As Wisconsin’s sex crime laws continue to strengthen, it will no doubt begin to burden the state legal system. We have already seen evidence of this locally. We recently wrote that Waukesha’s ban on residency for non-local sex offenders has forced the Wisconsin Department of Corrections to waste time and money trying to relocate released offenders.

Wisconsin’s situation is hardly unique, and many states are trying to find ways to stay tough on sex crimes without overloading the legal system.

Three states have decided to streamline the legal process by creating dedicated sex offender courts. These are separate criminal courts entirely devoted to prosecuting sex crimes and sentencing and monitoring sex offenders.

New York and Ohio already have dedicated sex offender courts in place. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently announced that the state will launch a dedicated sex offender court next month as a pilot program in just one county. If the program is deemed effective after a year, such courts may be adopted statewide.

One state Supreme Court Justice believes that the program could be very effective. She said these courts are an “innovative approach for achieving consistency in sentencing and managing the difficult population of sex offenders, in our continuing efforts to reduce recidivism.”

Another judge who will be participating in the program says: “This is a large-scale issue because it involves everything from rapes to minor sex offenses. We’re going to try to make sure that those people who are convicted or plead guilty are immediately accountable.”

It is not difficult to imagine that sex offender courts could soon be implemented in Wisconsin.

However, rather than streamlining the process of justice, it is very possible that these courts may simply streamline the process of prosecution. Creating a separate court for sex offenders could be yet another way to marginalize this population and make it even more difficult for them to return to normal society.

Source: Thomson Reuters Westlaw News, “Pennsylvania to be third state with dedicated sex offender court,” Daniel Lovering, 06 May 2011