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WI Presentation Examines Sex Offender Myths

January 10, 2010

greenbaypressgazette.com: Presentation Examines Sex Offender Myths.

The message from a panel of people who work closely with sex offenders was clear on Saturday — education is key in dispelling myths about sex offenders and helping them reintegrate into society after release from prison.

“Education is the most important aspect for the public and politicians,” said Sue Kelly-Kohlman of the Prison Aftercare Network. “We the general public can learn the facts and make better, safer decisions for our community.”

Panel members focused on seven myths they said are often perpetuated in the public, including that most sex offenders are prone to offend again, that sex offense rates are on the rise, that treatment for sex offenders does not work and that residency restriction laws reduce offenses.

“Community concerns are valid and should not be overlooked,” said Bob Van Domelen, executive director of Broken Yoke Ministries. “But if we’re using the argument of recidivism as a reason for legislation, then we have to take a closer look at the numbers.”
A study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics of released prisoners in 2003 shows reconviction rates for new sex offenses were between 3 percent and 4 percent. An earlier study by the same agency concluded that about 86 percent of reported assaults are by family members or acquaintances, not strangers.

Misconceptions about recidivism may have led to the residency restrictions favored by many communities, but there’s no proof those laws work, Neuman said. Noncompliance rates among released sex offenders for the statewide registry have grown in Green Bay since the city enacted that law in 2006.

The Department of Corrections relies on four factors to successfully transition released offenders: residence, employment or education, treatment and positive support. Residency restrictions effectively “have removed all four of those,” Neuman said.

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