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Monday, Feb. 28, 2011

EDITORIAL

Tracking former sex offenders

A proposal by Gov. Yoshihiro Murai of Miyagi Prefecture to attach Global Positioning System devices to ex-convicts of sex crimes and people prone to committing domestic violence has given rise to renewed discussions of how to prevent sex-crime recidivism.

According to the Justice Ministry's white book on crimes for 2010, the recidivism rate for rape is "high" at 38.5 percent (compared with 39.1 percent for robbery, 26.1 percent for arson and 17.2 percent for murder).

In June 2005, a system was introduced in which the Justice Ministry provides police with information on planned release dates and future addresses of people who have just completed prison terms for sex crimes such as rape and indecent sexual assaults on children younger than 13 years old.

Through five years after the system started, 740 people were targeted. But the system lost track of 200, or 27 percent. It was also found that 167 of the same 740 became targets of new criminal investigations, and that 43 repeated sex crimes against children.

To rectify the situation, the police plan to start a system in April in which police officers will regularly interview some of those covered by the information provision system — those younger than 50 years old who have repeated sex crimes or have been known to stalk or approach possible victims. The problem is that ex-convicts may not agree to be interviewed.

The main feature of Gov. Murai's Jan. 22 proposal is the attachment of GPS devices to people who have completed prison terms for such crimes as rape and indecent sexual assaults as well as those whom courts ordered not to go near designated persons because of a history of domestic violence. But this could constitute double punishment of ex-convicts as well as cause human rights problems.

Exclusion of ex-convicts, however, may lead to their repeating crimes. Consideration should be given to helping them secure their own places in society. Local governments, communities and nongovernmental organizations should cooperate in helping to make sure that they are not isolated from society.



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