Sex Paper Essay, Research Paper
The Criminal Justice System
How It Deals With Sex Offenders
Better that many guilty shall go free rather than one innocent should suffer. John
Adams (Biskup 1993).
The entire criminal justice system is built around John Adam s philosophy about a
criminal s rights. While our system is protecting the rights of the accused, the victim is often
deprived of his/her rights. Although the United States has the most fair and just justice system in
the world, sex offense cases create serious and substantial problems for the system. There are
three continual problems for the system: Making an arrest, establishing evidence for the case after
an arrest has been made, and often the punishment received does not fit the crime committed.
Every person accused of a criminal offense must go through the criminal justice system, but in sex
offense cases, the system often does not effectively punish the guilty.
The criminal justice system deals with all types of crimes ranging from assault to
trespassing to murder. The system begins when an arrest has been made and ends with parole and
discharge from sentence. After an arrest, the suspect must go through the court system. After a
conviction or a guilty plea, a sentence is given to the criminal. There are four types of sentencing,
but the decision is usually a choice between probation and prison time, depending on the severity
of the crime committed. The court may also give the death penalty or distribute fines for the
crime. Because the criminal justice system begins with an arrest, and it is very difficult to make an
arrest in a sex offense case, many sex crimes do not even make it into the system.
Getting an arrest in a sex offense case is difficult for two reasons: Women are often afraid
to come forward to the police for fear of a repeated sex crime, and when they do come forward it
is very difficult to identify the criminal because they are usually disguised when they committed
the crime. Women are often looked at as being flirts and teases, and because of this some people
believe that the women get what they ask for when they sexually assaulted. In these cases women
feel like it is their fault and will not come forward to the police. In sexual harassment cases,
without videos or tape recordings, it becomes the victim s word against the defendant s word.
Both men and women, but typically women, have learned to cope and deal with sexual harassment
without suing or even reporting it. Sexual harassment is a serious problem focused mainly in a
work place that is generally being controlled by men (Marks 1999). According to a former sheriff
deputy, Filing suit is a last resort because it can either end your career or make you life
intolerable (Marks 1999).
As difficult as it may be to prove sexual harassment, it is just as difficult to deal with child
molestation and rape cases. It is very painful for the victim to come forward and face what they
had to go through. In most cases, the vicim just wants to put the situation as far back in their
minds as they can, and try not to think about it at all. It was reported that four in ten victims of
rape were under the age of twelve. And in 90% of those cases the offender knew the child in
some way (no author 1999). One out of three girls and one out of seven boys, are sexually
abused by the age of eighteen. When you were abused, your boundaries, your right to say no,
your sense of control in the worlds, were violated. You were powerless. The abuse humiliated
you, gave you the message you were of little value (Bass & Davis 1988). It is very hard for
young children to tell on a family member or a family friend. All of these reasons make it
extremely difficult to arrest an accused sex offender, and even if the accused is identified and
arrested, the evidence is often not enough to get a conviction.
Another disturbing fact about child abuse cases is that there are over 700,000 false
reports of child abuse in America each year. False abuse allegations have become, arguably, the
most popular tactic in divorce cases today (Hechler 1988). That is just another deterrent for the
justice system to have to sift through to determine the guilt or innocence of people in the courts of
Obtaining a conviction is the most difficult aspect in the trying of a sex offense case.
Women, the majority of the sex offense victims, are very afraid of it happening again, and some
are ashamed that it even happened in the first place. This makes it very difficult for women to
come forward and tell their story. Even if the woman has the courage and support to come
forward, her case has a significant chance to not even make it to trial because of the plea
Plea bargaining is the way most sex offense cases are dealt with (Robin 1984). Plea
bargaining allows state misdemeanor and felony counts to control overcrowded dockets, to
reduce court backlog, to provide speedy justice, to avoid having decisions questioned by appeals,
and to save the taxpayers money (Robin 1984). This is done by reducing the punishment and
settling out of court. Plea bargaining in sex offense cases is used to prevent the victim from the
embarrassment of having to testify and to help the healing process (Robin 1984). But all it really
does is allow the criminal to get away with serving little or no time in prison. The system acts in
the best interest of the prosecutor, the court, and the accused, but does not consider the victim.
The victim cannot sit in on the plea bargain, and has no say or affect on the sentence (Biskup
1993). Sex offenders can plead guilty to a lesser crime and get a reduced sentence.
Establishing evidence in a sex offense case is always a difficult task. The woman s word is
never enough to get a conviction. Sometimes they do not even get a chance to testify. A trial is
not to discover the truth, but to provide the prosecution with evidence to convince the jury that
the accused is guilty of the crime (Biskup 1993). In this part of the justice system witnesses are
presented and questioned. This is another reason why sex offense cases are so difficult because
there is usually only two witnesses: the victim and the accused. Another reason why establishing
evidence is such a problem is that the women usually wait a few days before they report the crime.
This is due to the trauma the woman is going through. One of the main ways to determine who
committed the crime is through DNA. DNA can only be detected in someone s body for a couple
of hours, and if the woman waits even one day, it is almost impossible to trace the DNA to the
offender. What if the offender uses a condom? That makes it nearly hopeless to find the
Many women that are victims of sexual assaults don t even report it to the police at all,
but they call hot lines and tell their stories over the phone. If a woman does decide to go to the
police, she must also be able to afford a lawyer, and that is often another reason why women do
not go to the police. A non-profit organization in Washington D.C. has provided help to 270,000
victims of sexual assaults. The organization averages about 6,000 calls a month (Bell 1999).
Rape cases are classified in the same category as murder, but that is where the similarities
between the two crimes ends. Even though a convicted murderer will receive 25 years to life with
no chance of parole, a convicted rapist generally faces only five to ten years in prison. In some
rape cases, the criminal may be able to agree to treatment as a sentence and not serve any jail time
at all. Rape and sexual assault are the only crimes that offer treatment as a means for punishment.
The House Bill 1091 is an attempt to eliminate community treatment as a sentence option for sex
offenders (no author 1999). Punishment for sex offenders does not seem to be severe enough.
Many sex offenders get off with a slap on the wrist so to speak, and that is very difficult for the
victim to cope with. If the justice system was tougher on sex offenders, the number of sexual
assaults would be significantly decreased.
Another reason it is so easy to get a conviction in a rape case is because many people view
rape as a sickness not a crime. Because rape does not take the life of the victim, it is not treated
like other felonies (Robin 1984). A rape case in Georgia in 1977 is a good example. A man
named Coker had been convicted of rape three times and was finally sent to jail after the third
conviction. But he did not stay there long. He escaped from prison shortly after being sent there
and raped a sixteen year-old mother and took her hostage. He ended up killing the young woman
and was finally given the death penalty (Robin1984). It took Coker killing a person before the
system took him out of society for good. Why should it take the death of an innocent person
before the justice system makes sure a man like Coker cannot commit another crime again?
Legislation has done its part by giving victims more rights in rape cases, but it has not
really helped because the justice system is not enforcing it. In 1982, California bypassed the
legislative process and enacted Proposition 8, the Victim s Bill of Rights. This proposition was
designed to take control away from the professionals and limit the plea bargaining process. It
allowed the victim to attend all sentencing proceedings, and to express their view on the crime.
But in many cases the victims do not understand their rights and they do not exercise them. The
few victims that understand their rights have found that exercising them does not have a whole lot
of impact on the court s decision (Biskup 1993).
In some cases, justice is being served, and as time goes on it is getting better. Sex offense
cases should be viewed like all other felonies and be dealt with in the same fashion as a felony.
Rape is a form of torture and should be treated that way. Plea bargaining should be kept to a
minimum, and the courts should allow the victims to testify at all proceedings, not just the trial.
The victims would have a tremendous impact on the jury, but because they are not given the
chance to, they feel helpless and justice is not served. Victims of rape would be much more
willing to come forward and press charges if the system was tougher on the offender. I have three
very good friends who have been raped, and two of them never testified. The rapist is still out on
the streets and that scares them more than anything. The justice system is getting better, but it
still has a long road ahead in dealing with sex offense cases.
The United States criminal justice system has followed John Adam s view on dealing with
criminals. Because it is so difficult to make an arrest, establishing enough evidence to get a
conviction is nearly impossible, and the punishments for sexual crimes are not very intimidating,
cases of sexual harassment and rape go unreported every day. In order to stop these terrible and
heinous crimes, the laws dealing with sex offenders must be tightened and more severe. A
woman s word is not enough, but it should be much easier to prove and get a conviction. Sexual
harassment and rape ruins many lives everyday and will continue to permanently affect the victims
if there are not changes made in the justice system to give justice to the victim.
Bass, Ellen, & Davis, Laura. (1988). The courage to heal: A guide for women survivors of child
sexual abuse. Harper & Row: New York.
Bell, Carrie. (1999, August 14). Artist founded agency offers support to rape victims. [online]
Biskup, Michael D. (1993). Criminal justice: Opposing viewpoints. San Diego, CA.
Carlson, Margaret. (1999, September 20). Sexual harassment, chapter 999. [online] Available:
Hechler, David. (1988). The battle and the backlash: The child sexual abuse war. D.C. Health
and Company, Lexington Books: Lexington, MA.
Let judges use judgment in sex offender cases. (1999, February 8). [Editorial] The Skait Valley
Marks, Alexandra. (1999, August 18). Women face blue wall of resistance. [online] Available:
Robin, Gerald D. (1984). Introduction to the criminal justice system. New York.