When is a sentence not a sentence?

As the Jaycee Lee Dugard investigation unfolds, some strange and shocking revelations have come to light concerning Phillip “Creepy Phil” Garrido, now facing twenty nine charges including kidnap, rape and imprisonment.  But it brings into the public arena the apparent impotence of the sentencing process.

Facts have now come to light about Garrido’s earlier history – when he was just 25 he abducted and subjected a girl to a terrifying eight hour sexual ordeal, telling her it was her own fault because she was attractive.  A self-confessed ‘regular user’ of LSD and cocaine, Garrido was found guilty and sentenced to fifty years behind bars, but was released after just eleven.  Although added to a sex offenders register on his release, Garrido is said to have abducted 11 year old Jaycee Lee Dugard shortly after his return home, and her 18 year nightmare began.  His neighbours were aware of his criminal record, but “assumed he was being monitored”.

But there wasn’t any ongoing monitoring, and there lies the problem.  When is a sentence not a sentence?  Shouldn’t parole only be granted when authorities are satisfied beyond doubt that there is no danger of reoffending?

Because as long as the Garridos of this world can enter and leave our judicial system without change, we all have cause for concern.

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