Does the punishment for rape in the U.S. judicial system fit the crime? How does the system work to decrease the likelihood of repeat offenders?
Nonconsensual sexual intercourse usually consisting of sex accompanied by fear or force is the definition that most states use in determining if a rape has occurred. Statutory rape applies when an adult has sex with a minor. The child may consent to the sex, but it makes no difference if he/she is underage. Each state chooses its own underage number.
The terminology for the crime of rape depends on the state and its criminal code. Such terms as sexual abuse, aggravated sexual assault, and sexual assault converge in assimilating the type of rape in each case. The state must define the limitations of the crime: the accused use of force, the defendant’s relationship with the alleged victim, and the age of the victim.
In 2011, consistent with other data concerning the crime of rape, the FBI stated that the arrest rate for rape cases was 24%. Of those arrested, only 37% actually went to trial. In addition, only 28% of prosecuted cases were convicted. In one day in the United States, approximately 232 rapes are reported to the police.
One of the problems with rape conviction comes from the variation of rape definitions. The federal code refers to “aggravated sexual abuse “as the definition of rape. There are degrees of rape from 1st degree to 3rd degree which depends on the force and harm that was used during the rape. Of course, the higher degree would hopefully receive the hardest punishment.
What determines the amount of time served by a convicted rapist? Determining how much time a convicted rapist spends in jail is again established by the state. Studies indicate that convicted rapists spend little time in prison. District attorneys and prosecutors use one primary standard in controlling the cases to be tried: Is the suspect or accused convictable? Many prosecutors use a 72 hour rule. If after that time, the victim reports a rape, then, it is almost impossible to prove the case.
In most states, the defense attorneys will work with the prosecutor to bargain down the charges to keep the accused from going to prison for a long time period. When and if rapists are picked up and charged, their attorneys are often able to strike deals with prosecutors that knock down the charges and facilitate a shorter sentence or possibly no time in jail at all. According to many lawyers who follow this agenda, plea bargains speed up the legal process and lessen the burden on society.
In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled that use of the death penalty in rape cases was in appropriate for the crime. Capital punishment also violated the 8th Amendment of the Constitution. Some states took another look at the death penalty with regard to children in 1995. A rapist or abuser might face the death penalty if the child was physically harmed or for child rape not resulting in murder. Until 2008, these laws were used. The Supreme Court again ruled that using the death penalty for rape was unconstitutional.
As long as states’ rights supersede federal rights in this type of problem, then there will be fifty different approaches to the punishment of rape. Without minimal standards that the states agree upon, the crime of rape will continue to fall in the hands of the attorneys rather than the juries or judge’s hands. Of course, what the public forgets is that the public’s tax money will have to support the rapist while he is in jail. To state the problem succinctly, President Obama stated: “No problem in defining rape; rape is rape.” Each rapist deserves the same punishment.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial