Supreme Court: sex offenders to be treated at hospitals, not in prison

Last month, Taiwan’s Supreme Court decided that a man who was sentenced to prison for molesting his daughter would not receive the professional treatment he needed in jail. Instead, the court sided with the offender’s wife who sought treatment for him in a hospital prior before being sent to prison.

According to the Central News Agency, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the sex offender, saying he should be treated in a hospital and rejected the prosecutor’s counter appeal. In their decision, the court said that the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Health had not set up professional hospitals to accommodate the treatment during the past decade, and to send offenders to prison would be the equivalent of extending the term of imprisonment. The Supreme Court added that the Ministry of Justice ignored the requirement that treatment should take place in public hospitals, therefore violating the offender’s human rights and the law by sending him to prison before his treatment.

As it is a recurring problem that sex offenders continue to commit sexual crimes upon their release, communities are concerned about how to effectively rehabilitate such offenders.

Quoted in the Taipei-based China Times, the Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Shou-huang said the Supreme Court holds “a lofty view” which is difficult to put into practice. It is not that the Ministry of Justice is reluctant to seek hospitals to treat sex offenders, but that hospitals are thus far unwilling to accept them for treatment. In order to contain the problem, the Ministry of Justice can only hold offenders for treatment in prison.  

The China Times said that the current temporary method of treating sex offenders is handled by special zones within prisons in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung. According to records, there are 240 people currently under medical treatment prior to serving their prison terms. There are another 17 who are being treated after having served their terms. Chen said his ministry plans to build a facility near Taichung Prison specifically to treat convicted sex offenders, with completion expected in two years time. 

Professional psychologists are asked to conduct reviews of each case at least once a year. If any sex offender is assessed as being at risk of a relapse, they will not be allowed to leave the treatment facility. They are only permitted to leave when they are deemed to no longer pose a threat to society and upon the approval of the prosecutor’s office or if ordered by the Supreme Court to stop treatment.

According to NowNews, last August several sexual assault cases involving young children received sentences that were deemed too lenient. The public anger that was expressed emerged as a Facebook campaign that initiated the White Rose Movement (a white rose being seen as a symbol of innocence). The group also took to the streets to protest the soft sentences and urged a revision of the “Sex Crimes Prevention Act.” Last month, the draft amendment (also called the White Rose Act) passed two readings in the Legislature and is expected to complete the legislative procedure during the second half of the year. Components of the bill include longer punishment for the sexual abuse of children under the age of seven, and stronger enforcement of mandatory treatment for high risk sex offenders.

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