This Press Release was just sent out to all Missouri Media and Legislators:
As Director of Women Against Registry, I am contacting your agency on behalf of over two million women, family members and those affected by the public sex offender registry. We have grown tired of the continued penalties registrants and their FAMILY members increasingly face. We have begun “Pushing Back” on legislation and false media representation. For too long we have heard heart-breaking stories from families being destroyed, children beaten, passed over for higher education opportunities, family homes/property damaged, members asked to leave their church and many other scenarios which continue as punishment for a loved one’s sexual offense but has progressed to the annihilation of family units. We ask that you take a few minutes to become informed of the ever increasing problems surrounding individuals convicted of a sex offense as we have provided evidenced-based resources for your convenience.
One Missouri family’s story…
“Being a father, who lives in another state, of a convicted son charged with sexual crimes, has been hard and very costly to the family. My son was convicted of a charge much like statutory rape and possession of child pornography. His then girlfriend who was 3 years his junior, would send him nude photos of herself, I guess to keep his interest in her. It wasn’t until the father of the girl found out after confronting my son, his true age. It appeared his daughter had lied about his age to her parents. My son was 17 at the time they were dating with her parents’ knowledge and consent. The problems that led to my son’s arrest and life-long turmoil were a result of two immature teens in love.
Our family has suffered tremendous financial and emotional damages as a result. We were a moderate income family so having to come up with the initial retainer fees for the attorney was not easy. We dipped into retirement funds which we were very lucky to have that to help my son. However, the retainers and costs increased as did the need to defend him. Family members began taking out mortgages on our homes and the last of our retirement pensions to prove my son’s innocence and to appeal the court’s decision. Additionally, the family is also sending funds to an account while he is incarcerated so that he can purchase necessities as well as a healthier selection of food and protein items. We also put monies towards a phone account so he can call home so we know he is safe and healthy.”
The writer of this story, my son’s Father who was 52 years of age, suffered a massive heart attack and is now deceased. He never saw his son leave prison, as he passed away in May 2013. Our son was released on parole in November 2013. Although he has been released from incarceration, our family is struggling financially, has filed bankruptcy and is having to pay additional expenses for my son’s rent, polygraph fees, treatment costs and other required fees. The laws have prevented us from allowing him to live with us which would help the family not only financially but emotionally. His appeal is still pending in court.
In an effort to present much needed understandings to the effects of these laws on family members, Women Against Registry often cites a research study by Jill Levenson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Human Services at Lynn University and Richard Tewksbury, Ph.D.,Professor at University of Louisville Department of Justice Administration called Collateral Damage:Family Members of Registered Sex Offenders. “Researchers have identified ways in which sex offender registration and notification (SORN) laws can impede community reintegration efforts of RSOs and potentially contribute to recidivism. The purpose of this study is to explore the impact of SORN laws on the family members of registered sex offenders.” Noted in the report; out of 446 interviewed 87% of families suffered hardships due to the registrant finding and sustaining employment. Out of 437 interviewed 44% have been threatened or harassed; out of 441 interviewed 30% have suffered bodily harm or property damages due to Meagan’s Law Notification.
From a recent study by: Michelle Meloy & Jessica Boatwright & Kristin Curtis (The Sponsors of Sex Offender Bills Speak Up : Policy Makers’ Perceptions of Sex Offenders, Sex Crimes, and Sex Offender Legislation page 445. Published by:http://www.sagepublications.com/ On behalf of: International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology)
Sex offenders are among today’s most hated and feared criminals. The contemporary response to this has resulted in specialized laws, referred to as “sex offender legislation.” Although legislation targeting sex offenders is not new to the United States, or elsewhere, the policy makers involved in today’s “third wave” of sex offender laws (Terry, 2005) are the focus of this current investigation. This wave of U.S. sex offender laws is based on numerous misperceptions about sex offenders and sex offender risk factors, public fear, and the pressure for policy makers to “do something” about this social problem. Thus, this research attempts to reconcile the facts of sex offender science against the views of lawmakers. Is there a disconnect between empiricism and policy maker perceptions?
• 61 legislators where interviewed, at least one from each state, 65% admitted to “policy being written due to high profile cases” some not even within the jurisdiction of their own state. Most of the legislation was written from a few high profile cases.
• The majority of lawmakers believed their sex offender laws were working. Still, nearly 4 out of 10 respondents held differing opinions. What is consistent across the categories, however, is the fact that almost all of the responses relied on anecdotal examples rather than empirical evidence to ground their positions. When “evidence” was offered to support a policy maker’s opinion, he or she typically referred to legislative testimony offered by state-level criminal justice practitioners (e.g., police chiefs, district attorneys, administrators with departments of corrections or probation and parole, etc.) or state agency reports from these same departments. Often, policy makers were aware of this shortcoming and suggested that it be rectified, although they were unable to suggest remedies.
• 44% of the policy makers interviewed saw overly broad sex offender laws as a problem.
• Nearly 2 in 10 respondents felt some negative and unintended consequences with regard to limits and restrictions as to where they can live, work or be physically present.
• Influential elected officials have a host of ideas and perceptions about this type of crime and offender, but these views are often not based on science. Research such as this could help transform “shoot-from-the-hip” policy making into “informed policy making” by integrating scientific outcomes into legal responses.
Patty Wetterling, Mother of Jacob Wetterling in which a law was named after, has said as recently as March 2013, “…that the registry is doing more harm than good.”http://www.citypages.com/2013-03-20/news/patty-wetterling-questions-sex-offender-laws.
Cost to Missouri vs. Credible Research
Per the NCMEC, there are 751,538 men, women and children on national registries with 13,587 residing in Missouri. When you consider the registerable offenses, the law enforcement and office staff expenses associated with monitoring and tracking, as well as the length of time the state of Missouri has committed, one has to wonder what empirical evidence supports this valiant effort. There is none! However, there is credible research advising low recidivism rates.
T. J. Madison, Member of Women Against Registry. talked about, “Other things impacting costs are Probation & Parole as well as incarceration and went on to say the U.S. is 5% of the world’s population AND 25% of the world’s incarcerated.
Per the Justice Research & Statistics Association (http://www.jrsa.org/), a study of recidivism rates for 2,493 sex offenders released from prison in 9 states in 2001, concludes in a 3-year follow-up study of recidivism rates; AK 3.4%, AZ 2.3%, DE 3.8%, IL 2.4%, IA 3.9%, NM 1.8%, SC 4%, TN 0%, UT 9%
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, 5.3% of American sex offenders are rearrested for a new sex crime within three years with only 3.5% being convicted. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003).
Options that will accomplish the desired end result-prevention of sexual abuse:
• Design or create policy with the primary goal of prevention of sexual abuse violence thus reducing the sexual deviancy rates. (A Reasoned Approach: Reshaping Sex Offender Policy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse By Joan Tabachnick and Alisa Klein)
• Extend the implementation of diversion programs as incorporated into the judicial process for sexual offenses such as those available for drug and other offenses hence cutting down on prosecutors forcing plea deals
• Developing prevention programs for males, females
Policy makers and the public need to be better educated on the science of sexual violence and sexual offending. For instance, one seldom-disputed fact is that most sex crimes—especially against children— occur between individuals who know one another, reside together, is an acquaintance or have access to the children. Yet policy makers and the public tend to view strangers as posing the greatest risk of sexual violence. Clearly, the familial victim–offender relationship is a more difficult situation to rectify through legislative means. Is this why it is missing from the public discourse?
With the publications of numerous studies and empirical research, Women Against Registry is calling for legislators to repeal laws that are creating more harm than good. We are calling on our trusted leaders to become familiar with the current scientific research before writing legislation. We are “Pushing Back” against laws that were written out of fear and the unfortunate loss of a few well publicized national cases.
Women Against Registry asserts that we, as a society, should be more pro-active and less re-active. For example, the outcome last week of the Maryville, Missouri case was abhorrent to some and viewed as justice served by others. The process that was followed by the prosecutors and law enforcement should be that of all sexual cases; which is based on all the facts to be thoroughly reviewed with an appropriate judgment given.
Women Against Registry
Fighting the Destruction of Families
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Vicki Henry, President
Women Against Registry