Let me take a second to set up this scenario. Let’s say you have teenage daughter. She’s about fifteen or sixteen. Now, your daughter is generally a good girl, a nice, pleasant young lady, but she’s working through a few emotional and self-esteem issues as adolescents are wont to do.
In helping your daughter through her issues, you find yourself tired and exasperated, but then it gets worse. Your teenage daughter is diagnosed HIV-positive, and on top of that, you find that she exposed herself to the virus through unprotected sex with an adult who knew he was carrying the virus at the time of the affair. How do you feel? What do you do?
That’s a shameful narrative; however, the most shameful aspect of this narrative is the fact that I did not make this up. It’s true.
After police arrested Nushawn Williams on a crack cocaine charge in 1997, he admitted to police that he had had unprotected sex with perhaps 300-400 women, and continued to have unprotected sex even after finding out about his HIV-positive status in 1996. [See a 1997 Newsweek article on the case.]
At least twenty-four HIV cases could be traced directly back to Williams though police state that the number could be much higher; no one really knows. The age range of the victims is wide; however, most were teenagers, and at least six young women were impregnated by Williams.
Now, Williams is set to be released from jail after serving the maximum twelve years. Or at least, he was about to before New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo moved to block him from being released under the authority of a
state statue that allows the civil confinement of sex offenders. New York
According to the Cuomo’s office, Williams suffers from a mental abnormality that prevents him from realizing the depravity of his actions and almost guarantees he’ll repeat the same behavior when released. However, there is no guarantee that Cuomo will be successful in keeping Williams off the streets, and because he has served his time, there is a chance he may be released.
But this is a problem the courts are actively dealing with. It has been proven that sex offenders, especially pedophiles, are usually repeat offenders. But once they have served their time in prison, once they can no longer be held, just what is to be done with them knowing that they more than likely will simply find other victims and continue until they are caught again.
Nushawn Williams’ case is more pressing because of the virus he carries; the consequences of sexual contact with him may be much more than just psychological. But what can we do?
What can we do or what should we do with people like Williams? Is it fair to hold a person far beyond the end of their sentence? Should we release them even though we know that are likely to offend again?