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Canada: Officials advise Goodale to rethink plan of public sex offender database

Federal officials have advised Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to put the brakes on setting up a publicly accessible database of high-risk child sex offenders. Full Article

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  1. New Person

    Here’s one of their lists of concerns:


    Use of information in public sex offender registries in the United States to carry out vigilante actions;

    They can use it, but it’s insignificant to our case for some odd reason.

    • Harry

      “Lack of evidence that such databases have a significant impact on reducing the rate of sex offences, compared with treatment and reintegration programs that have led to reductions in recidivism, often at a lower cost.” I like this one the best, New Person, because it is the truth. The dumb $hits, here in the US can not get this in their heads.

    • mike

      Much of the destructive, extra-punishment punishment we inflict on sex offenders is due to the widely held belief that they’re more likely to re-offend than the perpetrators of other classes of crimes. This has been the main justification for the Supreme Court’s authorization of sex-offender registries and for holding sex offenders indefinitely after they’ve served their sentences. Lower courts have then cited those rulings to justify a host of other measures, from severe restrictions on where sex offenders can live to GPS monitoring of their every move.

      The problem, as Adam Liptak writes at the New York Times, is that the claim just isn’t true.

      Last week at the Supreme Court, a lawyer made what seemed like an unremarkable point about registered sex offenders.

      “This court has recognized that they have a high rate of recidivism and are very likely to do this again,” said the lawyer, Robert C. Montgomery, who was defending a North Carolina statute that bars sex offenders from using Facebook, Twitter and other social media services.

      The Supreme Court has indeed said the risk that sex offenders will commit new crimes is “frightening and high.” That phrase, in a 2003 decision upholding Alaska’s sex offender registration law, has been exceptionally influential. It has appeared in more than 100 lower-court opinions, and it has helped justify laws that effectively banish registered sex offenders from many aspects of everyday life.

      But there is vanishingly little evidence for the Supreme Court’s assertion that convicted sex offenders commit new offenses at very high rates. The story behind the notion, it turns out, starts with a throwaway line in a glossy magazine.

      The quote came from Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, and it claims that the recidivism rate for sex offenders is 80 percent. If true, that would indeed be “frightening and high.” But it isn’t true. At Slate, David Feige brings the data:

      In the most comprehensive single study on reoffense rates to date, the U.S. Department of Justice followed every sex offender released in almost 15 states for three years. The recidivism rate? Just 3.5 percent. These numbers have been subsequently verified in study after study. The state of Connecticut Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Division did a five-year study that found a recidivism rate of 3.6 percent. A Maine study found that released sex offenders were arrested for a new sex crime at a rate of 3.9 percent. Government studies in Alaska, Delaware, Iowa, and South Carolina have also replicated these results—all finding same-crime recidivism rates of between 3.5 and 4 percent.

      We’ve discussed this before here at The Watch, as well as other areas where the Supreme Court has relied on bad information in important rulings. And this is just a small slice of a much larger problem — the courts’ inability to reconcile the evolving nature of science with the criminal-justice system’s premium on precedent and finality.

      • Timmr

        The courts didn’t have to make the laws, but they could have instructed the legislatures to come up with alternatives to the problems of sexual abuse that didn’t need a registry involved, better achieved the legitimate goal of preventing sexual abuse, and were not as constitutionally suspect as registering people in bulk like cattle. The legislatures, could have explored other factors of relieving poverty, fighting ignorance, treating mental illness, opportunity, education, instead of presuming registration is the answer. They didn’t do their job.

        • Timmr

          Question: wonder how the SCOTUS would process this testimony.

          “From the research I’ve conducted, I can tell you, in short: these [sex offender registration] laws don’t work…. Being on the registry actually increases [offenders’] rate of reoffending even though we know that sex offenders actually have very low rates of reoffending. The stress of being on the registry influences them to commit more offenses—and they’re typically not sex offenses….”

          “We have this idea that these registries will help people—but only 37 percent of sex crimes are ever reported…most people who are victimized will be victimized by someone not on a registry.”

          “If we actually wanted survivor-focused policies, we’d have free or low-cost access to mental health care,…safe housing, trauma-informed forensic interviewing,…a system that understands the neurobiology of trauma and the short-and-long term impacts of sexual violence,…and a system that would reduce harm for everybody.”
          –Alissa Ackerman, University of Washington criminologist and rape survivor, copied from Life on The List, http://www.lifeonlist.org.

  2. AlexO

    Here are some of the reason they’re citing AGAINST a public registry. Reasons we’ve all known about.

    -Fears that many ex-offenders “go underground” to avoid the scrutiny and exposure of family members that comes from publication of their offences, address and other personal information. “This further inhibits effective law enforcement as police do not know the whereabouts of these offenders and are no longer able to monitor them to prevent possible reoffending”;

    -Use of information in public sex offender registries in the United States to carry out vigilante actions;

    -Lack of evidence that such databases have a significant impact on reducing the rate of sex offences, compared with treatment and reintegration programs that have led to reductions in recidivism, often at a lower cost.

    That last point is the most important, in my opinion, as that certainly leads to a ton of negative effects, including greatly diluting law enforcement and increasing costs, while actually offering nearly zero safety to the community.

  3. AJ

    “It would also help federal departments carry out their mandates – for instance, providing Passport Canada with information that might result in revocation of a travel document, the notes say. In addition, the database could help foreign officials keep an eye on offenders who travel to their countries.”
    This can only be done via a publicly-accessible database? Hmm, methinks I smell a rat (read: lie) there. And to claim that “foreign officials” are going to use the public database for “keep[ing] an eye on offenders” is ludicrous. Foreign entities are going to expect Canadian officials to alert them–perhaps via an “eh-ngel watch” system. 😉

    Let’s see how many concerns they have that are already occurring here:

    1. “Possible regional differences in the information available in the database due to varying practices in provinces and territories;” Check.
    2. “Lack of new funding for the RCMP to create and operate the database;” Not initially, but now…check.
    3. “Fears that many ex-offenders “go underground” to avoid the scrutiny and exposure of family members that comes from publication of their offences, address and other personal information. ‘This further inhibits effective law enforcement as police do not know the whereabouts of these offenders and are no longer able to monitor them to prevent possible reoffending'”; Double check.
    4. “Use of information in public sex offender registries…to carry out vigilante actions;” Check.
    5. “Lack of evidence that such databases have a significant impact on reducing the rate of sex offences, compared with treatment and reintegration programs that have led to reductions in recidivism, often at a lower cost.” Check.

    What a surprise, 5 for 5. A couple years back, a forensic psychologist with whom I had a conversation said most of the best research and studies on sex offenders and offenses comes from Canada. I think it had to do with it all being handled federally so they equivalent info across the board. Anyway, my guess is our friends in the Great White North will rethink this, if for no other reason than not wanting to be too much like the U.S.!

    –AJ

  4. Chris F

    Their last concern of why not to do it:

    “Lack of evidence that such databases have a significant impact on reducing the rate of sex offences, compared with treatment and reintegration programs that have led to reductions in recidivism, often at a lower cost.”

    Since when does a politician care if something actually works? As long as it gets votes, they don’t care if it causes more victims, like the US registry actually does.

  5. kind of living

    wow , common since thinking ,hmm , I am just trying to remember the last time our own gov has used any (Common Since)

    • Timmr

      Yeah, actually weighing the cost and benefits using data. Here politicians weigh how it affects their image.

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