Archive for November 23, 2009

Laws Push Sex Offenders Into High Density

November 23, 2009 Comments off (Arkansas) : Laws Push Sex Offenders Into High Density.

Changes in Arkansas state laws in 2003 and 2007 created small concentrations of sex offenders throughout Northwest Arkansas near many residential neighborhoods. Laws restrict how close sex offenders can live to businesses and institutions.

“Certain offenders can’t live within 2,000 feet of a school, public park or a licensed day care center,” said Detective Leonard Graves, Fayetteville’s representative on the Northwest Arkansas Sex Offender and Violent Crime Task Force. “That starts eliminating a lot of a city.” A city like Fayetteville, with about 65 schools and day care centers and numerous small parks, doesn’t have much space left that is eligible, Graves said.

John, a convicted sex offender said,“Every year there’s more restrictions. When I got out of prison, I could live anywhere I wanted to. Now I’m on the registry for the rest of my life. If I was a murderer who was paroled, I wouldn’t have to do anything now.”

It’s been 20 years since John was paroled. He spent 10 years on probation after his release. He has never been in trouble since leaving prison, he said. His good behavior, however, didn’t mean anything when he moved the last time, from an apartment building to a house next door. “People left nasty notes in my mailbox, they put a sign in my yard, they broke out windows trying to get me to move,” John said.

Arkansas set up its database after the passing of the Sex and Child Offender Registration Act in 1997. Those convicted of a sex crime, or those found not guilty of a sex crime on the grounds of mental disease or defect, must register. They are required to register in each law enforcement jurisdiction where they live, attend school or are employed.

Stricter laws forcing people out of more neighborhoods are not the answer, said Paula Stitz, manager of the Arkansas sex offender registry. Tougher laws in other states have led to situations such as in Miami, where sex offenders live under bridges, Stitz said. New legislation in Florida eliminated most of Miami as a living site for sex offenders, according to a story by the Associated Press. In 2007, five male sex offenders started living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway when they couldn’t find a place to live. The number of offenders living under the bridge and nearby grew to 52 by March 2009.

“That’s not a good situation,” said Marc Klaas, founder of KlaasKids, a foundation formed to prevent crimes against children. Polly Klaas, Marc Klaas’ daughter, was kidnapped from her home in California and murdered in 1993 when she was 12 years old. “Sex offenders in close contact tend to network and exchange information that could lead them to committing another sex crime”, Klaas said.

So let’s get this straight; the manager of the state sex offender registry and a national advocate for sex offender laws both believe that these stricter laws are actually compromising public safety. So why are the public and lawmakers still pushing such laws?

How Likely are Sex Offenders to Re-offend?

November 23, 2009 Comments off : How likely are sex offenders to re-offend? Studies suggest rates lower than popularly believed.

Sex offenders are often seen as incurable deviants who lurk in the shadows, waiting to prey on unsuspecting innocents.
But the term “sex offender,” is actually much more complex, experts say, and a myriad of misconceptions exist about common traits associated with the population. Not only that, but according to recent studies, recidivism rates for sexual felons may be lower than most people believe.

“The public doesn’t quite understand recidivism,” says Dr. Adam Deming, a psychologist and director of the Sex Offender Management and Monitoring Program. “They tend to believe all will recidivate.” “It varies tremendously,” adds Dr. Jeff Burnett, a Mishawaka doctor who specializes in sex offender treatment, psychological evaluations and psychosexual assessments.

Community members often want to be cautious and conservative when assessing the danger of sex offenders because sexual assault and abuse can be so devastating. But that caution, Burnett says, can at times lead to an overestimation of the risk.

Before delving into exact recidivism rates, it’s essential to first define the word. In some studies, recidivism is explained as a reconviction for a sexual offense. In others, it relates to an offender being charged with a new sex offense. Other statistics measure recidivism based on arrests for any new type of crime, and some gauge recidivism based on violations of conditional release requirements.

The different ways to measure recidivism make the simple question of how often sex offenders re-offend not so simple.
Length of time is also important to consider when reviewing recidivism, notes a 2004 recidivism study conducted by Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada. The study included parts of the United States.

“For all crimes … the likelihood that the behavior will re-appear decreases the longer the person has abstained from that behavior,” the study said.

In a 1994 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the study found if sex offenders were re-arrested for a new sex crime, it was likely to happen within the first 12 months of their release.

In the first three years of being released, the study found that 5.3 percent of sex offenders had been rearrested for a sex crime.

The more recent Canadian/U.S. study showed overall recidivism rates based on re-convictions, were 14 percent after five years, 20 percent after 10 years, and 24 percent after 15 years.

“Most sexual offenders do not re-offend over time,” the study found. “This may be the most important finding of this study, as this finding is contrary to some strongly held beliefs.”

In short, after 15 years, 73 percent of sex offenders had not been charged or reconvicted of another sex offense.

All offenders are also not equally likely to reoffend. In addition, Brunett lists three risk factors leading to a greater chance of recidivism. Offenders whose victims are male, unrelated to them, or a stranger are more likely to repeat their crimes.

Age of the offender also plays a role. The older the sex offender, the less likely they are to reoffend.
And although cases where strangers sexually assault victims are usually more publicized, Deming points out that victims much more often know their perpetrator.