Three U.S. Senators are now calling for more transparency in the military judicial system following a revealing Associated Press report last month. In the report, investigators concluded that nearly a third of all military inmates were serving time due to child sex abuse charges.
As the Hill reports, Senators Barbara Boxer (CA), Mazie Hirono (HI), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) issued a letter to the Pentagon on December 8, citing further details discovered by the AP concerning the public's access to military justice information. "The lack of transparency in the military justice system calls into question the integrity of the institution and hides the system's shortcomings," the senators wrote. "While there may have been legitimate reasons for some of these decisions, it is prohibitively difficult to independently assess the decisions in a timely manner since the military services do not include legal records or trial outcomes in an online database like the civilian court systems."
Even using Freedom of Information Act requests, reporters found that access to UCMJ documents were difficult to access. Once they were, there were concerning gaps in the information provided-- especially concerning pre-trial deals that were struck to give convicted child abusers less time in prison. In their letter, the senators were also concerned with a lack of consistency in the reporting of these cases between Family Advocacy Program and the Sexual Assault and Prevention Response Office (SAPRO) report that Congress reviews every year.
"THIS IS INCREDIBLY ALARMING"
Among the concerning implications in the AP report is a lack of continuity in traditional sex offender registration once convicted military members return to civilian life. While there are measures in place for the military to alert local state authorities once a convicted sex offender returns home, it was found that that this agency-to-agency cooperation was inconsistent and rarely accounted for when those offending service members moved.
For Senator Gillibrand, this is not the first time she has pushed for changes in the military justice system. An outspoken voice in the efforts to stem the frequency of sex abuse among military personnel, she earlier this year tried to propose the installation of independent prosecutors into the military justice process to fight rampant cronyism. That proposition failed to make it into this year's National Defense Appropriations Act.
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