What's More Important: Rehabilitation Or Retribution?

Last year, 8 teenage boys in Australia raped a 17 year-old girl and videotaped the incident, distributing it in the community as Cunt: The Movie. The maximum penalty allowed under Australia law for their offense because of the age of the offenders was 3 years in a juvenile facility. Instead, the judge in the case ordered them all to participate in a rehabilitation program, sentenced 2 to probation and the other 6 to youth supervision. Feministe suggests a slightly harsher punishment. But, what should it be? Some random thoughts, and a poll, after the jump.

This summer, The New York Times ran a really long piece exploring the differences between juvenile sex offenders and adults. It cites research that shows the recidivism rate for juvenile sex offenders is about 10 percent, where as in adults it ranges (officially) from 25-50 percent depending on the seriousness of the offense. It also notes that recidivism is much less common in the youngest teenage offenders and more common in late teen offenders. But, I think it probably shocks no one to discover that treatment, particularly at this age, makes offenders less likely to re-offend.

So, was it the punishment too weak? How harsh should the judge have been with the boys? What they did was horrifying in its brutality and callousness, and they have caused the young woman they assaulted and tortured additional harm by distributing a video of themselves doing it. And it's easy to say lock them away, throw away the key, but juveniles are accorded special treatment under the law in many cases because of their inability to fully comprehend consequences or, in some cases, exercise appropriate impulse control. So what's the line? Their age? The crime? How do you decide?

These are the questions our elected representatives wrestle with every day that they're not naming post offices, and these are lives over which our (sometimes elected) judges sit in judgment on a daily basis. Today, consider this your turn.

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Boys walk free over DVD sex assault [Yahoo News]
Well, as long as you said you're sorry... [Feministe]
How Can You Distinguish a Budding Pedophile From a Kid With Real Boundary Problems? [NY Times]