Former convicts struggle to find a place in society post-sentence

Within our criminal justice system, we have a duty to not only protect the members of our society, but to rehabilitate and care for our criminals, as well. This concept is one that I believe often gets lost in today’s world.

We are so passionate about ensuring that criminals pay for their crimes that we forget that they are still members of our society –– if and when they get released.

David Gardner is a convicted child rapist who has recently decided to take up residence in Providence, R.I. This threw citizens into a wave of fury as many did not think that Gardner should be allowed to reside there.

His case is complicated and one that holds great controversy in today’s world. The complications lie in the fact that the case took place in two different states, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. There were disputes over what counted towards his Massachusetts time and what did not. His original 190-year sentence was taken back to the courts where they ultimately ruled back in his favor, granting him a lesser sentence, which in turn led to him being let out of prison earlier.

Despite the shock value of his crimes and the controversy engulfing the case as a whole, I believe that the criminal justice system did what they had to do to –– ensure justice was served.

This case is also highly debated because of how it is affected by Megan’s Law. This law states that communities must be notified when a sex offender moves into their neighborhood. However, since Gardner’s conviction predates this law, it doesn’t completely apply to him. Residents living in the neighborhood where Gardner decided to reside in are furious about the fact that they weren’t notified about his arrival.

They argue that Gardner shouldn’t be allowed to live there, yet if he can’t live there, then where should he go? Though I can see where the residents are coming from –– I’m sure if I was living there, I might be somewhat angry as well –– but if we’re going to try and tell offenders where they can’t live, then we need to provide them with somewhere they can. We need to provide offenders with options because without them, we’re only contributing to further harm.

Without some type of rehabilitation strategies, we are only going to isolate and contribute to this toxic trend of reoffending. Is this what we want for our society? I believe that these residents are being unreasonable on many issues that surround this case.

Yes, he’s a sex offender. Yes, that’s horrific. And yes, he needs to pay his debts to society, but the way to do this is not to isolate him.