The British government plans to pack the three prisons on the Isle of Wight full of sex offenders. And unsurprisingly, islanders aren't thrilled with this plan.
According to the BBC, the island's prisons currently hold some sex offenders. But a proposed plan would make all three prisons sex-offender-only. Since the prisons have different security ratings, and prisoners usually move down to lower-security prisons before their release, the change would apparently make sense from a logistical point of view. Says Nigel Hawley, chairman of Isle of Wight Prison's Independent Monitoring Board, "to be able to transfer [prisoners] within our own estate as it were, would save all that waiting and it would speed up the process of rehabilitation — and of course it's a bit of a saving to the taxpayer as well." However, that may not be much comfort to people living on the island. They're concerned about offenders getting released into their community. Also, Councillor David Pugh says he's "genuinely worried about the potential impact on the image of the island."
Obviously nobody wants their home to be known as Sex Offender Island. And since the Isle of Wight is also a popular vacation spot, getting a reputation as a stronghold of rapists and pedophiles might have a serious impact on the economy. On the other hand, it's not obvious that sex offenders are any worse than other criminals. The high-security prisons on the island presumably house lots of murderers and other violent felons. Sex offenders may be more viscerally disturbing, but as long as the prisons have so far kept their inmates from escaping onto the island, the islanders won't be at any increased risk. And Hawley says that no prisoners will be released onto the island after they've served their time, unless they lived there beforehand. Really, what the islanders' reaction shows is that we often think of sex offenders as more terrifying and heinous than other criminals — but with proper security procedures, there's no necessary reason they should pose a greater threat.