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My Turn: State officials must accept that sex offenders can change

People change. This is an incontrovertible truth in life. Yet, this concept seems to be lacking in the wonderful state that has become my home – at least it’s MIA in the New Hampshire state prison system. (Fortunately, it hasn’t hit our schools yet.)

The money to be made by an opposite view – people don’t change – is real. The flawed anthropology that argues that people can’t change has no place in any serious attempt at rehabilitation. The shallow promises to act on behalf of change are the result of playing to the popular. In New Hampshire, when it comes to sex offenders, the popular is paranoia and ignorance. These never lower rates of recidivism. Full Op-Ed Piece

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“Can” does not equal “will” change and my experience as a therapist and citizen has been that they seldom change. Can we err on the side of the victims? I fear that we have opened a can of worms.

@Joy Rocha –

true, “can” change does not equal “will” change but “your experience as a therapist and a citizen” notwithstanding, a non-reoffense of 95% most decidedly does not equal “won’t” change or even seldom.

Please explain how persecuting someone for a single offense so “heinous” that they may have received probation or a few weeks in jail for the rest of their lives constitutes “erring on the side of victims”.

A can of worms was opened, no doubt – in California in 1944.

@Joy Rocha –

since you took the time to comment here one would hope you have taken the time to peruse the article right next to this one.

It is chock full of data and links to studies. Specifically the section called “Sex Offender Registries Don’t Work”.

Do you really think public policy and criminal law should be based on your subjective experience rather than studies and data? If so, Heaven help us all.

Ms. Rocha, I am dismayed to see you claim to be a therapist. What kind of therapy do you offer? Are you a charlatan who charges for your time and uses your position to punish people who are trying to get back into society? I pray that you are NOT a state paid therapist with clients who are mandated to take your abuse! Do you know the saying, “Physician, heal thyself!”???

Considering that the comments are supposed to moderated…how did Joy Rocha’s get the okay?

Does moderation = telling you only what you want to hear?

No. Moderation is not allowing people to shout fire in a theatre. Clearly this person is only inciting negative speech. I thought this was about ENLIGHTENING people on the topic; not reinforcing what we know to be nonsense without merit and without empirical evidence/data.

@Joy Rocha Can you please enlighten us to your credentials for your therapeutic practice, such as years of practice, citations, papers, schooling? If you wish your real identity to be hidden, that’s perfectly fine, though individuals who purport to be professionals in the field they are espousing show less credibility. In fact, Joe has introduced a link to a comprehensive list of studies that indicate the opposite what you are insinuating. Not only indicate, but absolutely debunk your position. This leads me to believe that your own practice is compromised by a bias that cannot possibly allow you to render… Read more »

I think the way to answer this make it personal:

20 years since my offense and not even a ticket.
Sent my first to college. 2nd going next year and a third following.
Own my home and have a six figure income.
Lots of friends
…yes people change.

Joy Rocha; might I inquire what your views are on other groups of people’ like burglars, and murderers, as well as gang members and robbers? Statistics show people in these groups change, even though their re-offense rate is much higher than people convicted of sex crimes. Why do you seem to believe people convicted of “sex crimes” seldom change? As for the “can of worms,” I think you have things backwards; CA-RSOL and other groups are trying to put the lid back on the can of worms. But then again, with a re-offense rate at under 6% perhaps people convicted… Read more »

JOY…..You are a typical COWARD, Not one response yet to all these comments. ARRRRRGH….it is people like you that make this world unsafe and unpleasant 🙁


Perhap$ $he view$ the opinion$ here a$ a potential threat to her financial $ecurity concern$.

“Can” does not equal “will” change and my experience as a therapist and citizen has been that they seldom change. Hmmm, and why wouldn’t I believe you are a learned professional, with your blanket statement. If indeed you are who you claim then, you certainly have reached the level of your incompetence. Maybe change is a bad word, perhaps learning better methods of behavior would suffice, which is and should be every goal of rehabilitation. To imply that most sex offenders are incapable of learning basic skills such as avoiding dangerous and stimulating situations or rationalizing immoral behavior and etc.… Read more »

Well, for the most part, its very disturbing to think that many in the judicial system try to sell the point that first time offenders are incapable of being rehabilitated? Now, if you killed 5 people or did a drive by shooting ect, thats a different story, but I know for myself I never wanted to be exposed to the judicial system and its now been 19 years. Now, if you are in your late 30’s/40’s and this has been happening for years, I can understand why people have bad attitudes

It’s really odd that people who have, for what ever reason, never have made the bad choice of sticking ones hand in the fire, are quick to make the judgement that those who have will keep burning themselves. When, in this land built by people given the right to learn, improve and change, did this pessimistic, malevolent and thoroughly medieval view of human nature become the main vocabulary of the United States. This article makes me hopeful that their are still compassionate people out there believing in human progress.

You make valid points Tim but historically sex offenders are thought to suffer from mental conditions that overcome their ability to learn not to put their hand into a fire.

Obviously, for some that is true but for the documented 95% who aren’t the lie is staggering and unworthy of an advanced civilization.

However, I can’t help but believe it won’t be long before the ever increasing weight of a one size fits all approach to this problem causes it’s own collapse.

You can have terabytes of factual information, but the public perception doesn’t change until you add some kind of Magellan moment, like when an Italian explorer sailed around the globe, and the world finally became round, even though scientists had tried to explain that for centuries before, or when a famous basketball star announced he had AIDS and it brought the disease and it’s victims out of the gay bath houses of peoples biases, and freed up funding for a cure. There is a scratch that’s needed to crystallized the solution that’s already saturated with evidence. I can’t imagine what… Read more »


The same things used to be said about our black brethren. Like you; I think I can feel some sort of change coming; I just hope it’s for the good.

Joy Rocha wrote: “Can we err on the side of the victims?”

Personally, I don’t believe it is okay to “err” when the consequences equal civil, human, and constitutional rights are being stripped away from 750,000+ citizens and their families.


Amen to that!!! We are living under the one strike laws!

I think we need a little clarification on “sex offenders” changing. Making blanket statements about any group creates confusion. The person who got caught urinating in public may not have to change anything. Just because an individual makes a poor choice from the perspective of others doesn’t mean they need to make life altering adjustments. A more direct question is who has the authority to decide which people need to change, why is the authority figure trusted to make that choice, how the choice was made, and what justifies that as being the right course of action in the instant… Read more »

My offense was 28 years ago. For the entire period since, my family (wife and children) have attended the same church congregation. Most of that time, a sex-crime specialist therapist attended the same congregation. He constantly warned members of the church that people who have committed sex crimes can’t change. It created a lot of anxiety and hostility for our family. HOWEVER, as one year became five, five became ten and ten became twenty-plus… he finally moved to another state. Seems he had no answer when he kept spouting that there is no change in the face of evidence to… Read more »

Joy Rocha got us a little flustered… We should return the favor and reach out to all religious and special interest groups that fund and promote the Hate message of having a Sex Offender Registry. Those espousing Grace and forgiveness should be our first point of focus.

Robert Curtis: Do you really hypocrites can change? I think so if they can find an opening in their minds. Proverbs 6:16-19King James Version (KJV) 16 These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. He that soweth discord among bretheren is seventh on this list; The seventh is an abomination to God.… Read more »

Ms Rocha, How about we err on the side of JUSTICE? I know, it may be a novel concept when it comes to those unchangeable sex offenders you talk about. Your view may be that humans are born good and when they do something bad there’s no hope for them. Perhaps the correct view is that we’re born into sin and to overcome that sinful condition we need to change both our hearts and minds. Oh yes, people can change, it’s not really that difficult, but I ask you, are you willing to change? Your information seems as if it… Read more »

Former sex offenders will not change. Just look at what is happening after presence restrictions have been banned: the expected epidemic of child abductions in parks by rso’s has — well, it hasn’t materialized. WTF. What happened? The re-offense rate remains bewildering low. Hey, maybe most ex offenders made the change in their hearts — without the help of draconian ordinances and won’t change back even though the laws regulating them are gone. Interesting concept.

I agree wholeheartedly.

Statistics prove that victims of the registry are among the least likely to commit an offense. So if they do not change their behavior, that is a good thing because society will be safer. That leaves the true victims of this law to be the children of registrants and their families.

The hypocrisy of the law is underscored as it has been promoted by hyperbole, fear mongering, hate mongering, political opportunism – nothing to do with solving the abstract problem as proven by DOJ research and findings.

As a person and a Registered citizen who for well over 10 years has helped mentor hundred’s of ex offenders and their families working with my former treatment provider I can tell you people do change, from the hundred’s of men and women who have successfully completed treatment there were only 2 that re-offended and I had said many times that they should have still been in prison. Most of the men and women in these treatment groups were people who made a mistake, they were the young men who had a underage girlfriend, the female teachers who had sex… Read more »

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