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PA: When facts aren’t facts – A look at the effectiveness of sexual offender registries

The passages of sexual offender registries have grabbed headlines as steps toward public safety against unchanging “predators” who are being released back into society.

The registry laws themselves have cost billions of dollars and generally are passed with overwhelming support. But do they work? Full Article

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  1. Steve

    Great article. The truth is coming out slowly. The question remains, when will legilslators and the courts listen?

  2. Frank

    If we can find enough lawmakers who will realize that the registries do not work and are very expensive, maybe there is some hope in the future. I just don’t know if I’ll live long enough to see it happen.

  3. MatthewLL

    This may not be exactly on topic here, but has any one seen the SMART web site where they claim “Research has demonstrated that repeat offenders account for a disproportionate amount of crime and that offenders released from prison are arrested at rates 30 to 45 times higher than the general population (Rosenfeld, Wallman, & Formango, 2005)”

    They also say “Unfortunately, recidivism remains a difficult concept to measure, especially in the context of sex offenders. The surreptitious nature of sex crimes, the fact that few sexual offenses are reported to authorities, and variation in the ways researchers calculate recidivism rates all contribute to the problem.

    This can be found at http://www.smart.gov/SOMAPI/sec1/ch5_recidivism.html.

    The write up goes on to say that that most sex offenses are not reported so the real reoffense rate is much higher. Can anyone point me to studies that debunk this?

    • Timmr

      This looks like the same strategy used to debunk climate change reports, the same strategy used to say cigarettes don’t increase risk of cancer. I will guess there is some corporation or other entity out there making sure the facts remain in doubt. They will find a report somewhere that casts doubt on the preponderance of evidence or make a supposition that can’t really be measured, and use this to negate the preponderance of scientific data. I doubt recidivism is that difficult to measure. The people are on parole and/or are on the registry. How many people can get away with something under these circumstances? And, the idea that somehow sex offenders have some super powers driven by uncontrollable urges to break the law to hide crimes and get away with things is more myth making. I am wondering who is benefiting from this? Who is actually writing these reports? Follow the money. That is probably the question to ask. Like James, I have another life, an economic one I have to live, or I would find the answers to that question.

    • Timmr

      The longer someone engages in illegal behavior, the greater the chance one is going to be caught. The studies show just the opposite of what the SMART office is inferring about former sexual offenders. The longer the former offender goes without a re-conviction, the lower the re-offense rate. If it were true the former offenders are doing all this secret offending, over time they are going to make more mistakes, have more witnesses against them, get more confident and careless about covering their tracks. Sure, some will learn better ways to avoid the law, but at some tipping point there will be turn toward diminishing returns. If the majority are secretly offending, there would show an increase rate of arrest and conviction over time as the offenders defenses wear down and they are caught and it follows there would be a spike in the rate after a certain amount of years as the average lawbreakers would reach the limits of their ability to remain secret. In fact, that point seems to be one to five years for the few who are repeat offenders.

      • Michael

        “The longer the former offender goes without a re-conviction, the lower the re-offense rate.”

        I wouldn’t argue with that. I read that only about 20% of kids are sexually abused by strangers. The majority of abusers are family members [nearly 80%]. Chances are, when mommy, daddy or big brother Bobby are arrested for abusing little Sally, that family member is not going to have the same opportunity to abuse a child when he gets out of prison that he had prior to being incarcerated.

        I doubt that SMART takes into account Risk Propensity and Personality [http://facultyresearch.london.edu/docs/risk.ps.pdf].

        How much is the sex offense taking into account? According to another study [http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/ReportFile/1161], exhibitionists have the highest recidivism rates, rapists tend to have higher recidivism rates than child molesters, while incest offenders tend to have the lowest recidivism rate.

        IMO, SMART was created to keep a spotlight on the issue, promote a sense of fear and push legislation to further punish offenders.

        • Timmr

          Yes they are not considering the various scenarios behind the committing of the crime or the mitigating circumstance that make it unlikely the former offender will commit a new crime on an individual basis. In the courtroom, these factors were considered in my case. Part of what I hate about this whole registration experience is the I am treated like a member of an noxious group and paying for what someone else might do, simply because they defined our group so broadly.

    • Michael

      Recidivism means “falling back.” The recidivism rate isn’t based upon the sex offender committing another sex crime, but another crime period. So, based on the DoJ recidivism rate, only 3% to 10% of sex offenders commit another crime.

      “Unfortunately, recidivism remains a difficult concept to measure, especially in the context of sex offenders.”

      That could be said about a slew of different crime classifications. For example, the elderly are less likely to report being scammed out of money because they are too embarrassed, and according to the FBI, “Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report to … or don’t know they have been scammed.” Would that not effect the recidivism rate of people convicted of fraud or similar crimes? If the recidivism rate for people convicted of fraud was 10%, could we just assume that the rate is actually 40 or 50%?

      I’d think the data on who is making money from sex offender registrations would be more interesting than the sex offender recidivism rate.

      • Timmr

        I think there is a large under reporting of fraud and theft. If the amount stolen is not very huge amount, the police will put it on the back burning, and the victim will just say “live and learn”. Same is true with gang violence. Are the police really going to protect you if you report it?

  4. James

    I just checked from your link….and, over time, my eyes glazed over. The real recidivism rate for sexual offenses seems to be between 3~5% over 5 years and falling off after than.

    Many of the numbers are very, very suspect…I don’t want to take the time, (I have another life), but there are 40 million minors between the ages of 12 and 18 in the United states…upwards of 50% will have sex this year….so they are missing 20 million arrests.

    Numbers are cruel things…they had better hop to it to arrest all these people!! Now…

    The truth is that America is just stupid about sex…everyone loves talking about it, everybody loves wagging a shaming finger…I am sorry, that’s the truth of it.

    Even if you took their worse numbers, 13% molesting girls after 10 years (which I don’t believe)…the Headline could more properly read:

    Flash! 87% of men who Molest Girls have committed no new sexual offense over the past 10 years.

    Let us reward them!

    This is also the truth…the real truth.

    Best Wishes, James

    • Concerned Citizen

      Yes. There are 20 million minors they haven’t arrested yet. Sometimes I think that this list might grow over 1 million shortly and that number will show the absolute hysteria of these laws. The article states that the ones behind these laws could not come up with any data to support their claims against sex offenders. These people should be in jail for abuse of power and fraud.

  5. anonymously

    Just going through the report by Roger P. ( he looks to be a paid contractor for SMART to write tough on crime propaganda ) …

    30-45 times more likely to be arrested for a NON-SEX CRIME, is Roger P’s claim. Not even sex crimes. We are talking about sex crimes, after all.

    Roger P goes on to imply that even though registrants are getting arrested for all these non-sex crimes, even miniscule violations like for those on parole, maybe not meeting a curfew, maybe going outside of a certain radius( and I can think of many other small crimes) , that these crimes really are likely sexual in nature. As if stealing food could really likely be sexual in nature…Roger P’s evidence for this is not to examine if there was sexual motivation for these small violation type crimes which would likely disprove his case, but he looks to a study on murder and kidnapping, a study I could not locate using google. In the opinion piece, Roger P. claims when registrants commit murder or kidnapping, it usually is sexually motivated. This is a Red herring. I know the rate of registrants committing murder or kidnapping is so low, like .000000000000001%, that it certainly does not make the case for Roger P’s implication that non-sex crimes other than murder and kidnapping, of which the vast majority are small-time violations, are likely to be sexually motivated. If time permits, more…

  6. Sex offenders wife

    The registration is harsh. It use to be the registration was only for pedophiles. I originally thought those who had intercourse with minors. It’s not. The registration has people with crimes from a 18 year old boy having sex with his 17 year old girlfriend, flashing, a male adult molesting a female adult, other sex crimes that deal strictly with adults, and some things you have to just shake your head at. I can’t be specific. A guy that believed it was consensual only had Megan’s law because the adult female was 10 years younger than he was. Otherwise he just would have paid his dues, and been done with everything. Megan’s law is now used as a plea bargain tool. Plea for probation of 5 years and registration for life or go to trial with possibly x amount of years in prison. I feel is totally wrong. It doesn’t allow for everyone to be removed after a certain time. Registration is punishment in an of itself. I’m sorry, but lifetime registration is ridiculous especially for those who hasn’t re-offended in over ten years and has no will or desire to do so again. I had an offender once tell me lifetime registration only tells him once an offender always an offender, so why not just go out there and do it again like they expect? Get it over with and commit suicide in prison. I told him to beat the system, and not play their game. He’s gone straight. My own circumstances give me front seat view of what really happens with people on Megan’s law. It makes you and your family a target. Your scared no matter where you live. You hope and pray no one decides to mess with your vehicle or property. I’m sorry having to replace 7 tires in 6 months because they got slashed is ludicrous. In no uncertain terms, I got the message move. I can’t due to restrictions, and reduced finances for replacement of those tires.

    • SCOTUS SAVE US NOW

      But according to your post that would be an okay life for a pedophile? Thats the problem. The list is “okay” as long as it isn’t for what “I” or “My family member” or “My Friend” did – they aren’t the problem. THE LIST IS NOT OKAY FOR ANYONE. NO ONE SHOULD BE STRIPPED OF A SECOND CHANCE. America is the “Land of Opportunity” the “Land of Second Chances” …

  7. Michael

    “An update to Pennsylvania’s 1996 registry law in 2011 included that the ‘Legislature found that … sexual offenders pose a high risk of committing additional sexual offences, and protection from this type of offender is a paramount government interest.’”

    This, from what I read in another article, is based on a lie that was used in Carr or another SCOTUS case that suggested the recidivism rate was 40%. However, based on 2003 Bureau of Justice Statistics data, sex offenders have the low recidivism rate of 5.3% — The DoJ places the recidivism rate at 3% to 10%. Not only that, based on the decision in the 2014 SORNA case regarding juveniles, the 2011 presumption of recidivism language would violate an offenders’ due process rights by utilizing an irrebuttable presumption.

    These laws are about two things. 1.) Politicians getting or keeping a job and, 2.) States getting strong-armed by the federal government with the threat of losing federal law enforcement grant money.

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