This is the stuff nightmares are made of: a 16-year-old autistic girl was kidnapped by a man who took her home and spent two days brutally raping her. The girl, who has the mental capacity of a 7-year-old, had wandered away from a home for developmentally disabled youth in East Oakland when cops say she encountered Gary Steven Atkinson, a 36-year-old man who has a string of violent felony convictions on his rap sheet.
In fact, I look at the string of seriously bad stuff this guy has been involved in, and I have just one question. What the heck was he doing on the streets to begin with?
Before getting hauled into court on three counts of rape of an incompetent person, three counts of a lewd act upon a child, and one count of attempted lewd act on a child for allegedly victimizing this poor girl, Atkinson had racked up convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, second-degree robbery, and second-degree commercial burglary. Oh, and he also has two petty theft convictions.
When do we say "when," people? When is someone considered such a detriment to society that they are sent to spend the rest of time rotting in a jail cell?
I understand we live in a country where the cost of corrections is skyrocketing. I understand too that we have a responsibility to use prisons to "rehabilitate" rather than simply to punish. But with some people, people like Atkinson, rehabilitation seems simply impossible. Each additional strike is like a smack in the face.
Now we look at this poor, defenseless girl. Her parents are still trying to figure out how the facility didn't have a better handle on where she was. But setting that aside, if she'd wandered off and Atkinson hadn't been out walking around, what are the chances that she would have been fine? That she wouldn't have had to spend two days being brutalized?
Maybe I'm naive, and someone else would have come along and taken advantage of a child wandering around. But then again ... maybe if someone had taken a look at this guy's rap sheet, made the right decision, everything would have been different.
When do we say when? When are career criminals taken off the streets? When?
If Atkinson is convicted, should it be life for him?
Image via Oakland Police