Suppose I was an idiot. And suppose I was a member of Congress. But-I repeat myself.”
Lois Stroschein Jr., a school principal from Harlan,Iowa was sentenced to a mandatory ten-year prison term on Wednesday, February 18th. His crime was attempting to entice a fifteen-year-old Waterloo, Iowa girl to meet him for sex. In sentencing him the judge, Robert Pratt, used the words “dehumanizing and demonizing”. He was not referring to Stroschein, but to his disgust with the U.S. Congress and mandatory sentencing laws.
“I would give a much different sentence were I allowed to do so” said Pratt. “The dehumanizing and demonizing of offenders because they have committed an offense-and therefore are less than human and are not entitled to any form of consideration-is something that should be called to the attention of the public.”
I understand that many in the public will disagree with this judge. They will wail about the “Epidemic of internet solicitations of minors” and the “lifetime horror” this poor girl will go through. But of course, there WAS NO 15-year-old-girl. As I am sure you expected, the object ofthis man’s misguided desire was a cop who had been sending the poor sap love missives for a month while convincing him he looked like Gwyneth Paltrow. He was working under congresses’ “Project Safe Childhood” initiative, which also demands mandatory sentences for “predators.”
In this article I am not going pursue the suggestion that perhaps depriving this man of his livelihood and making certain he nevercomes into contact with minors in any capacity might suffice as punishment. Iam not here to argue about entrapment, mandatory sentencing, deliberately creating crime, and sticking Iowa taxpayers with a $250,000 bill to keep Stroschein from soliciting any more policemen. I am not going to discuss my feelings about a decade term for a man who, up to that time, had never committed a crime, and had by all accounts led an exemplary life. I am not evengoing to bring up the obvious disparity that vicious men who rape REAL PEOPLEwill receive far less punishment.
What I want to discuss is the mindless squanderingof resources that takes place because of public misperceptions. I have worked as a counselor in Iowa schools for thirty-five years. In that time I have reported at least fifty cases of child sexual abuse, none of which had anything remotely to do with the internet. Almost all involved family members or close acquaintances and required the investigative skills of trained Iowa Department of Human Services employees. These people, coupled with alert school personnel, are the bulwark against a real and increasing problem. They are also the agencies that are in line for the most severe cutbacks during this economic downturn while we absurdly discuss increasing funding for a problem that constitutes less than 1/2 of 1% of actual child sexual abuse cases.
Going to a house and discussing real consequences with a “guardian” about the inappropriateness of watching his stepdaughters shower, having sex in front of a five-year-old, or leaving the children in the care of a convicted sex offender “favorite uncle” is gross and disturbing, but these programs yield real results and a physical safety net for my students. Itis not nearly as much fun or as titillating as sitting on Internet chat rooms encouraging deviants to hook up with non-existent teenagers, but these ultimate professionals provide a lot more bang for the buck, even if they never get their own television series.