Sex-offender registry adds costs without protecting public

From the Columbia, SC 'The State' newspaper, an editorial by Don Thurber The Justice Department study also demonstrated that re-offense rates of sex offenders are actually far below other offense groups: Only 3.5 percent of child molesters were convicted of another sex crime during the three-year study period. South Carolina mandates lifetime registration, but a long-term study released last year by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation...

Idaho Sex Offenders Challenge State Registry Laws

Over 100 Sex Offenders sue Idaho over constitutional challenges The constitutional challenge is on the following grounds: Due Process: Assessed new restrictions without a trial. Equal Protection: Burdens an unpopular group of citizens. Religious Freedom: Restricts some offenders from attending church services. Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Excessive punishment imposed by community notification. Double Jeopardy: New conditions placed on offenders after conviction. Contracts: New non negotiated conditions placed after...

Metamora Films

Metamora Films, an independent film company that covers social issues surrounding the sex offender registry and other social justice topics. Matt Duhamel, a former TV news and radio personality, has turned his attention to helping others through the power of independent film. He agrees with the idea that film can help individuals, communities and entire societies by increasing compassion, tolerance, understanding and forgiveness. By learning from his own...

Static-99: The 10 Question Checklist That Can’t

BuzzFeedNews These 10 Questions Can Mean Life Behind Bars An article by Peter Aldhous, BuzzFeed News Reporter More precisely, what the Static-99 predicts — with modest accuracy, at best — is the risk that men within a group of sex offenders will commit a new sex offense, compared to other members of that group. Experts agree that it’s a useful tool for managing sex offenders in prison —...

Jacob Wetterling Found At Last: R.I.P.

Free Range Kids Mom Talks About Jacob's Legacy By Lenore Skenazy Sept. 3, 2016 Jacob Wetterling Found At Last It is painful in a more intellectual sense to contemplate the effect that Jacob’s unspeakable fate had on American families. Not only did it grip us with dread, but that dread — and anger — directly paved the way to sex offender registry. As Jennifer Bleyer explained in this extraordinary...

6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Rules on Michigan SO Laws

From the Detroit Free Press: Court: Michigan's toughened sex offender rules cannot be retroactive The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed part of a lower-court ruling, saying the state could not impose harsher restrictions enacted in 2006 and 2011 on offenders who were convicted before the law was changed. The court said the revisions, which include restricting offenders' movement near schools, penalize sex offenders as "moral lepers."...

Illinois Proposes Sex Offender Task Force

Synopsis As Introduced Amends the Department of State Police Law of the Civil Administrative Code of Illinois. Creates the Sex Offenses and Sex Offender Registration Task Force to ensure that law enforcement and communities are able to identify and monitor high-risk sex offenders. The Task Force will hold public hearings to receive input from the public and give recommendations to the General Assembly to effectively classify sex offenders...

Dealing With Depression

The road to depression recovery begins with a single step It’s the Catch-22 of depression: recovering from depression requires action, but taking action when you’re depressed is hard. In fact, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like going for a walk or spending time with friends, can feel overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to start small and slowly build from there. Reaching out...

Class Action Law Suit on Behalf of Registered Sex Offenders Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Visit Women Against Registry Class Action Lawsuit FAQs WAR Class Action Lawsuit FAQs Q: Who is behind this initiative? A: A group of registrants, family members, and believers in due process. Q: What is the premise of the law suit on behalf of registrants? A: Even though the laws impacting us are passed by the state and federal legislatures we will be asking the courts to rule on...

The Good, the Bad, and the Incomprehensible: Typifications of Victims and Offenders as Antecedents of Beliefs About Sex Crime

The Good, the Bad, and the Incomprehensible He pointed to an array of typical descriptors of sex offenders—“degenerates,” “sex fiends,” “creatures,” and “sexual psychopaths” (p. 543)—all of which, per Sutherland, highlight that sex offending is perceived as pathology or a dispositional “mental malady”—in turn, the only solution would be to “segregate such persons preferably before, but at least after their sex crimes” (p. 544). Here again, public opinion...

Prosecutors who falsify or withhold evidence could become felons under proposed state legislation

Prosecutors who intentionally withhold or falsify evidence could be charged with a felony under a new bill winding through the state Legislature. The proposal by Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando, comes as prosecutors in Orange County face accusations that they’ve routinely misused jailhouse informants and withheld information from defense attorneys. But the problem of prosecutorial misconduct predates Orange County’s snitch controversy. A 2010 study by Santa Clara University...

Why the ‘Pokémon Go’ Ban on Sex Offenders Makes No Sense

Last last month, two state senators in New York—Jeffrey Klein and Diane Savino—issued a report laying out an apparently scary set of numbers. In New York City, Pokémon from Pokémon Go were spotted in front of the homes of 57 people on the state sex registry. Fifty-nine Poké gyms or Pokéstops and 73 other Pokémon items were within a half-block of a registrant's residence. To be clear, there...

Sex Offender Residence Restrictions

Sexual violence is a serious social problem and policy-makers continue to wrestle with how to best address the public’s concerns about sex offenders. Recent initiatives have included social policies that are designed to prevent sexual abuse by restricting where convicted sex offenders can live. As these social policies become more popular, lawmakers and citizens should question whether such policies are evidence-based in their development and implementation, and whether such policies are cost-efficient and effective in reaching their stated goals.

Residence Restrictions

Many states have prohibited sex offenders from residing within close proximity to a school, park, day care center, school bus stop, or place where children congregate, with the most common restriction zone being 1,000 feet. In Spring 2005, after a series of child abductions and murders by convicted sex offenders, hundreds of jurisdictions across the U.S. began initiating housing restrictions with increasingly larger buffer zones, often 2,500 feet, or about one half mile. These laws have essentially banned sex offenders from living in some cities.

The constitutionality of residence restrictions was challenged in Iowa, and the state’s 2,000 foot restriction law was overturned in 2003. The Iowa Supreme court, however, later ruled that any infringement on sex offenders’ freedom of residency was superseded by the state’s compelling interest in protecting its citizens. The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the issue. Housing restrictions have passed in most localities with little resistance. Child safety is rightly the primary concern when sex offender restrictions are imposed. It seems to makes sense that decreasing access to potential victims would be a feasible strategy for preventing sex crimes. There is no evidence, however, that such laws are effective in reducing recidivistic sexual violence. On the other hand, such laws aggravate the scarcity of housing options for sex offenders, forcing them out of metropolitan areas and farther away from the social support, employment opportunities, and social services that are known to aid offenders in successful community re-entry (Minnesota Department of Corrections, 2003). Sex offender residence restrictions Levenson, page 3 Are sex offender residence restrictions evidence-based?

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.

All sex offenders reoffend. There is a common belief that the vast majority of sex offenders will repeat their crimes. In fact, several large studies by both the U.S. and Canadian governments have found that sex offense recidivism rates are much lower than commonly believed. The U.S. Department of Justice found that over a three year period after being released from prison, 5.3% of sex offenders were rearrested for a new sex crime (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003). Studies by Canadian researchers involving over 29,000 sex offenders from North America and Europe found a 14% recidivism rate among all sex offenders; child molesters were re-arrested at a slightly lower rate of about 13%, and rapists at a slightly higher rate of 19% (Hanson & Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2004). Despite the belief that sex offenders have the highest recidivism rates of all criminals, the Department of Justice found that sexual perpetrators were less likely to be rearrested for any new crime than were other types of offenders (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003). Official recidivism data always underestimate true reoffense rates, but it is clear that the majority of sexual offenders are unlikely to be rearrested for new sex crimes.

Treatment does not work. The myth that treatment can not be helpful to sex offenders is based largely on a highly publicized meta-analytic study that was unable to detect a treatment effect among outcome studies conducted in the 1970’s and 1980’s (Furby, Weinrott, & Blackshaw, 1989). Recent data have reported more promising results, suggesting that cognitive-behavioral treatment reduces sex offense recidivism by nearly 40% (Hanson, Gordon, Harris, Marques, Murphy, Quinsey, & Seto, 2002; Losel & Schmucker, 2005). Again, recidivism rates were lower than commonly believed; 17% for untreated offenders, and 10% for treated offenders (Hanson et al., 2002). Even in studies where significant overall treatment effects are not detected, researchers have found that sex offenders who Sex offender residence restrictions Levenson, page 4 successfully complete a treatment program reoffend less often than those who do not demonstrate that they “got it” (Marques, Miederanders, Day, Nelson, & van Ommeren, 2005).

Stranger danger. Sexual offender policies are also based on the myth of “stranger danger,” despite the fact that most sexual perpetrators are well known to their victims. The Department of Justice found that perpetrators reported that their victims were strangers in less than 30% of rapes and 15% of sexual assaults (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997). A study reviewing sex crimes as reported to police revealed that 93% of child sexual abuse victims knew their abuser; 34.2% were family members and 58.7% acquaintances (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000). Only seven percent of child victims reported that they were abused by strangers. About 40% of sexual assaults take place in the victim’s own home, and 20% take place in the home of a friend, neighbor or relative (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997).

Tragic cases of child abduction and sexually motivated murder receive extraordinary media attention, and the publicity of such events creates a sense of alarm and urgency among citizens. In reality, such cases are extremely rare; it is estimated that about 100 stranger abductions occur in the United States each year (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 2005). About .7% of all murders involve sexual assault, and in fact, the prevalence of sexual murders declined by about half between the late 1970’s and the mid 1990’s (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997). About 75% of sexual murder victims are adults (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997). In contract to sexual assault in general, the majority of sexually motivated murder victims were attacked by strangers or acquaintances.

Do residence restrictions work? Despite overwhelming public and political support, there is no evidence that proximity to schools increases recidivism, or, conversely, that housing restrictions reduce reoffending or increase community safety. Advocates of residence restrictions believe that such laws will diminish the likelihood that sex offenders will come in contact with children whom they might potentially victimize. In Colorado, however, it was found that molesters who reoffended while under supervision did not live closer than non-recidivists to schools or child care centers (Colorado Department of Public Safety, 2004). In Minnesota, sex offenders’ proximity to schools or parks did not increase the likelihood of reoffense (Minnesota Department of Corrections, 2003). Sex offender residence restrictions Levenson,

Continue readingSex Offender Residence Restrictions

The Adam Walsh Act: An Examination of Sex Offender Risk Classification Systems

The Adam Walsh Act: An Examination of Sex Offender Risk Classification Systems Kristen M. Zgoba, Michael Miner, Jill Levenson, Raymond Knight, Elizabeth Letourneau, and David Thornton Abstract This study was designed to compare the Adam Walsh Act (AWA) classification tiers with actuarial risk assessment instruments and existing state classification schemes in their respective abilities to identify sex offenders at high risk to re-offend. Data from 1,789 adult sex...



Ira Mark Ellman* Tara Ellman**

It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.’

In McKune v. Lile, 536 U.S. 24,33 (2002), the Supreme Court reversed two lower courts in rejecting, 5-4, Robert Lile’s claim
that Kansas violated his 5th Amendment rights by punishing him for refusing to complete a form detailing all his prior sexual
activities, including any that might constitute an uncharged criminal offense for which he could then be prosecuted. The form
was part of a prison therapy program that employed a polygraph examination to verify the accuracy and completeness of the sexual
history which program participants were required to reveal. Lile had earned placement in a lower-security prison unit, but the
automatic punishment imposed on him for declining to complete this form included permanent transfer to a higher security unit
where he would live among the most dangerous inmates, and lose significant prison privileges, including the right to earn the
minimum wage for his prison work and send his earnings to his family.

Justice Kennedy, justifying this conclusion for the fourperson plurality, wrote that the recidivism rate “of untreated offenders has been estimated to be as high as 80%.” The treatment program, he explained, “gives inmates a basis … to identify the traits that cause such a frightening and high risk of recidivism.” The following year in Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (2003) the Court upheld Alaska’s application, to those convicted before its enactment, of a law identifying all sex offenders on a public registry. It reasoned that the ex post facto clause was not violated because registration is not punishment, but merely a civil measure reasonably designed to protect public safety. Now writing for a majority, Justice Kennedy’s Smith opinion recalled his earlier language in McKune:

Alaska could conclude that a conviction for a sex offense provides evidence of substantial risk of recidivism. The legislature’s findings are consistent with grave concerns over the high rate of recidivism among convicted sex offenders and their dangerousness as a class. The risk of recidivism posed by sex offenders is “frightening and high.” McKune v. Lile, 536 U.S. 24, 34 (2002).


Low risk sex offender shares fear of online registry

RENO, Nev. (NEWS 4) — A nearly decade long battle started in Nevada after President George W. Bush signed the Adam Walsh Act in 2006.The federal law is also known as the Sex Offender Registration & Notification Act. It stemmed from the 1981 abduction and murder of 6-year-old Adam Walsh. In 2007, Nevada lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 579 to make the state compliant with the federal law. “It’s...

Gov. Sandoval Leads Launch of a Comprehensive Review of Nevada’s Juvenile Justice System

Governor Brian Sandoval, First Lady Kathleen Sandoval, State Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta, and other legislative and community leaders gathered on July 12 at the Nevada State Supreme Court to launch an effort to strengthen public safety and improve outcomes for youth who are involved with the juvenile justice system. At the event, the governor announced that the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency...

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