Does anyone know who Christopher Hubbart and Jeffrey Snyder are? Do we remember them?
They keep showing up in the newspaper, their blank faces staring out at us – at least, Hubbart does. But we really wish they wouldn’t. We would rather forget them.
Hubbart has been showing up in the news for years. He’s the notorious serial rapist, known as the “Pillowcase Rapist.” I first heard of him about 20 years ago, when people protested outside his parents’ house here in Claremont.
The protesters were upset about his imminent release from prison. It wasn’t the first time to be released from prison. The trouble was he kept assaulting and raping women, covering their heads with a pillowcase. Time in prison didn’t help. It seemed he couldn’t help it, couldn’t stop himself from raping.
A new state law was developed to solve this dilemma, allowing serial sexual predators, who appeared not to be able to control their behavior, to be held in a mental hospital after serving their prison terms. They then could be released when it was determined that it was safe for them to be released safely into the community with certain restrictions.
This is a dicey situation – holding someone after they have served their time – made even dicier. How can anyone be sure that an impulsive behavior has been controlled or tamed? And what does it mean to be safe out in the community?
Last year, after years of searching and negotiations, Hubbart, now in his 60s, was allowed to move into a small house on a dirt road out in the desert outside Los Angeles. There were numerous rules and curfews that he had to abide.
But even this wasn’t enough. There was a chorus of protest from people living nearby, and, early last month, Hubbart was in the news again, having been returned to the hospital. He had violated a few of the rules.
Was he really able to live in the community when it was so clear that nobody wanted him there? Did it really make sense to try to control his behavior (that is, if he could) when it was obvious that everyone thought it was hopeless?
Around the same time, Snyder, a convicted child molester, was in the news. A house that had been found for him to live in after serving his sentence was burned down “in mysterious circumstances.”
It is no mystery that people wish to forget these men and others like them, who are clearly sick and desperately need help, wish that they would go away. But is this fair? Do these men and others, who have completed their punishment, have any chance of getting the help they need to lead the life they should be able to live – yes, the life they have the right to live - when we don’t want them here, much less to enable them?
Perhaps it isn’t or shouldn’t be surprising that building walls and keeping out those who are different or troubled is so easily attractive, so tempting.