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Briefing the Supreme Court: Promoting Science or Myth?

The United States Supreme Court is considering Packingham v. North Carolina, a case testing the constitutionality of a ban on the use of social networking sites by registered sex offenders. An issue that has arisen in the case is the state’s justification for the ban. North Carolina and thirteen other states represented in a friend of the court brief make three claims concerning the risk of registered sex offenders:

(1) sex offenders have a notoriously high rate of sexual recidivism;

(2) sex offenders are typically crossover offenders in having both adult and child victims; and

(3) sexual predators commonly use social networking sites to lure children for sexual exploitation purposes.

The collective states contend that these three claims are supported by scientific evidence and common sense. This Essay explores the reliability of the scientific studies cited in the briefings considering the heteregenous group of registered sex offenders to whom the social networking ban is targeted. Abstract and Paper


The Transformative Potential of Doe v. Snyder


Join the discussion

  1. kari

    I hope this is not the end. Regardless of the SG brief. The SCOUTS still could review and here arguments. I came across this earlier anyone want to tell me what this is about.

  2. Roger

    Check out the conclusion of the paper! Finally, sanity is starting to appear!

    “In its amicus brief, an association of sex offender treatment professionals correctly emphasize the “myth of homogeneity” concerning sex offenders. Instead, scientific research indicates “registrants are not a homogenous group of ‘sex offenders’ that should be monolithically managed. Rather, registrants comprise a diverse group of individuals, each different from the next in terms of past criminal history, behavioral patterns, and risk of recidivism.” Further, the experts properly warn that policies that target sex offenders which are not based on some empirical reality are unlikely to be effective. In the end, North Carolina and thirteen other states weighing in as friends of the court in Packingham v. North Carolina offer a troubling version of the scientific evidence in an attempt to support a significant ban on registered sex offenders’ use of social networking sites. It is not clear if the states’ legal representatives were merely naïve and uneducated on the true science behind the empirical studies they tout. The alternative that they are intentionally misleading the Supreme Court on the risks of sex offenders as a group would be regrettable for ethical and political reasons. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will see through the guise of science the states work so hard to convey as simply reconstituting the myth of sex offenders.”

    • DPH

      Well said Roger, we’ll have to wait and see on SCOTUS.
      Looking forward to more on this and next weeks’ Conference Call.

    • pgm111

      This conclusion to the paper is promising.

  3. Katharine

    Every RC and their families and friends owe Ms. Hamilton a huge thank you for this superb piece, in which she refutes North Carolina’s “evidence” of a high rate of recidivism among registrants. We all know high recidivism is a myth, but Melissa Hamilton has done the research and crunched the numbers to show how North Carolina and other states have mis-read or twisted sex-offense studies to serve their own interests, and not the truth, in the Packingham case. Importantly, her research here is valid not just for Packingham but for other cases that are and will be before the courts. I recommend everyone take the time to read this article.

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