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WTF Wednesday: Sex Offenders

I’m going to begin a segment called “WTF Wednesday.” I know it’s Thursday, but something made me scream “WTF!!” today, which gave me the idea for “WTF Wednesday,” but I have to write about it today or I’ll fling myself out a window.

I like to listen to the news in the morning while I get ready for work. We’ve got a local station that I’m particularly fond of, and I really like how they fuse human interest and local happenings into their show.

This morning, however, my mouth gaped open as they ran a story about sex offenders.

California’s new “Jessica’s Law” has a loophole in it, allowing sex offenders released from jail to register as a “transient” if they cannot find housing that is more than 2000 feet away from a school or park where children play.

Why was I mad? Maybe it’s because WE NEEDED THIS KIND OF PRESS WHEN THE MEASURE WAS STILL ON THE BALLOT! Voters had the information in front of them last November. The sad thing is that those who voted “Yes” on Proposition 83 allowed themselves to succumb to fear-laden commercials about rapists and child molesters attacking our families and how the new law would protect us all, instead of reading the bill’s text.

But, no one spoke up!

Well, except for this person.

And this person.

And these guys.

And this person.

Anyway. there’s this feeling now that “all of the sudden,” “because of this new loophole,” sex offenders can randomly roam among us, creating yet one more fear and reason to not let our kids play outside or ride their bikes to school.

As a mother, what can I do?

I will certainly NOT use fear. Remember “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself?” I will NOT allow myself or my sons to turn into Henny Penny or Ducky Lucky or Loosey Goosey and run straight toward a fox’s den with Chicken Little every time he shouts that the sky is falling.

Instead, maybe educate my sons the RIGHT way. I’ll give them the Facts about Sex Offenders. I’ll teach them how to recognize what type of touching is inappropriate. I’ll teach them how to yell “fire!” and stomp and scream and scratch until the person who tries to abduct them gives up for fear of being caught. And I’ll tell them that anyone–including a family member or friend–who says “Touching is a secret” or “Your parents won’t love you anymore if you tell them what we did” is LYING.


7 Responses

  1. Sex Offender Laws May Do More Harm Than Good


    The Adam Walsh Act

    The federal Adam Walsh Act, passed in 2006, will exacerbate the problems with state sex offender laws. It forces states to either dramatically increase the scope and duration of registration and community notification restrictions – including requiring states to register youths as young as 14 – or lose some federal law enforcement grant money. Compliance with the Adam Walsh Act will preclude states from adopting more carefully calibrated and cost-effective registration and community notification policies. At least some states are debating whether the costs of complying with the law outweigh the benefits. Human Rights Watch urges reform of the Adam Walsh Act.

    Listen to Patty Wetterling:


  2. White Papers, Studies, Official Government Reports, Empirical Information

    Public Perceptions About Sex Offenders and Community Protection Policies
    2007 Jill S. Levenson, Yolanda N. Brannon, Timothy Fortney, Juanita Baker 25 Pages; 536 KB
    The hypothesis that community members hold inaccurate beliefs about sex offenders was supported. Respondents estimated sex offense recidivism rates to be around 75%. In contrast, the best available evidence suggests that sex offense recidivism rates range from 5 to 14% over 3- to 6-year follow-up periods (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2004, 2005) and 24% over 15-year follow-up periods (Harris & Hanson, 2004). Although official recidivism data underestimate true reoffense rates (Hanson&Bussiere, 1998), ample evidence suggests that the majority of convicted sex offenders do not go on to commit new sex crimes. It might have been interesting to ask respondents about their sources information, but we speculate that the media furnishes a substantial amount of this type of data to most people (Lotke, 1997; Proctor et al., 2002; Sample & Kadleck, 2006).

    Respondents were accurate in their assessment that many victims know their abusers, but overestimated the number of sexual assaults committed by strangers. Apparently the myth that many rapes occur in dark alleys remains prevalent, despite evidence to the contrary (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2002, 2004). Also, there continues to be a perception that sex crime rates are on the rise, probably due to the attention that these crimes receive in the media. In fact, rape arrest rates have decreased steadily since 1991 (Maguire & Pastore, 2003), and child sexual abuse rates have also declined (Finkelhor & Jones, 2004; Jones & Finkelhor, 2003).

    In sum, these data have important implications for public policy. Our hypothesis that the public is poorly informed about sex offenders was supported. Specifically, myths of extraordinarily high recidivism rates and stranger danger prevail, and the public appears to view all sex offenders as posing a similar threat to communities. These widespread beliefs perpetuate the development of increasingly restrictive policies as politicians endeavor to serve their constituents. In actuality, sex offenders represent a diversity of offense patterns and a wide range of risk for reoffense (Doren, 1998; Hanson & Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2004; Harris & Hanson, 2004; Prentky et al., 1997). As a result, one-size-fits-all policies are not likely to be cost efficient, nor are they likely to afford maximum protection to the public.

    Statement on Sex Offender Residency Restrictions in Iowa
    February 14, 2006 Iowa County Attorneys Association 5 Pages; 108KB
    The Iowa County Attorneys Association believes that the 2,000 foot residency restriction for persons who have been convicted of sex offenses involving minors does not provide the protection that was originally intended and that the cost of enforcing the requirements and the unintended effects on families of offenders warrant replacing the restriction with more effective protective measures.

    Twenty Findings of Research on Residential Restrictions for Sex Offenders and the Iowa Experience with Similar Policies
    2006 Compilation of experts
    1. Housing restrictions appear to be based largely on three myths that are repeatedly propagated by the media: 1) all sex offenders reoffend; 2) treatment does not work; and 3) the concept of ‘stranger danger.’ Research does not support these myths, but there is research to suggest that such policies may ultimately be counterproductive. Sex offender residence restrictions. A Report to the Florida Legislature, October 2005, Jill S. Levinson, Ph.D.
    4. There is no demonstrated protective effect of the residency requirement that justifies the huge draining of scarce law enforcement resources in the effort to enforce the restriction. Iowa County Attorneys Association
    10. The sex offender residency restriction was a very well intentioned effort to keep the children of our communities safe from sex offenders. It has, however, had unintended consequences that effectively decrease community safety. Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault
    19. A significant number of offenders have married or have been reunited with their victims; and, in those cases, the residency restriction is imposed on the victims as well as the offenders. Iowa County Attorneys Association

    Banishment or Facilitated Reentry: A Human Rights Perspective
    November 17, 2005 Corinne A. Carey, Esq., Human Rights Watch, ATSA Conference 31 Pages; 181KB
    The consequences of violating privacy rights: • Employment; • Housing; • Family integrity; • Human dignity.

    What are we doing wrong? Registration and community notification laws sweep far too broadly.
    • Result: Far too many people are subject to stigma and restrictions; resources and attention are unfocused. By labeling a person a ‘sex offender,’ the state justifies denying that person fundamental human rights.
    • Result: ‘Sex offenders; are alienated, have little investment in the responsibilities that accompany human rights; there is a strong disincentive to register as a ‘sex offender.’ Registration and community notification laws sweep far too broadly.
    • Result: Far too many people are subject to stigma and restrictions; resources and attention are unfocused. By labeling a person a ‘sex offender,’ the state justifies denying that person fundamental human rights.
    • Result: ‘Sex offenders’ are alienated, have little investment in the responsibilities that accompany human rights; there is a strong disincentive to register as a ‘sex offender.’
    http://www.soclear.org/MultiMedia/Documents/CorrineCarey-SLC_ATSA-1.ppt (PowerPoint 30 slides)

    Criminal Offender Statistics: Recidivism; Sex Offenders
    Page last revised on September 6, 2006 US Dept. of Justice (DOJ)
    Sex offenders were less likely than non-sex offenders to be rearrested for any offense…

    News & Noteworthy: Articles Concerning Sex Offender Issues: Charts Library
    2006 News & Noteworthy
    Who will commit more new sex offenses within 3-years of being paroled, sex offenders -OR- non-sex offenders? Non sex offenders commit more new sex offenses when paroled!
    Released (Paroled) Offender Type Paroled ReArrested for
    New Sex Offense %/# of New Sex
    Offenses by Parolees Convicted of
    New Sex Offense
    9,691 Sex Offenders 5.3% (517) 13% (1 every 2 days) 3.5% (339)
    262,420 Non-Sex Offenders 1.3% (3,328) 87% (3 per day) 83% (2,179)
    272,111 All Offenders 1.4% (3,845) 100%
    Based upon (Pub 2003): Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994. (NCJ 198281).

    Community Notification: A Study of Offender Characteristics and Recidivism
    October 1995 Donna D. Schram, Ph.D. and Cheryl Darling Milloy, Ph.C. 30 Pages; 84.3 KB
    In conclusion, this preliminary assessment found that law enforcement officials were judicious in their use of Level III community notification. Unfortunately, the findings suggest that community notification had little effect on recidivism as measured by new arrests for sex offenses or other types of criminal behavior.

    JWF: Sex Offender Zoning Laws Don’t Work At All
    May 17, 2006 Nancy Sabin, Executive Director of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation
    ‘Sex Offender Zoning Laws Don’t Work At All’ That’s from Nancy Sabin, Executive Director of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation (http://soclear.org/groundzero/www.jwf.org). ‘It is one of the poorest uses of our resources, vigilance and supervision,’ she said.

    Here’s why, according to JWF:
    1. Nationwide, there are no known cases of children being exploited in the safety zones created by these laws, i.e., within 2000 feet of a school, day care center or playground.
    2. Most of the people convicted of sex crimes — 92 percent — are first-time offenders. In other words, they would not have been subject to the restrictions laid out in these zoning ordinances in the first place.
    3. Of the 400 cases presented to JWF in the last 5 years, fewer than five percent of the alleged molesters are convicted sex
    4. Most sex crimes are happening under our noses, in our own homes. In other words, as KARE reported last night, most attackers are related to their victims or know them well.
    Nancy went on to say there ‘is not one piece of research that supports zoning laws, which have been passed in the Minnesota cities of Wyoming and Taylors Falls.’

    See also Sex offender laws: Good intentions gone bad? article at http://www.kare11.com/news/investigative/extras/extras_article.aspx?storyid=124665


    States Aim To Stop Sex Offenders: Will New laws Keep Children Safe?
    Fall/Winter 2006 Lori Robertson – The Children’s Beat 4 Pages; 907KB
    Nancy Sabin is the Executive Director of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, an organization founded by the parents of Minnesota boy who was kidnapped when he was 11 years old and has never been found. ‘Jacob’s Law.’ a 1997 federal act mandating greater registration requirements for sex offenders, is among the foundation’s legislative accomplishments. But Sabin criticizes the narrow focus of the recent spat of laws. ‘If your charged and convicted, that represents 10% of the (sex) crimes,’ She say’s explaining that the largest groups of offenders are those who are unknown (graph below) or uncharged. So, the question she has: Why are all the resources targeting this tiny group?

    When you factor in the small percentage of that group that will reoffend, the focus becomes even narrower, she say’s. Sabin would like to see more dollars spent on education and awareness programs, treatment and transition into society. ‘What I’m saying, is we’re not turning the water off at the faucet,’ Sabin says. ‘How quickly are we going to reduce the problem?’

    Sex offender residence restrictions: A Report to the Florida Legislature
    October, 2005 Jill S. Levenson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Human Services, Lynn University 14 Pages; 93KB
    Despite widespread support and popularity, there is no evidence that residence restrictions prevent sex crimes or increase public safety. These laws may, ironically, interfere with their stated goals of enhancing public safety by exacerbating the psychosocial stressors that can contribute to reoffending (Edwards & Hensley, 2001; Freeman-Longo, 1996; LaFond, 1998; Levenson & Cotter, 2005a; Levenson & Cotter, 2005b). Such stressors, referred to as dynamic risk factors, have been associated with increased recidivism (Hanson & Harris, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2004). Sex offenders rouse little public sympathy, but exiling them may ultimately increase their danger.

    Rational laws needed for sex offenders
    January, 2007 based upon Montana Sex Offender Treatment Association
    As we’ve demonstrated such striking success, the irony is that sentencing and other laws have grown harsher. Of course, the constant drumbeat and focus of the media on the less common high risk offenders not only unnecessarily frightens people, but also unknowingly perpetuates common myths. Exploiting fear works. It makes news. It gets people to tune in after the commercial. It also secures votes.

    Let’s support rational laws and interventions that are successful and based on science — not on the parts of our brains that think black-and-white, deal with fear through punishment and repression, and are responsible for much of the prejudice and suffering in the world.

    Report On Safety Issues Raised By Living Arrangements For And Location Of Sex Offenders in the Community as Prepared for The Colorado State Judiciary Committees, Senate and House of Representatives
    March 15, 2004 Colorado Department of Public Safety Division of Criminal Justice Sex Offender Management Board 42 Pages; 366KB
    • Shared Living Arrangements appear to be a frequently successful mode of containment and treatment for higher risk sex offenders and should be considered a viable living situation for higher risk sex offenders living in the community.
    • Placing restrictions on the location of correctionaly supervised sex offender residences may not deter the sex offender from re-offending and should not be considered as a method to control sexual offending recidivism.
    • Efforts should be made to ensure that the sex offender’s support in the home is positive in order to aid in his or her treatment.

    Report of the Sex Offender Policy Task Force
    February 24, 2007 National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers 11 Pages; 75.6KB
    V. NACDL Opposes Residence Restrictions Because Such Laws Do Not Provide Effective Community Protection and Threaten Offender Stability.
    New sex offender legislation often includes restrictions on the areas in which a sex offender may reside. NACDL opposes residence restrictions. Such restrictions have not been shown to have any effect on sex offender recidivism and serve only to de-stabilize the offender, putting him at a higher risk to re-offend. The states of Minnesota and Colorado have conducted studies considering whether residency restrictions have any effect on recidivism. Both studies concluded that such restrictions had no effect on recidivism and therefore did not provide added protection to the community. The Colorado study finds that residency restrictions ‘should not be considered as a method to control sexual offending recidivism.’

    In fact, residency restrictions may cause higher rates of re-offense amongst sexual offenders. Residency restrictions increase the chance of transiency and homelessness amongst sex offenders thereby decreasing the ability of law enforcement authorities to keep track of offenders and probation officers to supervise offenders. Such restrictions can prohibit the ability of offenders to reside with supportive family members or force an entire family to re-locate. Likewise, residency restrictions diminish the ability of sex offenders to maintain employment and comply with treatment requirements. Research demonstrates that sex offenders are, in fact more likely to re-offend in the absence of such stabilizing influences. The detrimental community impacts of residency restrictions have recently been highlighted by the Iowa County Attorneys Association. In a forceful statement the prosecutor group argued against residency restrictions for many of the same reasons.

    However, they also noted that the residency restriction law inhibited their ability to obtain convictions by plea of guilty because of the onerous effects. Thus, residency restrictions actually increase the risk of recidivism in the community and should be avoided in the crafting of new legislation and repealed where already enacted.

    Towards More Effective Sex Offense Legislation: Facts Versus Fears… Believing Versus Knowing
    March, 2007 National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, Inc. (NCIA) 13 Pages; 70.2KB
    • Far from being hopelessly lost to decent society, sex offenders who have been caught are much less likely to reoffend than bank robbers, murderers or perpetrators of most all other types of crimes.
    • A finite program of targeted treatment can cut that already low rate of recidivism by what looks like another 50% — compared to the opposite results of openended punishment.
    • Some 93% of all sex offenses against children are not committed by strangers, but by the victim’s relatives or family friends. Almost all current public policy in this area, such as community notification and proposed tracking systems, is irrelevant to that vast majority of offenders.
    • As fearful as the public has been taught to be about this class of crime, the only hope for long-term remedy is not through shaming and separation, but carefully thought-out programs of treatment and reintegration.

    Sex Offenses: Facts, Fictions and Policy Implications
    January, 2006 National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, Inc. (NCIA)
    Most sexual victimization takes place within families and among friends. Even though parents warn children about strangers, the vast majority of sexual offenses occur among people who are known and trusted – parents, siblings, friends, teachers, coaches or anyone within the family’s zone of association. Victimization of juveniles usually takes place within families (34%) and among friends (59%). Juveniles are rarely victimized by strangers (7%). Victimization of adults generally occurs among acquaintances (61%) and family members (12%). Victimization by strangers is far less common (27%). Nearly half (44%) of men imprisoned for a sex crime victimized their own child, stepchild or other family member. Rarely (7%) was the victim a stranger. The vast majority (84%) of sexual assaults on children below age 12 occur in a residence.

    Policy Implications
    • Knowledge: The people who need to know the most about the offense learn about it as soon as it is revealed. They do not need web pages, public registries or satellite tracking to tell them about the location of the perpetrator. They already know it.
    • Protection: Children in private places are at greater risk. Children in public places such as school yards and playgrounds are protected by their visibility and their peers, so distance limits (e.g., not within 2,000 feet of a playground) are superfluous.
    • Victim Privacy: Notifying the public about the identity of the perpetrator also often identifies the victim. Public shaming of an incest offender is humiliating to the victim and the rest of the family

    Experts’ Voices
    April, 2007 compiled by SOSEN
    “Harassing them, making them move and continually punishing them does far more harm than good. A sex offender in therapy with a job and a place to live is less of a threat than one that is constantly harassed.” — Robert Shilling, Detective, Seattle, WA Crimes Against Children Division

    “I defy anyone to try and convince me, scientifically or logically that those requirements have any affect at all. It makes great sense politically, but has no affect whatsoever on public safety.” — Corwin R. Ritchie, Iowa County Attorneys Association executive director

    “If the 2,000-foot rule had been in effect 10 years ago, I can’t think of a single case from our files that would have been any different.” — Sgt. Bryce Smith, Sex Offender Registry Officer, Scott County, Iowa

    “What you’re doing is pushing people more underground, pushing them away from treatment and pushing them away from monitoring, you’re really not improving the safety, but you are giving people a false sense of safety.” — John Gruber, Executive Director of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers

    “When I talk with friends, colleagues and neighbors regarding this law, the first reaction is that we must do everything we can to protect our children. Absolutely. But I am afraid this statute gives parents and communities a false sense of protection against crimes that most often occur not at school bus stops, but where children are in the greatest danger: their own homes.” — J. Tom Morgan, Former DeKalb County DA

    “The more cities choose to install these ordinances, the more ex-offenders will become an exile class, sex offenders are less likely to reoffend if they’re allowed to reintegrate into society, to get a job, to establish stable roots, a support network, a home, by forcing these people to be refugees, politicians are essentially making their own citizens less safe.” — William Buckman, defense attorney and national sex offender policy expert

    Level Three Sex Offenders Residential Placement Issues: 2003 Report to the Legislature
    January 2003 (revised 2/04) Minnesota Department of Corrections 27 Pages; 1.88MB
    1. Proximity restrictions have been adopted in other states, but there has been little experience with actual implementation of these laws. Two states, Alabama and Iowa, recently enacted or revised proximity restrictions. In October 2002, Iowa had the first charge against an offender for violating their law. This is considered a test case for the restrictions.
    2. Proximity restrictions would severely limit already scarce residential options for level three offenders.
    3. There is no evidence in Minnesota that residential proximity to schools or parks affects reoffense. Thirteen level three offenders released between 1997 and 1999 have been rearrested for a new sex offense since their release from prison, and in none of the cases has residential proximity to schools or parks been a factor in the re-offense.
    4. There is no evidence that concentration of level three sex offenders increases the likelihood of reoffense within the community. Four of the 13 level three reoffenders were living with other sex offenders at the time of their re-arrest. However, in three of these cases, the sex offenders were living together while in county jail, civilly committed, or in a halfway house. In the fourth instance, a level three offender re-offended while he was living with a level two sex offender. This offender provided information to his therapist, which eventually led to the re-arrest of the level three offender for a child pornography offense.
    5. Information on sex offenders has a negative effect on the perception of safety in a neighbor-hood. Increased information on sex offenders has a negative effect on property values. Increased residential concentration of level three offenders – in addition to other negative neighborhood issues such as crime, housing deterioration, environmental hazards, and traffic problems – expands that negative effect.
    6. Proximity restrictions will have the effect of restricting level three offenders to less populated areas, with fewer supervising agents and fewer services for offenders (i.e., employment, education, and treatment). The result of proximity restrictions would be to limit most level three offenders to rural, suburban, or industrial areas.

    California Coalition on Sexual Offending Opposes the “Jessica’s Law Initiative”
    February 7, 2006 California Coalition on Sexual Offending (CCOSO)
    The California Coalition on Sexual Offending (CCOSO) [is] a multidisciplinary organization which includes mental health professionals, attorneys, probation and parole officers, group home staff and administrators, polygraph examiners, law enforcement officers, and victim advocates…

    Specifically CCOSO opposes [t]he 2000 foot residency restriction on all California Sex offenders and allowing local communities to create their own sets of restrictions. This measure will almost certainly result in the same chaotic situations and unintended, undesired consequences as are being seen in Iowa where initial proponents of such a measure have now, after experiencing the impact of its implementation, courageously changed their minds about its usefulness. Furthermore this restriction does not address the fact that the overwhelming majority of child victims are assaulted in their own homes or in the home of the offender — not school yards, parks, playgrounds etc.

    Data You Need to Know, Data You May Not Want to See
    October 26, 2006 Kenneth J. Bond 19 Pages; 147KB
    • Teenagers who participate in consensual sex or commit less serious youthful indiscretions should not be prosecuted as sex offenders:
    • Their maturity level changes rapidly.
    • The offense is typically youthful curiosity and experimentation.
    • Branding them with a Scarlet Letter is destructive to the child, the family and society.
    • There is no empirical evidence that designation as a sex offender and assigning a risk level protects anyone, which is supposed to be the purpose of registration and notification.
    • How is it that children under the age of 18 are never old enough to give consent as adults, but can always, based on a prosecutor’s decision, be old enough to be prosecuted as adults?
    • Isn’t it time to return the decision as to which children are prosecuted as adults back to the judges so that decisions can be made on a case-by-case basis?
    • Is it time to enact Mens Rea in juvenile sex offense cases — where one must have the motive and intent to commit the crime to be deemed guilty?
    http://www.soclear.org/MultiMedia/Documents/DATAYOUMAY%20NOTWANTTOSEE.ppt (PowerPoint 19 slides)

    News & Noteworthy: Fact / Factoid / False / Misleading
    2006 News & Noteworthy
    TRUE: “96.5% of new sex offenses are committed by someone who has never committed a sex offense before!”

    The Influence of Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws in the United States
    October, 2005 Arkansas Crime Information Center: Jeffery T. Walker, PhD, Sean Maddan, Bob E. Vásquez, Amy C. VanHouten, Gwen Ervin-McLarty 19 Pages; 53.5KB
    The key finding of this research is that the passage of sex offender registration and notification laws have had no systematic influence on the number of rapes committed in these states as a whole. Most of the states in our sample (five of ten) showed no significant differences (increase or decrease) in the average number of rapes committed before and after the sex offender laws…

    These findings beg the question of what is occurring concerning the relationship between sex offender registration and notification and subsequent sex offending. It is possible, as Sample’s (2001) research indicated, that this was knee jerk legislation based simply on keeping the constituency happy. If that is true, sex offender registration and notification laws are failed legislation…

    [T]he rationale behind sex offender laws would assume that a majority of the offenses committed within the confines of any year would actually be sex offenders who are re-offending. A potential alternative assumption is that in those states with increases (roughly half of the states examined here), it would be expected that these offenders would be first time offenders or offenders who have never been caught before. This is supported by Walker and McLarty (2000) who found that 73% of sex offenders in their study committed a sex offense as their first offense. If this is the case, it would be expected that sex offender registration and notification is not able to control this population because a substantial number of them are committing sex offenses as their first offense. Hence, there is no name on the register and no way to inform the community…

    Understanding Policy and Programmatic Issues Regarding Sex Offender Registries
    February, 2006 Matthew Lees and Richard Tewksbury 2 Pages; 48KB
    Perhaps the most important reason for the creation of sex offender registries was the anticipated reduction in recidivism for sex offenses. Research has shown that in some instances, sex offender registration was found to be associated with decreased recidivism for other crimes (most notably property offenses, not sex offenses). However, registration has generally revealed little to no effect on sex offense recidivism rates when comparing groups of offenders who were not subjected to registration to groups that were listed on registries. Additionally, recent research on sex offenders’ perceptions of registration has suggested that sex offender registries may offer the potential to deter sex crime, but are not doing so in the current form. In sum, the research to date suggests that sex offender registries may not be achieving the goal of deterrence or reductions in recidivism.

    Facts about Megan’s Law and Sex Offenders in New York State
    Rev. Dr. C. David Hess, New York Representative of SOhopeful International
    Much of the present discussion and debate about sex offenders is based on hysteria rather than fact. This is particularly true about sex offender recidivism. Recidivism statistics are often given without identifying the source. Even when attributed to a source, the statistics given are often misleading. For example, many New York politicians quote a 49% recidivism rate, giving the impression that 49% of sex offenders will repeat their crimes. This figure is drawn from a New York Department of Corrections study (Profile and follow-up of sex offenders released in 1986, prepared by Canestrini, K., State of New York Department of Correctional Services) which followed 556 sex offenders released from state prisons. Within 9 years of their release, 49% were returned to prison. Not reported is the fact that only 6% of these (34 out of 556) were returned to prison for a new sex crime. Most were returned for parole violations (27%) or for committing other crimes such as drug offenses. The study includes the clear statement: ‘These findings suggest that sex offenders are a diverse population and that when looking at sex offender recidivism it is important to distinguish total criminal activity from sexual reoffending.’ (p. 34) Unfortunately, politicians and the media rarely do this.

    The myth is that all sex offenders are alike and that most re-offend. The facts are the opposite. Most former offenders want nothing more than to rebuild normal productive lives. If we prevent them from doing so, our communities will be less safe, not more so.

    Societal Myths about Sex Offending and Consequences for Prevention of Offending Behavior Against Children and Women
    2001 James Krivacska, assisted by James Free, Richard Gibb and Drew Kinnear
    Ultimately, society’s interests are not served by preservation of myths about sex offending behavior. Especially in these times, when it appears that incidence of sex offending behavior is increasing despite the heightened punishments that are being put into place, society needs to understand how sex offending behavior develops and what it can do to prevent offending behavior. Community/Internet notification represents after-the-fact prevention. As noted in the outset of this article, society needs to begin addressing prevention before the fact, since most offenses are committed by first time offenders. In fact, between 10% to 20% of male community samples (e.g., university students, hospital staff, etc.) admit to sexual offending (Hanson & Scott, 1995; Lisak & Roth, 1988; Templeman & Stinnett, 1991). As part of the recovery effort and treatment program at ADTC, and as part of a personal commitment to “No More Victims,” many inmates at ADTC have spent considerable time and energy exploring the nature of the offending behavior in which they engage. The ultimate challenge to a society which wants to protect its citizens, young and old alike, from sex offending behavior is to look realistically at the problem and to recognize that a potential sex offender may be living in their community, working in their business, residing even in their homes. They most also recognize that dynamics are currently in place in contemporary society to foster the growth of the next generation of sexual offenders among their own children. Society’s ability to effectively and proactively prevent sexual offending behavior in the future may be directly related to its willingness to abandon the pursuit of interventions based on the myths which hithertofore have remained impervious to rational challenge and revision.

    Today’s Sex Offender Registries -vs- The United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    2006 News & Noteworthy
    Whereas states claim “Publishing Registry Information Is No More Than Publishing What Is Already Public Information,” or claim Publishing Registry Information Makes It Easier For The Community To Access, these comments circumvent the main issue, violation of constitutional and fundamental human rights of sex offenders. Further, there is no recognized constitutional right, requiring the government to make access to public information easy for the community.

    Publishing Registry Information, changes if not destroys the legal status of the prior sex offender in the community subjecting the offender to all sorts of burdens, costs, fees, housing – employment – public service- restrictions, and criminal acts. The sex offender’s right to enjoyment of the community, like other community members, flows from the 14th. Amendment, and it cannot be destroyed by the legislature upon any conception of the public welfare. The constitution declares the principle upon which the public welfare is to be promoted, and opposing ones cannot be substituted without usurping the constitution. Connolly -v- Union Sewer Pipe Co. 184 US 540,558 (1902)…

    1-2004 Commentary: “Fear, as a tactic,” Keeps Former Sex Offenders and Their Families, as Political Detainees under Megans’ Laws
    2006 News & Noteworthy
    Current Department of Justice statistics show 96+% of all new sex offenses are committed by someone other than a previously convicted sex offender. Yet, legislatures focus on monitoring and control of former sex offenders (now registered sex offenders [RSOs]). Why? It gets votes, sounds good, and makes the public feel safe. Sounds good -feels good- legislation!

    Recidivism, theory -or- statistics:
    The first Megans’ law was based upon the “theory of recidivism” and not on ‘actual recidivism statistics.’ In other words, there never was any proof of mass sex offender recidivism (as a class) before enacting that 1994 law in New Jersey; three (3) terrible crimes were the basis. Other states have simply followed New Jersey’s lead, and all have ignored actual recidivism statistics.
    In fact, in November of 2003, the Department of Justice calculated the actual sex offender recidivism rate using 1994 statistical figures (Megan’s law era), results showed a small 3.5% of sex offenders released from prison commit another sex offense; other crimes types are 3-10 times that rate and are ignored, even when they affect children.

    Unrealistic recidivism fears:
    Political figures publicly and using the media -who add their own media-bashing slant-, have so infected society with “unrealistic recidivism fears,” that RSOs have lost their societal identity and community status, and are relegated to being a categorical group of political detainees. …

    Using the Internet to Provide Passive Community Notification about Registered Sex Offenders
    June, 2004 Nancy Irwin, PsyD; Niki Delson, LCSW; Ron Kokish, LMFT; Thomas Tobin, PhD 25 Pages; 255KB
    1. The only legitimate purpose for sex offender notification laws is enhanced community safety. The degree to which this purpose can be achieved by sex offender notification laws must be weighed against potential social harm such laws may generate.
    2. Proponents of sex offender notification present compelling arguments about potential benefits of notification laws and illustrate their arguments with anecdotes. To date, only one study has methodically collected information about actual benefits achieved by notification laws. It found that these laws have no effect on recidivism but may contribute to faster apprehension of recidivists. However, it studied only direct, active notification applied to the highest risk category, not widespread, passive notification via the Internet. Many more studies are needed before fair-minded people can draw conclusions about potential benefits.
    3. Opponents of notification laws present compelling arguments about the potential harm these laws can cause and often illustrate their arguments with isolated anecdotes. Formal and informal surveys seem to indicate that notification laws result in registrants experiencing increased difficulty obtaining and maintaining employment and housing and varying degrees of increased anxiety. Some incidents of unwarranted violence have been documented. Experts argue that these difficulties likely contribute to increased rather than decreased recidivism and in this way, detract from rather than enhance community safety. However, there is presently insufficient data to conclude that social harm from broad Internet notification outweighs benefits.

    Managing the Challenges of Sex Offender Reentry
    February, 2007 Center for Sex Offender Management, A Project of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs 20 Pages; 169KB
    An effective reentry strategy cannot, however, rely solely upon the use of risk management strategies, such as surveillance and intensive supervision, as the sole means of reducing recidivism (see, e.g., Petersilia, 2003; Travis, 2005). In fact, research with general criminal offenders reveals that such an approach may actually have the opposite of the desired effect (Aos et al., 2006). To illustrate, traditional surveillance and punishment-oriented approaches to supervision are often based on the underlying expectation that sex offenders and other criminals will recidivate and that surveillance will help to lower recidivism. Consequently, multiple restrictions and conditions are imposed, and the role of supervision officers is to closely monitor offenders and sanction them when they violate these conditions.

    Research consistently reveals, however, that this approach has little to no impact on reducing recidivism — at least with general criminal offenders (see, e.g., Aos et al., 2006; Cullen & Gendreau, 2000; Smith, Goggin, & Gendreau, 2002). When intensive supervision occurs within a treatment-oriented or rehabilitation-focused framework, however — in which a key goal is to ensure that offenders develop the necessary skills and competencies to become prosocial and successful individuals — recidivism rates are reduced considerably (see, e.g., Aos et al., 2006). There is preliminary evidence that the same holds true for sex offenders — lower recidivism rates have been found among sex offenders when supervision is paired with specialized treatment, in contrast to using supervision alone (McGrath et al., 2003).

    Residential Proximity & Sex Offense Recidivism in Minnesota
    April, 2007 Minnesota Department of Corrections 30 Pages; 409KB
    Only a minority of the 224 sex offender recidivists directly established contact with their victims. For those that did, they were much more likely to initiate contact with an adult. But even when offenders contacted juvenile victims directly, it was often more than a mile away from where they lived. Of the few offenders who directly contacted a juvenile victim within close proximity of their residence, none did so near a school, park, playground or other location where children are normally present. Thus, not one of the 224 offenses would likely have been affected by residency restrictions.

    A residency restrictions law would likely offer, at best, a marginal impact on the incidence of sexual recidivism. This is not to say, however, that housing restrictions would never prevent a sex offender from reoffending sexually. Based on the results presented here, however, the chances that it would have a deterrent effect are slim. Indeed, over the last 16 years, not one sex offender released from a MCF has been reincarcerated for a sex offense in which he made contact with a juvenile victim near a school, park, or daycare center close to his home. In short, it is unlikely that residency restrictions would have a deterrent effect because the types of offenses such a law are designed to prevent are exceptionally rare and, in the case of Minnesota, virtually non-existent over the last 16 years.

    Sex Offender Recidivism in Minnesota
    April, 2007 Minnesota Department of Corrections 42 Pages; 644KB
    Overall, the results presented above confirm a number of findings from the literature on sex offender recidivism. First, prior sex crimes, stranger victims, male child victims (i.e. deviant sexual interests), and treatment failures significantly increase an offender’s risk of recidivating with a sex crime (see Table 12). Second, the factors that increased the risk of sexual recidivism are not the same as those for non-sexual recidivism, as the latter includes prior felony convictions, offender race, age at release, recent discipline convictions, and acquaintance victims.

    The results also suggest, however, that post-release supervision has had a significant impact on the extent to which sex offenders have recidivated. In particular, the findings imply that the intensity of post-release supervision has decreased the extent to which sex offenders have recidivated with sex offenses, while the length of supervision has reduced the risk of non-sexual reoffending. Although prior research has noted that supervised release (or parole) violations increase the likelihood of sexual recidivism, the results presented here suggest they lower the chances, at least for rearrest.

    It is worth noting, however, that this study is not a definitive assessment of the impact of post-release supervision on recidivism, as no control group was used to examine the effects of different supervision practices. Similarly, there was no attempt to match a control group of offenders who did not enter prison-based treatment with an experimental group of offenders who did. The findings still suggest, however, that treatment completion/participation significantly reduced the risk of timing to rearrest for a sex offense, but not for reconviction or reincarceration.

    Despite these limitations, the evidence shown here provides tentative support for the notion that part of the reason why sexual recidivism rates have dropped over the last 15 years is because sex offenders have been supervised more intensively for longer periods of time following release from prison. For example, as noted earlier, the average length of post-release supervision for the 2002 releasees was a little more than five years, which is roughly four years longer than the average for the 1990 releasees. Moreover, when sex offenders are placed on ISR, they are continuously supervised by a team of three to five supervision agents, whose caseloads are capped at 15 per state law. During all four phases of ISR, offenders are required to maintain steady employment, comply with random alcohol/drug testing, and are subjected to unannounced face-to-face contacts with their supervision agents at both their residence and place of work. Further, offenders must remain on ISR until they successfully complete all four phases of the program, or until they reach the expiration of their sentence. Due to the longer, more intensive periods of post-release supervision, offenders have been getting revoked more often and, thus, have returned to prison for cumulatively greater periods of time.

    Sex Offenders: Flaws in the System & Effective Solutions
    9/12/2005 SOhopeful International, Inc. 323 Pages; 767MB
    [T]he City of Tucson, Arizona has a program called RESTORE that is used in cases of sex abuse within a family context. It can also be used for low-risk, first-time non-violent offenders. At this point, the re-offense rate for sex offenders who have completed the RESTORE program is zero percent. In addition, the program has received exceptionally high marks from victims. Can a 100% level of effectiveness be achieved through mandatory minimum sentences? SOhopeful recommends that a nationwide program patterned after RESTORE be used to deal with the majority of sex crimes against juveniles, which are intrafamilial and non-violent.

  3. I posted the first two also.



    September 12, 2007

    We’ve all heard the catch phrases: “ They cannot be cured”, “They have the highest recidivism rates out of any other type of criminal” and “Its only a matter of time before they re-offend again”

    We hear these types of claims, stated as fact again and again by mainstream media and politicians. Indeed, even when lawmakers pass new laws pertaining to sex offenders these phrases are found again and again throughout the minutes of legislative hearings across the country. Numerous studies which have been bought and paid for by the American people tell a much different story however. In fact, these studies clearly demonstrate that the exact opposite is true.

    Why are they all lying? The short answer: money, ratings and control. Fear has always been a great motivator throughout history to get people to submit to things they would not ordinarily submit to. The laws that have been created under the guise of protecting the public undoubtedly have a very chilling effect on the constitution and create a springboard for further abuses which will ultimately affect us all.

    Instead of using the information contained in the studies-which may very well hold the key to making a significant reduction in the number of sex crimes, they create sound-bites and catch-phrases in an attempt to scare the public for votes, ratings, and corporate profit – all at the expense of our children. If the laws they have created were working (which they are not) Dru Sjodin, Jessica Lunsford, and Carlie Brucia would still be alive today.

    Most if not all studies clearly define which sub-categories of offenders pose the most risk, make up the bulk of recidivism and pose the greatest danger to society. Yet, instead of focusing on this specific sub-group of offenders, and tailoring legislation and attention of those most dangerous, they lump everyone convicted of a sex crime together. As a result the American public is mistakenly led to believe that all are highly dangerous ticking time bombs. IF this were true, given the fact that there are over 600,000 registered sex offenders in this country, we could have a 24 hour news channel devoted to nothing but repeat sex offenders. The reason registered sex offenders who do commit another sex offense make the evening news is because it is RARE!

    Lawmakers and the media are not only defrauding the American public, they are also effectively doing society and children a huge disservice – creating an unnecessary overblown climate of fear and anxiety, while continuing to put America’s children at risk.

    Take a look at some of the findings from these studies. Links have been provided so that the studies can be viewed in their entirety. Pay close attention to the number of “new sex crimes” committed by registered sex offenders. This is quite different from technical violations and failure to register. We think most readers will be shocked at what these studies and statistics reveal.

    The notion that most sex offences are committed by strangers, that sex offenders have high rates of recidivism, and that treatment does not work is NOT supported by the extensive and growing body of research regarding registered sex offenders.

    Here is a glimpse of what these studies reveal, which proves that what is happening is the exact opposite of what the American people are repeatedly being told.





    To put things in perspective, DUI recidivism hovers around 50%. Given the high number of fatalities each year caused as a result of drunk driving accidents, for example, During 2005, 16,885 people in the U.S. died in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes.This does not include victims who become permanantly disfigured and/or disbaled as a result of DUI related accidents. Many of them are children.

    Additionally over 1,400 children die each year at the hands of their own parents due to abuse and neglect.

    Sex crimes are a terrible social ill and there are ways to prevent them. The knowledge and information that is needed to make effective laws IS available and we need to demand that our lawmakers acknowledge this information and start using it effectively.

    What kind of politician would lie, ignoring vital information and hard evidence that could effectively protect our children? Here are a few:

    “Because of high recidivism rates, Congress can and must do more to ensure that offenders who could strike again are not roaming our streets,” Congresswoman Nita Lowey
    “Studies have clearly shown that sexual predators have the highest recidivism rates,” Senator Frank Padavan (R-C, Bellerose)

    “With the high-rate of recidivism of sex offenders, the state must have the ability to provide additional rehabilitation to those who pose a threat to our communities,” Senator John J. Flanagan.

    “Studies show that sex offenders are four times more likely to be rearrested than other criminals.” Congressman Vito Fossella (R-NY13)

    “Sex offenders are not petty criminals. They prey on our children like animals, and they will continue to do so unless we stop them. We need to change the way we track these pedophiles.” Former disgraced Republican Senator Mark Foley, FL

    We know that the recidivism rate of convicted child molesters is extremely high. When many leave the penitentiary, they continue their ways against our greatest resource, children,” Ted Poe Representative Texas

    “There are over 500,000 registered sex offenders across the country, and statistics have shown that the recidivism rate for those criminals is high.” Representative James f. Sensenbrenner(R) Wisconsin

    “Recidivism rates are alarmingly high” for sexual offenders.” Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D) of North Dakota

    “Unlike other criminals, sex offenders pose a unique challenge to law enforcement and communities due to high recidivism rates.” Representative Anthony D. Weiner NY

    UPDATE 09/14/2007
    http://www.sacbee. com/110/story/ 377462.html

    ST. JOSEPH, Minn. — My son Jacob was kidnapped on Oct. 22, 1989. Neither his brother nor his friend saw the man’s face. He was masked, he had a gun and he ordered them to run to the woods. By the time they looked back, Jacob was gone and so was the man. Since that day, I have been on a journey to find him and to stop this from ever happening to another child, another family.

    But I’m worried that we’re focusing so much energy on naming and shaming convicted sex offenders that we’re not doing as much as we should to protect our children from other real threats.
    Many states make former offenders register for life, restrict where they can live, and make their details known to the public. And yet the evidence suggests these laws may do more harm than good.

    Jacob’s Law was the first federal attempt to prevent convicted sex offenders from repeating their crimes after release. It was the outcome of my unwanted education in sexual violence against children.

    Soon after Jacob was taken, I learned that sexual motives are usually behind child kidnapping. That was a thought totally out of my realm of consciousness. Who would do that? Who would sexually harm a child? As the search for Jacob went on, I asked law enforcement, what do you need? An investigator told me: A ready list of potential suspects, a central database of offenders convicted of sexual violence against children.

    The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Sex Offender Registration Act was part of the 1994 Crime Bill signed by President Bill Clinton. Our goal was to give law enforcement a tool to help build safer communities. Back in 1990, when we first recommended registering convicted sex offenders, we were met with resistance: “You can’t do that. These people have rights!” How times have changed. Few people today are concerned about the rights of sex offenders. Most now complain our laws are not tough enough.

    But they might be missing some basic facts. First, in most states “sex offender” covers anyone, including juveniles, convicted of any sexual offense, including consensual teenage sex, public urination and other non-violent crimes. Second, Jacob was the exception, not the rule: more than 90 percent of sexual violence is committed by someone the child knows. And third, most shocking to me, sex offenders are less likely to re-offend than commonly thought. A Department of Justice study suggested ex-offenders have a recidivism rate of 3 percent to 5 percent within the first three years after release.
    Another study found that, after 15 years, three out of four do not re-offend.

    Shortly before Jacob’s Law was passed, Megan Kanka was kidnapped, raped and murdered. Her parents felt it wasn’t enough for law enforcement to know where sex offenders were: they thought we should all know. Maybe, if they’d known that there was a convicted sex offender living next door, their child would be alive today. Megan’s Law was created to let people know when a violent offender was released into their community, so they could talk to their children and perhaps save another child from sexual violence. But the law has been expanded so that now anyone with an Internet connection can download details about almost any offender, whether or not they pose a risk, and whether or not they live nearby.

    Are these policies working? Are our “get tough on sex offenders” laws having the desired effect? Human Rights Watch has taken on the challenge of looking at sex offender policy to see what parts are working and what aren’t.
    This week it published a 143-page report, “No Easy Answers: Sex Offender Laws in the United States.” The researchers examined whether we are building safer communities with these laws, and what issues policy-makers should consider. HRW found that many laws may not prevent sexual attacks on children, but do lead to harassment, ostracism and even violence against former offenders. That makes it nearly impossible to rehabilitate those people and reintegrate them safely into their communities — and that may actually increase the risk that they’ll repeat their crime.

    We need to keep sight of the goal: no more victims. We need to be realistic. Not all sex offenders are the same. Not all sex offenses are the same. We need to ask tougher questions: What can we do to help those who have offended so that they will not do it again? What are the social factors contributing to sexual violence and how can we turn things around? None of us want our loved ones to be victims of sexual violence. None of us want to be the parent or sibling or child of a sex offender. But since the vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the family, sexual violence becomes personal very quickly. It affects all of us.
    We need better answers. We need to fund prevention programs that stop sexual violence before it happens. We need to look at what can help those released from prison to succeed so that they don’t victimize again — and that probably means housing and jobs and treatment and community support. Given that current laws are extremely popular, taking truly effective measures may exact a high political price. But that’s surely not too much to pay to prevent the kidnap, rape or murder of another child.

    About the writer:
    Patty Wetterling lives in St. Joseph, Minn. She and her husband are co-founders of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, which works to prevent sexual violence against children. She wrote this for Human Rights Watch, 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10118-3299; Web site: http://www.hrw.org. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

  4. I love when I find another rational minded person in this world! There are way too many “reactionary” or “knee jerk” people around these days.

    And you are absolutely correct that the lawmakers and media are constantly leading the populace astray.

  5. Sex offender issues are a hot button topic for me. I agree that we may have a LOT in common, this issue being one of them. Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  6. Thank you for the comments! As parents, this is a very sticky subject. Glad to know that there are some folks out there that agree with me!!

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