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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

Join the discussion

  1. Joy Rocha

    “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.

    • Joe

      @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.

    • Margaret Moon

      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!”???

    • NPS

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

      • wonderin

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

        • NPS

          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.

      • Moderator

        Same way yours did… please review our

        ‘Commenting Rules: We welcome all input but ask that you stay civil and on-topic.’

    • Eric Knight

      @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 proper diagnoses for your patients.

      Janice’s very arguments in federal court depend on breaking common fallacies such that you are presenting here. The only people nowadays who hold these views, apparently, are certain council members and blowhards, whom are finding out (or will find out) how politically and financially expensive holding and implementing such views in unconstitutional enforcement of laws will be to their careers, their city budgets, and even their own bank accounts.

    • steve

      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.

    • Q

      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 of “sex crimes” really don’t need much changing. I believe any kind of change needs to come from people with the same point of view as yours, as it has created nothing but harm. Perhaps you should get back to the basics; allow me to help you. Here is a video of a young child who’s life was destroyed by many people with the same view as yours; which statistics show to be false. There are millions of such children who’s little lives have been destroyed by ignorance of the facts in mainstream society.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vvy8zg8jdS4

      Truly; I sincerely hope you don’t let the replies to your post snap your mind shut and keep you away. This could be a good resource for you because it’s real people who’s lives have been severely impacted by non empirical viewpoints, with families that live this issue on a daily, and at times, hourly basis. The replies here are from the “other side” of the issue. What we say here isn’t theory; it’s experience based facts.

    • turtle

      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 🙁

      • Q

        turtle:

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

  2. wonderin

    “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. is at least ridiculous and at most prejudiced and unworthy of a fair individual.

    But regardless, when RSOs are vividly such a non threatening entity, wouldn’t our resources be better spent educating the public on sex abuse prevention?

  3. USA

    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

  4. Tim

    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.

    • wonderin

      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.

      • Tim

        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 that would be with sex offender issues, though.

      • Q

        wonderin:

        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.

  5. mike

    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.

  6. ab

    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 case? Regardless of what anyone believes the best an authority figure can do is go on what the current understanding is of their area of expertise. Humans are far from being perfect and we have many different ways to perceive any particular thing. So while I will agree that accepting the possibility to change is important, it is equally vital to realize the conversations and actions go both ways. Meaning anyone can spout off whatever they want , but simply being steadfast in believing this or that is the most unhelpful position. Opening up to new ideas, actions, perspectives, and being vulnerable to meeting challenges openly are key components of resolving differences. After all in the end it all comes down to finding common ground.

    As for Joy Rocha, yeah you opened a can of worms. Sure we can err on the side of the victims….all victims. Including everyone who has ever been through the justice system in the United States and all other countries. Depending on your definition of a victim anyone who has ever experienced something negative can be considered a victim.

  7. Hope

    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 the contrary.

  8. Robert Curtis

    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.

    • Q

      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. It’s this kind of people that have caused most of this mess called the registry! Yes, I’m talking of Walsh and everyone that roused the rabble and caused them to believe lies.

  9. mch

    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 wasn’t pulled out of your head, but possibly from a location about 36 inches lower.
    Centuries ago your therapy would have resulted in burning at the stake, hanging, torture or beheading, but in this century your therapy promotes never ending punishment and banishment.
    Please come clean with your qualifications and experience.

  10. Tim

    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.

    • j

      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.

  11. Craig

    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 with a high school boy, the Father or grandpa who touched their daughters, the man who exposed himself, the young lady who at 19 had sex with a 16 year old boy then finally shot herself because of the registry, yes all where wrong acts but hardly a death sentence.

    I would think if Joy is really a therapist she needs a new line of work, she could also only work with the hardcore ones that we all know are out there or she is in it strictly for the money, for a never ending revenue stream off the backs of the many.

    This is a quote I read and it is so true,

    The treatment industry has become a self-serving industry that strives to maximize the job security of attorneys, judges, court officers, correctional workers and parole agencies by criminalizing and labeling as many people as possible. The justice system has manufactured an epidemic of “criminals”, not the people. To think otherwise is to suggest that Americans are more innately criminal than other people in other countries, which would be ridiculous, but that’s what they want us to believe. No, our system here is just yet another example of a small group of parasites manufacturing a mechanism to use, control and profit off the masses.

    Until people wake up change will not come, it takes more than a few, it will take the hundred of thousands to fix this mess, it will take money and lots of it, I hope it comes sooner than later, my wish would be to get off the registry and feel human again, to raise my family without all these insane restriction’s that keep adding up even after my probation.

    I’m lost. I was under the silly assumption that the point of a “correctional facility” is to help a criminal reform and become a productive member of society which is what his time served clearly accomplished. I see i was wrong.

    My best to all of you.

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