Older readers in particular may remember the case of Christopher Hubbart, better known as the “Pillowcase Rapist” in California, who made the news at various times in the 80’s and 90’s. One of the lesser known but still more monstrous predators in the country, one aspect of his fame was that he spent almost no time in an actual prison. Instead, he was put up in hospitals because he was, you know… sick. But the story was even worse than that. Hubbart is in the news again this year because he will once again be walking the streets.
An admitted serial rapist who attacked 38 women in California could be a free man within weeks after the state’s Supreme Court denied prosecutors’ requests to block his release from a state mental hospital.
Christopher Hubbart, a sexually violent predator dubbed the “Pillowcase Rapist,” has spent nearly two decades in mental institutions after admitting to sexually assaulting more than three dozen women throughout California between 1971 and 1982, often putting pillowcases over victims’ heads to muffle their screams. Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey petitioned the state Supreme Court in July to block Hubbart’s release, but the justice’s rejected her request on Wednesday without comment.
Lacey, who has called the 62-year-old Hubbart a “significant threat to public safety,” sought a new hearing on whether Hubbart should be released in Santa Clara County, where he committed his most recent crimes, rather than Los Angeles.
As I mentioned, this story would be bad enough if Hubbart were just some monster that we caught and locked up, but this convoluted story should be the focus of a larger question of how we deal with serial recidivists. After his first spree of 29 rapes in the 70s, Hubbart was put in a “medical facility.” Then, in 1979, he was released when officials determined that he “no longer posed a threat to the public.” He immediately moved north, attacking multiple women in San Francisco and Sunnyvale before being caught – again – and being sent to – you guessed it – a mental hospital. He was paroled a third time in 1990, whereupon he – surprise, surprise – attacked a female jogger and was taken into state care yet again. Now he’s going to be released.
At the age of 62, perhaps they think he’s less of a threat because he can’t run as fast anymore?
The larger question I alluded to previously is, exactly how many chances does somebody get, even in a society as permissive as California’s, when public safety is involved? And at what point do we stop worrying about the concept of a monster being “mentally ill” and in need of treatment and begin considering that just maybe the public deserves the peace of mind that could come from knowing that he’s been tossed into a dark hole with the key being thrown away? Let’s just stipulate for the moment that Hubbart is mentally ill. Fine… he’s a sick man. But he’s raped dozens upon dozens of women. He has proven repeatedly that the best efforts of the medical community are not only unable to “cure” him, but that they can’t even catch him up in the fictional tales he tells them to convince doctors that he is now healthy and deserving of another chance.
Three strikes and you’re out? This guy has had more than three dozen at bats thus far and never changed his stripes. And he’s not the only one. The criminal justice system deals with a tragically large number of monsters on a regular basis, and clever lawyers always seem to find a way to thwart the system. Even in permissive states where the death penalty is not allowed – and this many attacks should really qualify somebody – surely there’s a way to draw a line beyond which you don’t get another pass off the correctional campus.