McNeil Island - facility for dangerous sex offenders -- Oprah April 12 2010 -- response to a request by Sablirab
- Dangerous Sex Offenders Confined to an Island -- Oprah Show
On April 12, 2010, the Oprah show featured a documentary by Lisa Ling, who visited the controversial facility on McNeil Island, off the coast of Seattle's Puget Sound. Here is a link to information on this program.
- The rape of the innocents -- child sex abuse
For thirty years I worked in child protection. It became a driving force of my life. Today I share a small part of this experience.
You asked for my opinion
First: a basket full of qualifiers
This hub is in response to a request for my opinion on the recent Oprah show, Dangerous Sex Offenders Confined on an Island. I am honored to be asked, but as many of you may know my thirty-year history as an outreach worker, a first-responder for abused children has colored my views. I am not the most unbiased of people when it comes to this issue.
I have little patience while listening to those who say treatment is the answer for the predatory child molester, that we live in an age of grace and should believe people can change. I say too bad, too little, too late and these monsters are not entitled to that second chance. The dangerous predatory sex offender who targets the innocent and helpless child is, in my mind, subhuman. There are some crimes for which I find forgiveness impossible, and if that makes me less of a human being in the eyes of those committed to universal brotherly love and compassion, then I’ll await God’s judgment on the question.
Allow me to be even more specific. Spend a few moments in the highlights of my experience before you argue my compassion should encompass these self-centered, conscienceless, self-important and sick-minded individuals, those who believe their orgasm is more important than another’s life. Have you ever held the hand of a three-year-old undergoing a pelvic exam, where the doctors find her tiny vagina so badly torn, her undeveloped cervix so mashed, her uterus so damaged that reconstructive surgery is planned in stages, over the course of years? Have you ever seen a video of two men holding down an eighteen-month girl while they insert a number of objects into her vagina, and known that law-enforcement cannot name or find the child? What words of comfort would you offer to an eleven year old girl raped over a thousand times in a year and a half, rescued from a child molesting pimp who advertised her on Craigslist, or negotiated her rental in chartrooms? How about listening to the audio version only of a video made of the rape/torture of a thirteen year old, because the video portion is deemed too shocking to present as evidence? Would you like to work with a fourteen year old girl, helping her get ready to testify in court against her own father who beat, raped, and sodomized her for six long years? Do you feel like vomiting yet?
So, with that understanding in mind, let’s move on to fulfillment of this request.
- Incarceration, castration or execution -- attempts to control the dangerous, violent sex offender
Society looks at ways to control sex offenders, and finds no real workable answers, as recent events prove. A front line worker in the child protection field writes about the problem.
What do I think of this documentary?
First, let me explain I did not watch this show. I rarely watch Oprah, or Dr. Phil or any shows of their ilk who purport to educate society and expose social ills. Trust me, they do not come close. Nor do I watch those dramas exploiting society’s prurient interest in these subjects like Law and Order, SVU – a show so divorced from reality it is ridiculous. In fact, I’ll go further – if I know a program is about child sex abuse, I avoid it. I don’t need my consciousness raised on this subject.
When I received this request, I went online and carefully read the write up of the documentary, and then searched for responses, and read many of the comments made by viewers.
That facility in question, McNeil Island is not a prison – officially -- but a mental health facility for Level 3 sex offenders.
We need to look at two definitions here:
- Level 3 offenders: In the United States, each state has its own criminal code and classification of offenders, (unlike Canada for example, where criminal laws are federal and the same across the nation) so this example taken from one state may vary in some slight matters from state to state but is unlikely to differ in any major issues:
Level 1 - These offenders present the lowest possible risk to the community and their likelihood to re-offend is considered minimal. They normally have not exhibited predatory type characteristics and most have successfully participated or are participating in approved treatment programs. Many are first time offenders.
Level 2 - These offenders present a moderate risk to the community and they have a higher likelihood of re-offending than the Level 1 offenders. They are considered a higher risk to re-offend, because of the nature of their previous crime(s) and lifestyle (drug and alcohol abuse and other criminal activity). Some have refused to participate or failed to complete approved treatment programs.
Level 3 - These offenders pose a potential high risk to the community and are a threat to re-offend if provided the opportunity. Most have prior sex crime convictions as well as other criminal convictions. Their lifestyles and choices place them in this classification. Some have predatory characteristics and may seek out victims. They may have refused or failed to complete approved treatment programs.
- Prison versus Mental Health facility While in practice the line between the two may seem blurred, and even legally, with the advent of the controversial civil commitment following prison terms, the distinction may seem moot, prison is meant as a punishment and the McNeil Island facility as a “treatment center.”
Those interred on McNeil island have served out their prison sentence, but authorities consider them too dangerous to allow these offenders to return to society. Therefore, they are civilly committed to a ‘mental health facility’ which is to all intents and purposes, a prison of a nicer nature.
Legally – there are those who view this as a violation of the offender’s civil rights – the offender has served his prison sentence and further incarceration is illegal.
Morally – there are those who believe the offenders are victims themselves of some form of mental illness, that their lack of moral inhibitions or control of their impulses is not their fault, but the result of a ‘disease.’ Therefore we owe to them to try and ‘cure’ them, or should that prove impossible, place them in a highly supervised and controlled environment.
Ms. Ling states, “I believe the only way to be able to treat this issue is if we understand the behavior.”
- 52 children recovered, 60 alleged child pimps arrested in crackdown -- but have you heard about it?
Today the FBI announced 52 children recovered during a crack down on the child sex slave industry, according to CNN's computer streaming healines on line. Did any of you hear about it? And why not?
What is my opinion? – that is what I’m asked for here.
There is no power on heaven or earth can move me to feel
pity, sympathy, empathy or compassion for a sexual offender who targets
helpless and innocent children, using them as a utensil to gratify their twisted libidos.
Further, I can find no inkling of consideration for the violent predator who
stalks, rapes, tortures or kills a victim of any age to satisfy their lust for rage,
power, blood or distorted sexuality, and even less concern for the welfare of
those who enslave and exploit others for profit in the bustling sex slave trade.
As far as I am concerned, they may be consigned to the
tender mercies of hell, and we have no need to keep them comfortable while we
wait for them to get there. In fact, perhaps we should help them on their way.
Florida has the right idea. In this state, anyone found guilty of sexual battery of a victim younger than twelve gets an automatic life sentence with no possibility of parole – thus rendering the problem of what to do with these human beasts when they’ve served their sentence a non-issue.
Have I stated my personal opinion clearly enough?
And may God forgive me for my inability to extend that compassion. I must leave that up to Him.
Places for those wanting more information
- Psych Central: Abuse: Childhood Sexual Abuse
Where to go for help, articles about child sex abuse and the lifelong effects of such, and how to become a child advocate.
- Child Abuse Research and Statistics
Some of the best articles on child sex abuse to be found anywhere. One caution -- statistics given are on known and substantiated cases only -- which represents only the tip of the iceberg.
- RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network | RAINN: The nation\'s largest anti-sexual assault o
RAINN -- Rape, Abuse and Incest -- National Network, funded in part by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice programs.
About McNeil Island
I read in this article that while confined to the island, residents roam the 5 acre “campus” freely, but are required to follow the rules: No sex with other inmates. Phone calls and internet use are strictly monitored. No magazines or catalogues – anything with images of children that may allow residents to “Tear out the pictures of the little kids in their underwear and use them for deviant fantasies.”-- Kelly Cunningham, superintendent of the facility.
Those residents (not inmates) who enter the sexual predator treatment program, attend therapy sessions and meet with counselors, will be re-evaluated and may have the option of leaving the facility. So far, since 1990 four residents have left unconditionally and sixteen under the condition of supervision. (See my hub, Incarceration, Castration, Execution (linked to the upper right) for details on supervision of sex offenders and see how comforted you feel.)
What truly strikes my thoughts is this: the facility cost $60 million to build and each resident costs the taxpayer $165,000 per year to maintain in this facility.
And how much of this nation’s budget goes to pay for counseling, medical treatment or other aid to their victims?
"I guess I want to live in a world where we believe in grace and [believe] people can change. Knowing that treatment can work for sex offenders is one way of living that." Dr. Carey Sturgeon --clinical director for McNeil Island's special treatment program
For those who believe predatory sex offenders are helpless before their own urges, victims of an illness, I suppose Dr. Sturgeon’s words offer comfort.
For those of us who work with the victims, whose personal experience is with the horrendous suffering these criminals have caused, and whose exposure to the perpetrators found them refusing to take responsibility for their actions, unrepentant of the damage they’ve done to an innocent, and full of self-pity, such statements only fuel our inner feelings of rage. This expensive facility built to house these people who have committed terrible crimes against the weakest, most helpless in our society while we work with the victims for low-pay to no-pay and have to beg, scrounge and apply to every charity out there to fund our programs for the survivors, is a slap in the face, a farce, as though society taunts us with strange priorities.
"If you are able to get off this island, do you think you'll ever be able to be around children?" – Lisa Ling asks one resident.
"Realistically? Probably not. Not in the sense of having interpersonal relationships. I never offended against my children. They're adults now. But to be around say, my grandkids? No. My nephews? Nieces? No. No. That's not an option, and that's a tough one to take." -- Brent, a man who has multiple convictions against both boys and girls.
What some viewers have to say:
Here are some responses to this program from various sites.
"I am a past employee who worked at the Special Commitment Center, here in Washington state. I know what goes on in that place and i was very disgusted with these people. They got the very best treatment, as though, they were deserving. They got computers, tv's in their rooms, special ordered meals, always suing somebody/state for something and most of the time they would win. I hated at times to have conversations with them, cause they showed no remorse for what they did and felt the people they committed crime against, they asked for it. In my mind and by working with these people, it is a sickness/disease. I see no way they can be rehabilitated. This is why they are called predators, they search out their prey, then strick quickly. Recently, about 20 of them have gone back into the prison system for possessing children porno on their computers. Some of those guys, i knew them and was not surprised. that so called couselling they get, it is a joke. I resigned there a few years ago, due to lots of things going on. these predators also have a way to reel in staff, to make them do things for them. Some staff brought in cell phones to them, drugs, you name it. a lot of staff have been fired due to falling prey to them. I feel castration should come into play for these people. It is getting so bad now, that our children can not grow up without them killing them or molesting them."
"I want to comment on the show concerning the treatment center on the island for sexual offenders. I think that even the doctors there are completely ignorant!!! As long as those people are breathing and have a brain in their scull they will always reoffend!!! How can anyone think that they can rehabilitate these people? It starts with something as simple as a thought in their head and then feeding on that thought. I don't agree with taxpayers money being used for this, but I do wish there were more of these places to get these people out of society and away from children. I am not meaning to sound so harsh, but I believe we need to be much more aware of this happening in this world and fight back with a vengeance to protect our children."
"I watched for the second time and just like the first time i had to turn off my TV and walk away upset due to the thought of the details given on your show today! ( The Most Dengerous child Sex Offenders In America) I mean it is great that you are trying to make parents aware and giving an eyeopener of awareness on sex offenders that live all around us. ( family, friend, and foe) BUT!!! To interview a sex offender and let them in detail descride what they do or did to a child on TV is really SICK!!!! ( Lets not think about the victoms out there and how they get to relive there pain and for some there shame every time you do an interview) I mean don't you think that all those other offenders who haven't been caught and even thoses in prison and jail who watch your show are( and excuse me for this) getting off on hearing what these other offenders are saying in detail on your show, on live TV that is broadcasted all around the world!!!! Tisk! Tisk! Oprah, don't let the ratings of this show fool you! Who do you really think is watching TV and making your ratings go up on a topic like this! I think you have lost sight of the message and meaning your tring to send out to parents...... It's supposed to be an awareness not a how too!!!"
"I appreciate this issue being covered [yet again] by Oprah. Speaking from a victim/survivor standpoint, I believe it needs to be common-talk in every household if we are ever to end this epidemic of childhood sexual abuse. My father, who was also my childhood molester, moved to a small ocean-side village in Mexico so he could live his last years molesting the innocent village children. When I received word he had died, therefore finally knew where he'd been hiding out, I was not surprised to learn that his trailer was always filled with children, and often the mothers, aunts or caretakers of his victims who would be compensated with clothes, food and money. It took the help of the Department of Homeland Security to retrieve his computer hard drives from this remote island village, and to transport them to the U.S. for forensic investigation. The non-contraband files were sent to me on disk, and through them I learned that my father had been a very busy molester, yet managed to find the time to cross into the U.S. to undergo penile implant surgery. The lengths these predators will go to is astounding. We all need to know and remember this."
"It is amazing to me that taxpayers pay for luxury living for abusers, when elderly people who have never abused have horrid living conditions."
A few more thoughts
I want it known my remarks are directed at dangerous, predatory, violent offenders and those guilty of child molestation and is not intended to apply to all who deservedly or undeservedly bear the label of sex offender due to a mistake in judgment, or through a lure and arrest program. I have recently been made aware of the injustices incurred by many caught up in our zealous attempts to combat this evil.
I'd like to re-iterate one more time the true extent of child sex abuse. Official statistics can only portray known and substantiated cases. World wide child protection workers estimate the incidence of sex crimes against children as 7 out of 10 girls and 4 out of 10 boys under the age of sixteen.
I hope I have adequately filled this request.
More by this Author
For thirty years I worked in child protection. It became a driving force of my life. Today I share a small part of this experience.
Society looks at ways to control sex offenders, and finds not real workable answers, as recent events prove. A front line worker in the child protection field writes about the problem.
Recently a New York Times editor asked if it was a reporter's job to challenge dubious assertions made by newsmakers they write about. You mean they don't already? Eegads -- silly man, the answer is YES.