An Article on How to Handle Sex Offenders Sparks Debate

August 31st 2016

Almie Rose

Not everyone is in agreement on what to do with people like Brock Turner.


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When discussing Turner's punishment in an article for New York Magazine "Expanding Incarceration Is Not the Best Way to Fight Rape Culture", writer Eric Levitz argues that there are "less destructive — and more effective — ways of [providing justice to victims of sexual assault] than by making our exceptionally punitive justice system even more draconian."


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Turner was only sentenced to six months and will ultimately serve only half of that, which has not only women's rights activists outraged, but Stanford's own students as well. As a result of the response to Turner's light sentencing, California's legislature passed AB 2888, which proposes mandatory prison sentencing to anyone who sexually assaults an unconscious person.

Levitz does concede that there are good reasons to celebrate the bill, writing "A three-year minimum sentence for raping an unconscious person is not wildly out of step with global standards." However, he ultimately argues that the legislation "encourages this culture of incarceration."

Levitz believes that this "draconian" practice of imprisoning convicted sexual offenders is not going to "fight rape culture" and won't diminish our bloated prison population.

So what is Levitz's solution?

"To combat the cultures of rape and mass incarceration, progressives will need to convince the country that there are better ways to measure our society’s compassion for victims of sexual violence than in the number of years we lock up their abusers. But first, they’ll need to convince themselves."

Levitz's argument is complicated by the fact that rape is drastically under-prosecuted in the United States.

As ATTN: previously reported, as short as Turner's time in jail was, it was still longer than most sentences convicted sex offenders receive, if any at all.

Most rapists never spend time in prison, according to RAINN.

It's true that the United States has the highest rate of incarceration.

There a little over 2 million incarcerated people in our prisons, making the United States the record holder for the "highest incarceration rate in the world," as ATTN: previously reported.

While that's not a record we should want, some argue that Levitz is perhaps focused on the wrong thing:

Similar sentiments are expressed on New York Magazine's Facebook post for the article:

NY Mag comments

NY Mag comments

In May, writer Sady Doyle used Twitter to express her thoughts on mass incarceration and rape sentencing that dovetails with Levitz's recent article in that it points out both sides of the incarceration argument, but argues that ultimately, over-incarcerating rapists should not be considered a realistic concern.

You can read Eric Levitz's full article on New York Magazine.