Ed. note: Poli Psy columnist Judith Levine wrote this post.
“Vermont on edge as officials warn boys aged 12-13 to be on alert as pedophile rapist is getting out of jail on Friday.” That’s the headline in ... the UK’s Daily Mail.
The release of Timothy Szad — convicted in 2000 of snatching, handcuffing and sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy — is apparently world news.
It’s also the usual story of press sensationalism, popular hysteria and counterproductive policy.
On July 15, the police announced that Szad would be released on July 26 from the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., after serving his maximum sentence. The notification said Szad completed sex-offender treatment in prison but warned that he is at high risk for committing another crime.
This risk assessment is based on a formula assigning points based on the offender’s age, social and criminal history, the victim’s sex and other factors.
On July 16, WCAX reported that Springfield, where Szad was to live with his parents, was “on alert.”
July 17 the Eagle Times of Claremont, N.H., posted Szad’s physical characteristics. Cafemom.com, a national forum, warned mothers of Szad’s release.
Every news item basically said: Lock up your blond, blue-eyed 12- and 13-year-old boys. They all drew similar comments: “sickening,” “scary,” “They should all be castrated.”
After Fox44 television posted Szad’s sex-offender registry listing on Facebook, someone put up a photo of a truck emblazoned with a decal reading “Save a Deer. Hunt a Pedophile.”