everyone, including experts retained on their behalf,  agrees will – not might – inevitably reoffend on release?

The problem is not new, and unless or until medical science advances significantly, habitual sex offenders who constitute a serious risk – regardless of advanced age – will always be with us.

Stanley McKissock Reid committed sex offences including   in the 1920’s, and served a lengthy term of imprisonment. Despite his file being marked “Never to be released”, he was, and Reid then  raped and killed Lila Hammond in 1944. But for an accident of history – a temporary moratorium on capital punishment – Reid would have been hanged and forgotten.

During his time in jail, there were several attempts to “rehabilitate” Reid, including work placements at Burnham Army Camp near Christchurch. Whenever he was around women, Reid could not stop himself from sexually assaulting them, so he stayed in jail. By the 1980’s Reid was in his 80’s, and there was considerable agitation from well meaning do-gooders to let “poor old Stan” live the remainder of his life in the community.

Reid was released from jail in the mid 1980’s aged 83. He was sent to live with a community of nuns, where, about six weeks after his release, he tried to one of them. Fortunately the nun was able to overpower him. Showing considerably more insight than the do-gooders,  Reid told her that he  had “always been a bad bastard”.

The oldest prisoner in jail in New Zealand is an 85 year old paedophile held   in maximum security at Auckland prison. He is still considered to be a serious risk to children, and is unlikely to ever be released. The authorities can hold him indefinitely because he is serving a life sentence.

Lloyd McIntosh, a habitual paedophile who is described as “New Zealand’s most dangerous sex offender”,  is much more problematic. McIntosh was sentenced to ten years in 1993 for sexually assaulting a nine month old baby. He served the full sentence, and shortly after his release in 2003, sexually assaulted and raped a two year old boy.  Although he had been offending since he was a child, the authorities then finally woke up to the reality that in McIntosh, they had an offender who was almost without parallel.

In 2005, McIntosh became the first person to be subject to a ten year supervision order. Initially, by agreement, he lived in a house within the grounds of Rolleston prison, but the following year he was allowed to leave the prison grounds  subject to electronic monitoring and close supervision. Given the consensus among “the experts”  that he will never  be less than a serious risk, it is somewhat remarkable that he has not reoffended since 2006 – or at least he has not been caught. From 2015, McIntosh will be free of all constraints, and given his history, it can then only be a matter of time before he reoffends.

So what can and should we do with people like Wilson and McIntosh, or the ten or a dozen similar offenders identified by the authorities? As in most matters penal, the States grasped this particularly difficult nettle ten or twenty years ago, with laws requiring notification of communities into which habitual sex offenders are released, and for the worst of the worst, pre-emptive incarceration.

Coalinga state prison is a unique institution designed for those designated “Sexually Violent Predators –  offenders who the state has determined are simply too dangerous to  be released after completing their prison sentences. They constitute perhaps 2% of incarcerated sex offenders. Given the very small number of offenders such as McIntosh and Wilson identified here in New Zealand, the percentage is likely to be similar in this country.

Inmates at Coalinga have considerably more that at a normal prison. They are allowed to move around the prison concourse freely. There is a “mall” with shops, such as a barbershop, a grill, and a canteen. Those prisoners who wish to can participate in various psychological therapy programmes. Significantly, the majority of inmates refuse to undertake any treatment. They do not think there is anything wrong with them. Those inmates have effectively selected themselves as members of the category of prisoners who will never be released.

To be fair, neither will most of the rest, treatment or no treatment.  The Americans at least have accepted that there is a small but highly dangerous category of sex offender who will always be too much of a danger to society, no matter what “treatment” they undergo. It seems that the National led government – probably at the instigation of Justice Minister Collins – has at last woken up to the same realization.

There are of course numerous good philosophical and moral reasons not  to lock people up for what they might or –  even  definitely will  – do in the future. No doubt we will hear many of those arguments in comments on this post.  But for me, the issue is relatively straightforward. Once an offender  has been conclusively identified as a person who will never be safe around the vulnerable – particularly children –  their “rights” very much take second place to the rights of children to play,  or even  to sleep,  without a Lloyd McIntosh waiting for his chance to grab them and  commit unspeakable crimes.

Some very interesting history there from NZ’s past, and also on what happens in the US.

Andrew Geddis at Pundit has posted on the issue also, detailing some of the issues involved.

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