Monday, April 21, 2008
Public Perceptions About Sex Offenders and Community Protection Policies, Posted by Robert Paisola
Public Perceptions About Sex Offenders and Community Protection Policies
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% (3,32 8) 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.
• 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
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
DEALING WITH YOUTHFUL OFFENDERS
• 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.
SOME FINAL QUESTIONS
• 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 Samples (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 offenders 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.