|Alcala is a sadistic psychopath|
But, his story is also difficult to read because it challenges one of the basic, progressive ideas behind rehabilitative sentencing. The "rehabilitative model" suggests that prison should be a place that offers convicted felons a chance to receive health care, learn transferrable job skills, and ultimately reintegrate into society. Some critics of this model claim that it is too easy on offenders (especially violent ones) and that it often fails, releasing violent offenders back into the general population where they start offending again. The most critical perspectives suggest that the rehabilitative model ignores evidence that some sadistic, violent offenders cannot be rehabilitated. The data on pedophiles is pretty troubling--one study found that 50% of pedophiles who were released from prison later committed sexual crimes against children again.
Alcala's story should give us pause when thinking about the rehabilitative model of justice. Alcala was originally arrested and convicted in 1968, when he lured an 8-year old named Tali Shapiro into his Hollywood apartment. Once there, he beat and sexually assaulted Shapiro. He may have killed her, but was interrupted by police who were tipped off by a good samaritan who had called the police after seeing him forcing Shapiro into his apartment.
|Tali Shapiro, around the time she was attacked by Alcala|
Alcala went on to serve a 2-year sentence in a progressive, rehabilitative facility and was later paroled by the state of California, deemed ready for society reentry. Once out, he violated the terms of his parole during an attempted kidnapping/seduction of a 13 year old girl. He was officially charged with providing marijuana to a minor and sentenced to another 3 years.
Upon release in 1977, Alcala graduated to killing. He was later arrested and convicted in the murder of 4 young women and 1 small girl. He was also a lead suspect in many other murder cases. During this time, he was able to roam freely, living a carefree bachelor life and even appeared on the then popular Dating Game.
While reading about his trajectory, I can't help but wonder if many lives could have been saved if Alcala was never paroled or released? At the very least, it's important for us to rethink the basic ideas of rehabilitative justice and the psychiatric methods used to parole repeated sadistic offenders like Alcala. If I were a family member or friend of a victim, I would be outraged that the State of California paroled this guy twice, letting him back on the streets.