Posts Tagged ‘myths’

2nd Annual Conference of Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL)

July 5, 2010 Comments off Sex Offenders Meet Media.

A group of former sex offenders and experts in the field of sexual offense met with members of the press Monday, following the 2nd Annual Conference of Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL). RSOL seeks to reform or repeal legislation like the Adam Walsh Act, which has a current deadline for implementation of July 1st but has only been completely adopted by 4 states (3 states and an Indian Tribe, as far as we know).

Surprisingly RSOL does not seek for the immediate abolishment of the Sex Offender Registry but for a more directed approach to Registration and other sex offender related laws. According to Dr. Chrysandi Leon, University of Delaware, Professor of Sociology and an Expert on Sex Offender recidivism who presented at the conference, “the limited resources of law enforcement are being diluted by the blanket registration of all sex offenders.” “Credible statistical studies over the last 15 years “since the registry was implemented show that “it has had no impact of the recidivism rate.” We can go back to studies from the 1940’s on, long before the registry was implemented, and show that the rate of offenses has remained remarkably consistent over the intervening years.

RSOL advocates a more directed and individualized approach to registration using scientifically based data to identify those offenders who pose a significant treat to society and who are truly “dangerous.” Right now it is impossible for parents or even law enforcement to accurately determine an offender’s potential risk because of labels such as “sexually violently predator” which are blanketedly applied to all offenders who have committed a specific set of offenses rather that using individualized assessment to apply that designation. Having over 700,000 people on the registry nation-wide makes it difficult for law enforcement to narrow the field quickly when a child goes missing.

“We are as concerned about the safety of children as anyone else” says Kelly Piercy, a former offender, and chairman of Georgians for Reform, but “we don’t believe that the current legislation is effective in doing so, it wastes resources and punishes those who are trying to reintegrate as productive citizens.”

Interestingly several children both of non-offender presenters and children of former offenders attended and roamed freely about the conference seemingly without fear of any kind.

Besides Dr. Leon, and Piercy other presenters at the conference included: Lloyd Swartz, New Mexico Registrant and Reform Advocate, J.Tom Morgan, former prosecutor and sex offender registry sponsor from Georgia who now states that “the registry no longer serves the purposes for which it was created;” Norman A. Pattis, Connecticut defense attorney, Nancy M. Steele, PhD, a Clinical Psychologist and sex offender treatment specialist, and Rev. James L. Powell, PhD, DD, a Methodist Minister whose Atlanta- based church welcomes sex offenders but under strict perimeters. Powell is also a licensed clinical psychologist and regularly counsels with former sex offenders. “There is much that the church and other community based organizations can do to mentor and help former sex offenders who want to reform,” thus increasing the net of safety that we all seek when dealing with those who have previously offended, particularly when the offense involves children.” Another presenter Mary Duval of Oklahoma, CEO of SOSEN, another sex offender advocacy group, became vehement in her fight for change, when her teenaged son Ricky was convicted of having sex with a younger teenaged girl. At that time there were no “Romeo and Juliet” laws which exempt consensual teenage sex from prosecution. Duval’s lobbying efforts help create these laws. Though completely blind, Duval actively lectures and campaigns throughout the United States, she also co-hosts weekly radio shows on ARC Talk Radio which focus on human rights and sex offender issues.

The conference concluded Monday after concentrated lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill. Portions of the Conference were recorded and links will soon be available online. These and other information about RSOL are available at their national website .

Sex Crimes Can Never Be Eradicated

June 17, 2010 Comments off

As much as we, as a society, would like to see the end of all sex crimes in this nation, it will never happen. To believe or suggest otherwise is simply naivete and foolishness.

If you disagree, let’s look at the facts of our society. Don’t most people in our society abhor the taking of another human life? Don’t we want murder to stop? Haven’t we had laws to deter murder for hundreds of years in this country? Of course, we have tried futiley since the inception of our nation to eradicate murder.

Have we ever, over the course of humanity, been able to end all murders? The answer is, obviously: no.

Our laws become deterrents for most people to commit such horrific crimes, but not for all. This truth holds true for all crimes: drunk driving, abuse, theft, fraud, speeding, racism, etc.. None of these can ever be erased from our society regardless of the punishments associated with them. No matter what laws these legislators can dream up, there will always be some who commit sex offenses.

Once we understand this simple truth, we can come to rational approaches to drafting logical sex offender laws. Sex offenses are no worse, nor no better, than any other type of crime. Crime is crime. Right is right, Wrong is wrong.

But as long as we have “sky-is-falling” irrational maniacs driving our legislators to continue this broad-brush, punching-bag style legislative fight against sex offenders, we will never come to effective, constitutional and balanced sex offender legislation in this country.

The Ohio vs. Bodyke Supreme Court ruling is just one step in the right direction. We still have a huge battle before us to step away from all of these emotion-driven sex offender laws across the nation. We, as the people, are to blame. Legislators only act when they see it in their own political self-interest to do so.

If we can ever educate the panic-driven people who want to throw sex offenders off bridges, or castrate them, or worse….we can finally see some rational and logical legislation dealing with this crime. Just as we do with all other crimes. Until then, the hysterical sex offender laws will continue to cause devastation to the families of nearly one million Americans and to threaten the stability of our society.

Calls for Texas to Drop Out of Federal Adam Walsh Act

June 13, 2010 Comments off

KXAN – Austin, Texas: Sex Offender Registries

The fight continues…we have still seen no movement by the Ohio Attorney General’s office in complying with the Ohio Supreme Court ruling, of June 3, 2010, which invalidated the retroactive application of Ohio’s reclassification of ex sex offenders. The Attorney General’s continued refusal to abide by this Supreme Court decision is an illegal act. Every reader must contact the Attorney General Office of Ohio to insist that they stop enforcing this illegal law:

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, 30 E. Broad St., 17th Floor, Columbus, OH 43215
(800) 282-0515
1-866-40-OHLEG (1-866-406-4534)

Media Contacts:
Kim Kowalski: (614) 728-9692, cell: (614) 893-6018
Ted Hart: Deputy Director of Media Relations
Office of the Ohio Attorney General
PHONE 614-728-4127, cell: (614) 743-2286
EMAIL (614) 728-4127

Help be a watchdog:

Do Sex Offender Registration Laws Actually Make Us Safer?

June 13, 2010 Comments off Do sex offender registration laws actually make us safer?

Within weeks of the disturbing discovery of 11 decomposing women at the home of convicted sex offender Anthony Sowell — the suspected serial killer had inspired new statewide legislation. A law, proposed by State Sen. Nina Turner, called for stepped-up registration and monitoring of sex offenders convicted of committing the most serious crimes. At least four other proposed laws already were being considered to tweak aspects of Ohio’s sex offender registration and notification laws.

But many now question whether the piling on of laws — which cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year — make communities any safer, or just lull them into feeling so. And they wonder whether real predators become lost in the swelling ranks of registering offenders.

Attorney General Richard Cordray said he understands why people use tragedies, such as the Sowell case, as springboards for lawmaking. “People want to have the satisfaction of responding to things,” he said. “There is always pressure to have Joe Smith’s Law or Becky Jones’ law to help make sense out of a tragedy.”

Is that a useful approach? “The answer is, sometimes,” Cordray said.

However, when it comes to sex crimes, recent long-range studies have concluded that the costly registration and monitoring laws do not reduce the number of new crimes or new victims.

A separate Plain Dealer analysis found many local sex offenders ignore residency restrictions or lie about where they are living. And sex offenders on the registry convicted of new sex crimes during the time period reviewed most often did not re-offend near where they were registered as living.

Those types of revelations and concerns about the overall impact of sex offender laws have spurred a divergent coalition of sexual assault victim advocates, public defenders and local officials to call for Ohio to rethink its approach to the complicated issue.

“We think that these type of laws are well intended, but they are misguided and very limiting,” Cleveland Rape Crisis Center President and CEO Megan O’Bryan said.

O’Bryan said laws create a false sense of security for the public and concentrate a vast amount of resources and attention toward a small number of offenders — the very few who are caught and prosecuted.

The concept also capitalizes on the fear of stranger attacks, when family members, friends or acquaintances commit most sex crimes.

“Just like the public needs to be educated about these issues, so do the lawmakers,” O’Bryan said.

Lawmakers need to support prevention, education and treatment for both victims and perpetrators of sexual assault, she said.

Policy driven by anger

It has been more than 15 years since vivid details of the rape and strangulation of a 7-year-old New Jersey girl ignited a much-publicized national crusade to protect the public from sex offenders living among us.

Megan Kanka’s parent’s anguish turned to anger when they became aware that Megan’s killer — a man who moved in 30 yards from their doorstep — already had been convicted of sexually assaulting another child.

The emotion fueled a wave of state and federal legislation in the mid-1990s aimed at convicted sex offenders.

The laws were intended to make the public safer by forcing those convicted of sex crimes to register their addresses with local police and, in cases of serious or repeat offenders, to notify their neighbors.

At the time, many states and localities — including Ohio — already had laws on the books forcing certain sex criminals to register with the police.

Ohio’s law, originally passed in 1963, called for “habitual sex offenders” to register their addresses for a decade. Those registries included fingerprints and photographs.

But the information was not public, and enforcement was haphazard. And the cost and effectiveness of the sweeping laws were a secondary consideration.

Program costs become burden

A year ago, a federally funded study by the New Jersey Department of Corrections and Rutgers University examined the impact of “Megan’s Law” in the state.

The study found the registries and notification did not reduce the number of new offenses or new victims. Numbers of reported sex offenses have dropped nationwide in recent years. But that decline started before the laws were in place.

The researchers concluded that “given the lack of demonstrated effect of Megan’s law on sexual offenses, the growing costs may not be justifiable.” They estimated the statewide cost in New Jersey to be at least $5.1 million a year.

Cuyahoga County Sheriff Reid, whose office is required to register, verify and publish where sex offenders live, said he could not say how much the department pays for the efforts.

But he said to comply with the laws, he has to pay salaries for deputies to register offenders, cars for them to drive and verify addresses, to update the office’s website identifying offenders, and postage for sending out notification. The entire cost falls to the department.

In 2008, Ohio trumpeted its accomplishment of becoming the first state to comply with a sweeping set of federal laws that sought to standardize how sex offenders are categorized and registered across the country, called the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.

Only two other states have complied with the federal mandate so far and some have declined to do so even though they stand to lose some federal funding.

Before 2008, Ohio had a system that judged the risk of sex offenders to the community on a case-by-case basis, through psychological assessments and a hearing in front of a judge.

Now offenders are classified based solely on their offense. The majority of offenders are in the “most-serious” category, which forces them into more rigorous registration for life.

The Ohio Supreme Court last week pushed slightly back on the Adam Walsh system in a decision that erased the retroactive nature of the law. So thousands of sex offenders who were reclassified for crimes committed before 2008 will go back to their previous court-ordered sex offender classifications. Those convicted of sex crimes in 2008 or after will register with the new system.

Some think the new, more stringent rules work. Others think slapping the same label on people based on their offense and not the likelihood to re-offend is a waste of resources.

“I think we took a huge step backward when we threw out our risk-based system and implemented this offense system,” said Amy Borror, spokeswoman for the state public defender’s office.

It makes more sense to center attention on offenders that mental health experts deemed most likely to commit new crimes, she said.

“The folks that are more likely to re-offend will now get lost in the masses,” she said.

Falling through the cracks

Anthony Sowell still awaits trial on charges that he killed the 11 women found in his home on Imperial Avenue and raped or attacked several others. He has pleaded not guilty.

Sowell’s trial may answer some questions for the community.

But what it probably won’t reveal is whether any specific laws would have prevented the tragedy.

Sowell was a registered sex offender from the time he stepped out of prison in 2005, where he had been for attempted rape. At the time, he was seen as a low risk to re-offend, and his neighbors weren’t notified when he moved in.

Even when the law changed in 2008 and he was classified as a higher-risk offender, his neighbors still weren’t notified because he hadn’t moved to a new address.

But sheriff’s deputies knocked on his door periodically, and he chatted them up as the women’s bodies were in his home and buried in his yard.

Deputies, in fact, paid a surprise visit to his home on the same day he is accused of raping one woman.

Cordray said he thinks law enforcement still needs more leeway in monitoring sex offenders considered the most serious, such as allowing officers to enter the offenders’ homes.

“Nobody went into the Sowell house because they didn’t have the authority to,” Cordray said.

But will continuing to change the laws make a difference?

“We just have to be realistic,” Borror said. “We are never going to create a completely air-tight system. I would just hope that at some point Ohio would be willing to pull back from this reactionary way of making sex offender policy and go about it in a more deliberate way.”

States Struggle To Control Sex Offender Costs

May 28, 2010 Comments off States Struggle To Control Sex Offender Costs.

Nationwide, more than 700,000 convicted sex offenders have registered their whereabouts with local police (..and growing each day). Every state has a sex offender registry of some kind.

But as many states face persistent budget shortfalls, it’s become a real question how well law enforcement can keep track of such a large caseload.

“Sometimes federal mandates and state laws get passed without a real sense of what the lingering costs are,” says Suzanne Brown-McBride, deputy director of the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department proposed significant changes to the registration requirements states must meet under the Adam Walsh Act, a 2006 law that was meant to ensure that offender registries across the country adhere to similar standards. Only three states — Ohio, Delaware and Florida — are in compliance. Many of the rest say it imposes costs that are too high for them to bear.

Even some advocates for harsher penalties for sex crimes worry that states will not devote the resources needed to keep track of so many offenders, often for life.

“It’s the worst it’s ever been because of the economic crisis,” says Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which estimates 100,000 sex offenders are not even currently registered with states. “Our argument lies not in throwing up your hands and saying we can’t do this. The answer lies in triage — deciding who represents the greatest risk.”

Incarceration’s High Cost

The greatest expense, of course, is incarceration. Sex criminals, along with drug offenders, are the fastest-growing part of prison populations, Allen says. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress had not overstepped its authority in the Adam Walsh Act by allowing federal prisons to hold “sexually dangerous” inmates after their sentences are completed.

The California legislature is currently considering a bill, known as Chelsea’s Law, which would allow for life sentences for more categories of sex offenders and lifetime parole for others. The bill has the backing of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and could pass the State Assembly as early as next week.

But state officials have warned that the cost of implementing Chelsea’s Law will be high as the lengthier sentences play out. An analysis by the state corrections department found the law would cost $1 million in 2015 but $54 million by 2030. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office says costs will run much higher, “at least a few tens of millions of dollars annually within the next decade” and hundreds of millions annually in decades to come.

California’s budget shortfall currently stands at $19 billion and the corrections budget is already under deep stress. The state is releasing 6,500 prisoners early this year in part to save money. California is under court order to release 40,000 prisoners over the next two years, and perhaps many more over three years, because of overcrowding.

An Expanding List

At the same time, states have come under some criticism for requiring registration and community notification for an ever-expanding list of offenses — including public urination, “sexting” (minors sending nude pictures to each other via cell phones) and “Romeo and Juliet” cases involving older teens who had consensual sex with younger ones.

The argument from some advocacy groups holds that there are twin dangers associated with registration lists that contain thousands of petty criminals: The registry lists are too long to track effectively and can allow the worst offenders to slip through the cracks.

But purging the lists of minor offenders would not necessarily make them more manageable, says Roxanne Lieb, director of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. “Sometimes there’s discussion about sexting and Romeo and Juliet, but you’re talking about tiny numbers,” she says. “It would still be a huge number to monitor. It’s not going to solve the problem of too many people to watch and keep track of in any way.”

Can States Bear The Cost?

Still, even proponents of harsher penalties increasingly say there’s value in laws that recognize some sex offenders require more oversight than others. Yet the trend in most states has been to differentiate less between various categories of offenders — moving away from “tiered” systems that imposed different notification requirements depending on the severity of the crime.

And it’s the very fact that the Adam Walsh Act puts offenders into three different tiers that has contributed to states’ fear about the cost, suggests Alisa Klein, a public policy consultant with the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. The practical effect of the federal law (AWA) would be to force states to put more offenders into the highest-risk category — leading to much greater administrative and enforcement costs.

If states do not comply by July 26 — itself an extension of last year’s deadline – they stand to lose 10 percent of their funding under a congressional grant program for law enforcement. But with only a couple of months left and few states on board, it appears that most are deciding the cost of compliance will be higher than the penalty.

The question now is what sort of calculations states will make moving forward. Congress and state legislatures may have made bigger promises in protecting against sex offenders than they’re willing to pay for, or that agencies may be able to deliver.

“What happens is the legislature has basically made a commitment to the citizens regarding how sex offenders will be managed and kept track of,” says Lieb of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. “To the extent they’re not able to fulfill those expectations, then it becomes grounds for disappointment and lawsuits and other financial consequences.”

Map: Sex Offenders By State

Click on map to see how many sex offenders have been registered in each state, and which states have the highest rates of registered sex offenders per capita.

OH: Abduction and Sex Assault was a Hoax

May 27, 2010 Comments off College Student Recants Abduction Report.

Lebanon, Ohio — Police in Lebanon said the abduction and sex assault of a 21-year-old college student has been ruled a hoax. Investigators said Kristen Lamb admitted Thursday during an interview that the alleged abduction and sexual assault was a hoax. They said they attribute Lamb’s actions over her family’s attention to her brother’s recent wedding.

Police said the University of Cincinnati nursing student admitted that she went to the location in a wooded area where she sat for more than 15 hours. She told police that she used zip ties from her father’s toolbox to bound her wrists. Lamb also told police that she used a pillow case from her own room to cover her head. Police said Lamb took officers to the wooded area north of her home, where they found the pillow case and one zip tie.

According to police, Lamb said she had no other help in the alleged abduction and sexual assault. Police are now talking with prosecutors about possible criminal charges against Lamb.

This woman must be charged severely as anyone should be after making a false accusation of sex abuse. Her family should be ashamed of her for her inexcusable actions.

FL: Governor Signs Bill to Criminalize Sex Offender Loitering

May 27, 2010 Comments off Crist signs bill in Orlando strengthening sex offender laws.

Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill today that strengthens Florida’s laws against sex offenders and predators.

Crist signed the bill — which makes it illegal for sex offenders and predators to loiter or prowl within 300 feet of a place where children congregate — in front of several-dozen parents, teachers and staff at Timber Lakes Elementary School. (How does a police officer define loitering? It is a subjective determination and is open to abusive application)

The legislation also makes it illegal for sex offenders or predators who were previously convicted of a crime against children, to:

Approach a child in a public park with the intent to engage in sexual conduct or sexual communication
(It is illegal to do that in any place at any time, already)

Be at a child care facility or school without prior notification or approval
(Many people required to register as sex offenders are parents of school children and have every right to be at their child’s school just like any other parent)

The bill also limits sex offenders and predators from participating in activities that would be attractive to children, such as dressing up in costumes like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
(This is just plain ridiculous, unconstitutional and unenforceable in all but public settings)

Crist noted the legislation was passed unanimously.The bill signing prompted applause from the parents and staff who gathered in the school’s media center to see the governor. “Now we get to protect our children more,” Crist said. (He is clearly pandering for political advantage, which is disgraceful and ignorant of the facts that only 2% of child sex offenses are committed by strangers)

TX: City Council Expands Sex Offender Residency Restrictions

May 26, 2010 Comments off (TX): Boerne city council votes to expand sex offender boundary lines and prohibited lists.

In a vote of 4-1, Boerne City Council made it unlawful for registered sex offenders to reside within 1500 feet of places where children gather.

Prior to this, state law prohibited registered sex offenders from going within 1000 feet of just schools or parks. Boerne has expanded that list to include public and private playgrounds, daycares, public libraries, and more.

The vote came after an hour and a half of debate. One councilman called it a very decisive issue for the city. The community seemed split down the middle in their support for it or against it.

Those against it argued it would severely limit the areas in which registered sex offenders could live. Thus, it would create a cluster of sex offenders. That would lower property values in those areas, and make it unsafe for the children who already live in those areas.

Another big argument against the ordinance was that it was not ethical or even an effective way to protect children. The councilman who voted against it said, “The threat to our children is so much less the guy in the trench coat hiding under the street light. As it is, it’s the people they already know. The vast majority of crimes to children are committed by the people they know.”

Council also voted to increase the fine for anyone who violates this ordinance from $500 to $2000.

As reported, about half those residents understand that these residency limits do not work, and cause unintended negative consequences for the city. Sadly, their city council is still ignorant about these facts and is still hand-picking low-hanging political fruit from the tree.

Branding the Scarlet Letter: Special ID for Sex Offenders

May 25, 2010 Comments off Special ID Needed for Sex Offenders.

The father of murdered Escondido teenager Amber Dubois wants all convicted sex offenders to carry special identification. Moe Dubois wants the state to require all sex offenders carry a distinctive driver’s license or state-issued card that would be branded with a special mark indicating that person had been convicted of a sex crime.

Dubois says he knows the legislation could meet resistance at the state capitol by those who may argue more restrictions won’t make communities safer or those who say the law would infringe on the civil liberties of sex offenders. Others could be concerned about the potential cost.

The driver’s license measure is part of a four-bill package aimed at cracking down on sex offenders — and Moe Dubois says he’s ready to fight to try and push them through. Dubois is scheduled to introduce his legislation proposals in Long Beach at noon today.

California wouldn’t be the first state to impose a law branding ID cards.

In Delaware sex offenders get a new driver’s license after release from prison marked with the letter “Y” designating them as someone convicted of a sex crime.

In Louisiana people convicted of certain sex crimes are issued licenses with “SEX OFFENDER” printed in bold on the ID.

Yellow Badge: The yellow badge (or yellow patch), also referred to as a Jewish badge, was a cloth patch that Jews were ordered to sew on their outer garments in order to mark them as Jews in public. It is intended to be a badge of shame associated with antisemitism.[1] In both Christian and Islamic countries, persons not of the dominant religion were intermittently compelled by sumptuary laws to wear badges, hats, bells or other items of clothing that distinguished them from members of the dominant religious group.

The yellow badge that was compulsory in the Middle Ages was revived by the German Nazis.

Facts and Fiction about Sex Offenders

May 24, 2010 Comments off and Fiction about Sex Offenders.

“The political outlash against sex offenders is immense, irrational, and hard for legislators to reverse.”
-Sarah Agudo in the Northwestern University Law Review, 2008

Myth: Sex offenders are dirty old strangers who steal kids from playgrounds

An Ohio prison intake report on sex offenders imprisoned in 1992 revealed that 2.2 percent of child molesters were strangers to their victims, and 89 percent of perpetrators had never been convicted before.

In their 1993 textbook, The Juvenile Sex Offender, Howard Barbaree and colleagues estimated that teenagers perpetrated 20 percent of all rapes and half of all child molestations.

A 2006 report for the Ohio Sentencing Commission said 93 percent of molestation victims were well known to their perpetrators, over half the offenders victimized close relatives, and 93 percent of molesters had never been arrested for a previous sex crime.

A December 2009 study by David Finkelhor of UNH and colleagues for the US Justice Department analyzed national sex crime data from 2004. That year the estimated population of underage sex offenders was 89,000, and they had committed 35.8 percent of all sex crimes reported to police. One in eight juvenile sex offenders was under age 12. The study said that between 85 and 95 percent of young offenders would never face another sex charge.

Myth: Residency restrictions are harmless to sex offenders and protect kids

A 2005 survey of 135 Florida sex offenders by researchers Jill Levenson and Leo Cotter found that residency restrictions had forced 22 percent of this group to move out of homes they already owned. 25 percent were unable to return to their homes after release from prison. Respondents agreed in varying degrees with these statements about the impact of residency restrictions on their lives:

* I cannot live with supportive family members. 30%
* I find it difficult to find affordable housing. 57%
* I have suffered financially. 48%
* I have suffered emotionally. 60%
* I have had to move out of an apartment that I rented. 28%

The Iowa County Attorneys Association issued a position paper in 2006 opposing a 2,000 foot residency restriction against sex offenders from places where kids congregate. Among many criticisms, the prosecutors said, “Law enforcement has observed that the residency restriction is causing offenders to become homeless, to change residences without notifying authorities of their new locations, to register false addresses or to simply disappear. If they do not register, law enforcement and the public do not know where they are living. The resulting damage to the reliability of the sex offender registry does not serve the interests of public safety.”

A 2007 report by the Minnesota Department of Corrections tracked 224 sex offenders released from prison between 1999 and 2002 who committed new sex crimes prior to 2006. The first contact between victim and offender never happened near a school, daycare center or other place where children congregate. The report concluded, “Not one of the 224 sex offenses would likely have been deterred by a residency restrictions law.” The study warned that these laws isolate offenders in rural areas with little social and treatment support, with poor transportation access and with few job opportunities. The resulting increase in homelessness makes them harder to track and supervise. “Rather than lowering sexual recidivism,” the report said, “housing restrictions may work against this goal by fostering conditions that exacerbate sex offenders’ reintegration into society.”

A position paper on the current website of the Iowa Association of Social Workers says that concentrations of Iowa sex offenders are living in motels, trailer parks, interstate highway rest stops, parking lots and tents. The site notes many other unintended consequences:

* Families of offenders who attempt to remain together are effectively subjected to the same restrictions, meaning that they too are forced to move, and may have to leave jobs, de-link from community ties, and remove their children from schools and friends.
* Physically or mentally impaired offenders who depend on family for regular support are prevented from living with those on whom they rely for help.
* Threat of family disruption may leave victims of familial sexual abuse reluctant to report the abuse to authorities, thereby undermining the intention of the law.
* Threat of being subjected to the residency restriction has led to a significant decrease in the number of offenders who, as part of the trial process, disclose their sexual offenses; consequently, fewer offenders are being held accountable for their actions.
* Loss of residential stability, disconnection from family, and social isolation run contrary to the “best practice” approaches for treatment of sex offenders and thus put offenders at higher risk of re-offense.
* No distinction is made between those offenders who pose a real risk to children and those who pose no known threat.

Myth: Treatment is a waste of money on sex offenders

The New Hampshire Prison sex offender treatment program compiled recidivism data in 1999 for a national survey by the Colorado Department of Corrections. Lance Messenger, the New Hampshire program director at the time, reported a 6.2% sex crime re-arrest rate after an average of 4.8 years on parole for 204 men who completed the Intensive Sex Offender Treatment Program. The recidivism rate was 12.4% for 435 sex offenders who received no treatment and had spent an average of 8.6 years in the community. Messenger is now in private practice and recently told this writer his report did not constitute a rigorous scientific study.

A Colorado recidivism study in 2003 led by Kerry Lowden tracked 3338 sex offenders released from prison between 1993 and 2002. After three years in the community, 5.3 percent had been arrested for a new sex crime. Each month an inmate took part in the intensive therapeutic community for sex offenders behind the walls reduced by 1 percent his risk of committing a later sex crime. The report said these treatment programs “profoundly improve public safety as measured by officially recorded recidivism.”

Vermont corrections personnel tracked 195 adult male sex offenders over a six-year period ending in 2006. Those who completed sex offender treatment had a sex-offense recidivism rate of 5.4 percent.

Lorraine R. Reitzel and Joyce L. Carbonell published a meta-analysis in 2006 of nine studies of recidivism among juvenile sex offenders with a combined sample of 2,986 kids. The sex crime recidivism rate was 12.5 percent for young offenders tracked for an average of 59 months. The rate was 7.37 percent for kids who had taken a sex offender treatment program and 18.9 percent for those who had not.

Fact: Most types of sex offenders have low sex-crime recidivism

A report to the Ohio Sentencing Commission in 1989 said 8 percent of sex offenders were convicted of a new sex crime within a decade. The 10-year Ohio recidivism rate for incest was 7.4 percent.

A 1998 Canadian Government study by Karl Hanson and Monique Bussiere, entitled “Predicting Relapse: A meta-Analysis of Sexual Offender Recidivism Studies,” examined 61 research efforts between 1943 and 1995 with a combined sample of 28,972 sex offenders. The overall recidivism rate for new sex offenses was 13.4 percent during the average follow-up period of four to five years. Of the 9,603 child molesters in the combined cohort, the rate was 12.7 percent. Some of these studies dated back to the period when only stereotype serial sex offenders went to prison, thus weighting the results toward greater recidivism.

Roger Hood and three British colleagues followed 162 released sex offenders for four years and tracked 62 others for six years. Their report in 2002, entitled “Sex offenders emerging from long-term imprisonment; A Study of Their Long-term Reconviction Rates and of Parole Board Members’ Judgements of Their Risk,” found 1.2 percent were re-imprisoned for a new sex crime after two years. The report concluded, “These facts need to be more widely recognized and disseminated if there is to be rational debate on this emotive subject.”

A 2000 Iowa Corrections study tracked 233 sex offenders released in 1995 and 1996 under a new sex offender registry law. That group had a 3 percent sex crime recidivism rate after 4.3 years in the community. A similar control group of 201 sex offenders released before the registry law took effect had a 3.5 percent sex recidivism rate in the same length of time. The group supervised under the registry had a somewhat lower average recidivism risk score to begin with, and it had a higher proportion of people on probation as opposed to parole. The difference in recidivism rates was statistically insignificant.

A U.S. Justice Department report in 2003 tracked 9,691 sex offenders released from prisons in New York, California, Ohio and 12 other large states in 1994. Their recidivism rate for new sex arrests and convictions after three years on parole was 5.3 percent. 7.3 percent of child molesters with two or more prior arrests for that crime were charged anew for molesting. That compares with a 2.4 percent sexual recidivism rate for child molesters with only one prior arrest for that crime.

Karl Hanson and Andrew Harris published a 2004 report on 4,724 sex offenders in 10 Canadian and American samples ranging from 191 to 1,138 subjects. The average follow-up period was seven years after release. The overall sexual recidivism rates were 14 percent after five years, 20 percent after 10 years and 24 percent after 15 years. Incest offenders had corresponding rates of 6, 9 and 13 percent. Recidivism was defined as a new sex crime arrest or a new conviction. Counting only new convictions, the recidivism rates were generally half as high.

Karl Hanson and Morton-Bourgon published a similar meta-analysis in 2005 of 73 recidivism studies with a combined cohort of 19,267 sex offenders. After an average of nearly six years in the community they had a new sex crimes recidivism rate of 14.3 percent.

A 2005 report by Robert Barnoski of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy tracked the five-year sexual recidivism rates for 8,359 sex offenders released from Washington prisons between 1986 and 1999. Here are the results by year of release, showing the rate decreased over time.


5-Year Rate


5-Year Rate

A 2006 New York study analyzed the recidivism patterns for 19,827 sex offenders. The rate for new sex offenses after one year in the community was 2 percent. The cumulative rate increased to 3 percent after two years, 6 percent after five years, and 8 percent after 8 years.

A 2006 California study followed 93 adjudicated high-risk sexually violent predators released from civil commitment at the Atascadero State Hospital. Only 4.3 percent of these worst-of-the-worst offenders had committed new sex offenses after six years on the street.

A 2007 study by the Missouri Department of Corrections tracked 3,166 sex offenders released between 1990 and 2002. Twelve percent had been re-arrested for a new sex crime in those 12 years, and 10 percent had been reconvicted. The report also looked at sex offenders released in 2002. In the first three years on parole their sex crime recidivism rate was 3 percent. The report concluded, “Due to the dramatic decrease in sexual recidivism since the early 1990s, recent sexual re-offense rates have been very low, thus significantly limiting the extent to which sexual reoffending can be further reduced.”

An Alaska Judicial Council report in 2007 said 3 percent of sex offenders had committed a new sex crime in their first three years after release from prison.

A 2007 report by the Tennessee Department of Safety found that 4.7 percent of 504 sex offenders released from prison in 2001 were arrested for a new sex offense after three years. The sex crime recidivism rate was zero for offenders whose original crime was incest.

A 2007 Minnesota Department of Corrections study tracked 3,166 sex offenders released from Minnesota prisons between 1990 and 2002. After an average of 8.4 years in the community, 10 percent had been convicted of a new sex offense. Those released in the beginning of the study period were much more likely to reoffend within three years than those released later — 17 percent in 1990 as opposed to 3 percent in 2002.

A 2007 report by Jared Bauer of the West Virginia Division of Corrections tracked 325 sex offenders for three years after release from prison in 2001, 2002 and 2003. The recidivism rate for any return to prison, not just for sex crimes, was 9.5 percent. Only six parolees returned for new sex related crimes, including three for failing to properly register as a sex offender. The sex crime recidivism rate was slightly less than 2 percent. Only 1 percent had an actual sex crime victim.

A 2008 report by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation tracked 4,280 sex offenders paroled in 2003. In the first year 2.43 percent had been arrested for new sex crimes. The cumulative totals were 3.27 percent at the end of the second year and 3.55 percent after three years.

A 2008 study by California’s Sex Offender Management Board reported on 4,204 sex offenders released in 1997 and 1998. 3.38 percent were convicted of new sex offenses in the next decade.

Utah criminologist Larry Bench tracked 389 Utah sex offenders for up to 25 years after release. His 2008 report disclosed that 7.2 percent had been arrested for a new sex crime.

An Indiana Corrections report in the spring of 2009 found that sex offenders released in 2005 had compiled a 1.05 percent sex crime re-conviction rate in three years. The study said this rate was “extremely low” and showed “a great deal of promise.”

Stan Orchowsky and Janice Iwama authored a 2009 study for the U.S. Justice Research and Statistics Association which showed similar low sex crime re-arrest rates after three years for sex offenders released from prison in 2001. The rates by state were as follows: Alaska 3.4%, Arizona 2.3%, Delaware 3.8%, Illinois 2.4%, Iowa 3.9%, New Mexico 1.8%, South Carolina 4.0%, and Utah 9.0%. The comparison three-year national rate was 5.3 percent noted previously for inmates released in 1994.