David Siebers: A Failure of Government
Many people have asked why AnnMarie and I decided to take a stand on this controversial issue regarding David Siebers. There are a number of reasons, but one major was the failure we observed in our government. We would like to enlist the specific failures here.
Essentially, one can argue the primary objective of government is to protect the public's safety, whether that be from threats at home or from abroad, i.e., criminals or terrorists in the country or from external military or terrorists abroad. After this is reasonably accomplished (as I'm sure we'll agree perfect public safety, or a world without risk is unobtainable), government can move on to other goals.
For example, government can then focus on the economy, job creation, education, health care, infrastructure needs, etc.
In regard to David, the State of Michigan released him into society after a combined period of incarceration of approximately twenty years. They immediately issued a warning to the public that he was not only dangerous, but likely to re-offend.
This represents the first in many governmental failures. If the experts believe he poses a risk to society, then they have a duty to not reintroduce him into the general population. Had David been the first sexual offender in history, I would have greater sympathy. But he isn't. Statistics show sexual offenders are highly likely to re-offend. Some experts say up to 90% of offenders will recidivate. Okay, we know this. Then, we need a solution -- and we've needed a solution for years.
A second failure should be attached to our legislators. If the public is aware the high rate of recidivism, then we need a different structure of laws. Why have those laws not evolved? Why weren't the laws in Michigan equipped to manage an offender like David?
A third failure of government can be furthered by David. Under the current legal structure in this country, he has paid his debt to society. He therefore has a right to re-enter society, and be given an opportunity to reintegrate. But government stigmatized him. We don't do this with people who murder, those who deal drugs or who are convicted of drunk driving. Why are sexual offenders treated in this manner? In essence, we border on a policy of double jeopardy, as David is now continually punished for his past crimes.
A fourth failure occurred here in Albuquerque. Mayor Chavez made a huge mess of this. The State of Michigan handled the situation in a more professional manner, so this isn't hindsight by us or arm-chair quarterbacking. Marty took his case immediately to the media. This created a great deal of panic and fear in society. Leaders should never scare the public. This doesn't help difficult situations. We need calm, rational and reasoned leadership.
Related to this was a fifth failure, also linked to Mayor Marty. Had he managed this issue more professionally, he would have kept it quiet. This is different from the public fear issue, but directly affects law enforcement. In my conversations with Darren White, Bernalillo County Sheriff, he expressed sentiment of law enforcement officials. They wanted to follow David quietly, remaining undercover. If David was to offend, as FBI experts believed, law enforcement would have been positioned to apprehend him immediately while in the commission of a crime, before something serious occurred. They could have returned him to prison for what might be a third and final time. Once Marty brought the media into play, David knew he was under intense scrutiny. He unlikely to do something stupid or behave anti-socially while being watched so closely. Law enforcement is now just baby sitting David. And, they aren't happy with that assignment.
In fact, when I was with David last Saturday, we had a very tight tail. I invited David to lunch, and the two APD officers sat only ten feet away. When we left, they trailed us by less than ten yards. He needed some toiletries, so I stopped at a mini-mart. Due to the crowded conditions, APD actually opened the door for him.
I believe Marty feels this type of tail will harass David out of town. He's wrong. This is the sixth failure.
David now knows if he leaves Albuquerque, he takes with him an enlarged image or greater negative stigma. He therefore believes he must stand his ground -- here and now. Had Marty not made such a national promotion of this, David might have been able to slip away "in the night," so to speak.
As it stands, his reputation preceeds him, and it's getting worse, not better. While he's not done one illegal act since leaving prison, people are more afraid of him now than they were when he was released in Sept '02. Our government is portraying him as a monster, and this virtually guarantees he'll find no peace, no place to live and no work.
This leads to a seventh failure of government. Their combined ill-conceived policies may lead David to re-offend, possibly not a sexual offense, yet maybe a violent crime. Our government may push David into a corner. And, as the "experts" have argued, he may be psychologically unstable. If so, public pressure may cause him to freak out, grab a gun and kill as many as possible before killing himself.
Now I would like to address an eighth failure, for our prisons are not accomplishing their social objectives -- or we, as a society, are not demanding that they accomplish this. They should be more than institutions for incarceration. They should be designed to rehabilitate as well.
Keep in mind that, in general, once an offender enters the criminal justice system they will remain there for life. The overall rate of recidivation is about 70%. If a young man enters on a basic marijuana charge at 18-19, he's like to be in our system for life. That's about $40,000/year per inmate. Had government done a better job, this man might be paying tax revenues into the system, instead of drawing down on our limited funds.
Let me now discuss a ninth failure. We currently assume sexual offenders make rational decisions. This may be an inaccurate understanding of the problem. It may be a better strategy to classify them as "mentally ill." In this manner, they would be released when, and only when, a panel of experts determine they were safe to be returned into the general population. Or, we might create a hybrid designation. For example, at present we assign a static or MAXIMUM term of incarceration, say 3, 5 or 15 years. This does not take into account whether the person is rehabilitated. Why not assign a MINIMUM term, whatever you want, but include a mental review component? The offender would serve the minimum, considered the punitive phase, but then be released in to society only after the board or panel was reasonably sure posed no threat.
This type of system would prevent the offender from being released, in say three or five months, as there would be a minimum, but no maximum.
In general, David's been given a life sentence without actually being sentenced. While it's appropriate to watch these offenders closely, it's not right to beat them, kill them or make it more likely they will re-offend. If you look closely at these individuals, you will find many have complex histories. Some were beat, abused or sexually offended as children themselves. One can argue they are victims from other offenders.
This does not suggest they should not be held accountable -- they must. But we must also stop the cycle that leads to the victimization. And, that my friends, is the tenth failure of government. We are putting a bandaid on this problem, not solving it. And, this must stop. When my wife and I stood up to end this nonsense, we did so initially to keep David and the family who is currently hosting him from being harmed or possibly killed. Now, we're working to increase awareness of the overarching problem, and demand government to stop failing all of us.
Keep this final statistic in mind. If the mayor keeps the two APD officers 24/7 on David, as he's currently doing, the annual cost is $436,800. And, at times, there have been up to five law enforcement officers guarding David. I consider this the eleventh failure. We could do a lot more with a half million taxpayer dollars than manage this affair in this manner.
For example, we could buy David a home in the farthest tip of Alaska, give him transportation costs and a bit of pocket money for a lot less.
Think about it! This is not the government I want running my country. We are a people who have fought to have self-determination -- we are a government of the people, by the people and for the people. And, although my primary premise is government failed, we must acknowledge that each of us, in turn, failed. It's time to get involved. Make your voice heard in our system.
Scott and AnnMarie Goold
February 3, 2003
NHPNA4513 Oahu Dr. NE Albuquerque, NM 87111