[Letters] Strong punishment is not the only answer

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[Letters] Strong punishment is not the only answer

Lately, heinous sex crimes have put Korean society into panic. While the authorities have announced various measures, systematic plans with long-term effects are hard to find. At this rate, it won’t be easy to discourage and control sex crimes. These crimes should be categorized according to their stage and risk and be handled accordingly.

Severe punishment, identity disclosure and electronic bracelets are effective on first- and second-time offenders. But recently, the punishments of sexual offenders have been gone from identity disclosure to electronic bracelet and now chemical castration. Some even suggest physical castration as a means to prevent future crimes. In the United States and Europe, where human rights are emphasized, sex criminals are punished severely. In contrast, Korea has been relatively generous to these offenders. More than half of sex criminals were released on probation. While the influence of alcohol should be a reason for harsher punishment, it was often used as grounds to reduce sentences.

However, strengthened punishments have limited effects, and the authorities need to evaluate the seriousness of crimes and the risk of repeated offenses. The risk and gravity assessment has been inefficient, and it should be a prerequisite in the legal process.

Chemical castration certainly is a measure to prevent further crimes by lowering the male hormone level of sex offenders with high risk of repeated crimes. However, it may not be enough to prevent sexual perversion. Chemical castration may be the ultimate medical treatment, but it should not be the core of sex crime prevention. Only a limited number of criminals will receive this punishment, so it is likely to have limited effect on sex crime prevention.

We often consider that most of the sex criminals are psychopaths and are different from average citizens. Of course, there are psychopaths who have no empathy for their victims and have little guilt over their crimes. They are not easily reformed, so extreme measures such as chemical castration or permanent isolation are effective.

But most of the sex offenders are not psychopaths but are at risk of committing more serious crimes. Providing proper preventative treatments will be very effective in reducing potential victims. That’s why psychological therapy is so important. Specialists should provide one-on-one counseling sessions to the offenders, and by letting them discuss their backgrounds and tendencies, therapists may be able to find the root of their problems. The criminals should understand themselves, share feelings with others and build personal relationship.

Canada has the lowest second-offense rate of sexual crimes in the world. Canada requires rehabilitation and psychological treatments for child sex offenders. If the offender refuses or gives up the treatment, he would be sent to a facility with tighter control. In most states in the United States, sex criminals are required to receive at least two years of rehab psychotherapy.

In order to prevent sex crimes, we need to systematically approach the issue from the primary level. The authorities need to make comprehensive plan to offer psychotherapy to modify sexual perversion, improve personal relationships and encourage mental stability and use chemical castration or other measures as a last resort.

by Kang Dong-woo Director of the Korea Institute for Sexual and Couples Health

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