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ACSOL Board Members Unravel Sex Offense Policies, Offer Hope for Registrants


In the form of new scholarly articles, two ACSOL board members discuss the large gap between sex offense realities and sex offense policies as well as offer hope for registrants and their families. In the first of the articles, sociologist Emily Horowitz uses a timeline of key political events, legal milestones and research findings to identity how and why there is a gap between sex offense realities and sex offense policies. In the second of the articles, law professor Catherine Carpenter provides hope to registrants and their families by highlighting recent state and federal court decisions that recognize that sex offender registration laws constitute punishment.

“We are pleased to share with the public the scholarly works of two key members of the ACSOL board,” stated ACSOL President Chance Oberstein. “Both of these board members will supplement their scholarly works at this year’s ACSOL conference on June 15 and 16 in Los Angeles.”

Horowitz is Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York. Carpenter is the Honorable Arleigh M. Woods and William T. Woods Professor of Law, Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, California.

Moral Panic – Emily Horowitz – Dec 2017

Signs of Hope – Catherine Carpenter – Dec 2017


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I found this troubling to read from Carpenter’s paper: “We are witnessing cringe-worthy outcomes that have produced a swollen registry because mandatory registration is not predicated on individualized risk assessment, but instead is based solely on a predetermined legislative scheme as to which crimes warrant registration.” Who is to say that registration based on “individualized risk assessment” will be any better than mandatory registration? Especially if the individualized risk assessments are based off of highly flawed actuarial tools that are limited to all but 10 “risk factors?” On page 6 of Carpenter’s paper, she notes that “prior convictions, not current… Read more »

There are risk-assessment tools beyond the Static-99R, so to say risk assessments won’t work simply because S-99R may (or may not) be of dubious or doubtful quality is a stretch. Indeed, my risk assessment did not include S-99R (I forget why), but did include some other one that had just come out and shown promise, but still needed to be cross-validated. (It was added for my benefit, as I scored well on it.) Using varied and multiple risk-assessment methods can indeed build a pretty good, and scientifically valid, picture. But as with anything and everything involving humans, it still won’t… Read more »

There are many other types of risk assessments, but the upcoming tiered registry (at least here in California) will only focus on the STATIC-99R . . . so that might be why some of us have a lot of concern with regard to the STATIC-99R’s use. Short story about me: I was on probation, scored very low to low on other risk assessments (as well as “low risk” by the opined assessment of the doctor). When I was placed on straight probation, the probation officer give me a supposed high score (exacerbated by the non-contact crime and my young age).… Read more »

I scored low on every other test except the Static-99R too (i.e. low on LS/CMI, low on HCR-20, low on RRASOR, low on risk assessment evaluations by psychologist). However, I never paid for my mandatory treatment — as, unlike your very fortunate self, I was ultimately sentenced to prison (prosecutor used a peremptory challenge when the judge indicated that he wanted to sentence me to probation). However, I very much felt the unfair criticism and scrutiny that arose for the only reason of having a “high” Static-99R score. Like what you reported in your other post, the high score manifested… Read more »

Sorry, but even a tiered registry is useless. Risk assessments are equally useless, being nothing more than an illusion of accuracy of a prediction no one can make and retaining the ability to be correct no matter what the outcome. The majority of blowback and repercussions suffered by RCs are at the hands of the general public, most of whom could care less about individual circumstances and so-called risk assessments. Simply being registered is enough. Personally, I concur with the above – the registry doesn’t prevent crime at all, status offenses at most. There’s nothing on the registry that is… Read more »

Until the authorities can jack into your brain and continuously monitor it, then I tend to agree with you. The problem with being a sex offender policy reformer, like Catherine and Emily, is that you have to buy into, or appear to buy into, some policies or viewpoints that, despite being imperfect or just plain wrong, are necessary to advance a near-term public relations and legislative goal. So we have dubious claims which they may have to make arguing for the efficacy of treatment, make qualitative distinctions between “offenses” that appeal to the uninformed while not standing up to critical… Read more »

I agree that they weigh “Risk assessment” with or without Static-99 or 99R way too heavily! No one can predict who will or will not re-offend. All these predictions scare me because the state uses their doctors as puppets to appear in court and recite the dangerousness of someone according to these tests, which includes an hour of talking with the accused- not knowing anything about their background, their life, their relationship with family members or loved ones.

We do live in a world of Minority Report.

At least, with Minority Report, they did have a system of seeing the future that worked fairly well even if it was susceptible to the intrigues of the villainous Max von Sydow character.


lol, very true David. Anyway, the similarities between Minority Report and the “risk” based registries are too eerily similar for my taste. In the Minority Report, the protagonist works for the Department of Containment — i.e. “Containment Model” (and the Static-99R/SARATSO for which it relies on). It just makes me wonder if the mastermind behind the Containment Model read (or watched the Tom Cruise movie) Minority Report and thought: “Hey, this is a good idea. Let’s use it on sex offenders!”

If they had reliably clairvoyant women willing to spend their lives floating and emoting in tanks, then they might have a point. 🙂

When the consequences of the registry are so dire, no “prediction” of future risk will have a small enough margin of error to prevent unacceptable unjust suffering by registrants.

Even if someone is hypothetically a true danger to society, the registry as it stands now does nothing to mitigate risk to society, and only punishes the registrant. That is just cruel.

Has any other researcher or scientist actually been given access to Karl Hanson’s data for independent review?? Until then, we should just take Hanson’s word for it. The 99R manual says that the STATIC is only valid for 2 years, right?

I don’t believe Karl Hanson — and/or any other Static-99R “developer” for that matter — has given access to the data underlying the Static-99R. Hanson in past has called the Static-99R a “trade secret.” Here is a blog article by Dr. Karen Franklin that outlines how Hanson’s refusal to turn over the Static-99R’s data violates the American Psychological Association’s Code of Ethics (Section 8.14): Here is a letter from David Thornton, who is Karl Hanson’s Static-99R ‘developer’ partner. Note how Thornton skips around the issue: And here is the judge’s order that excludes the Static-99R from evidence because… Read more »

Notice, though that it is only “sexual” risk that warrants such scrupulous attention by the authorities. There is no such comparable effort made to stamp out risk in any other area of child abuse. We know that parents – or the boyfriend of the mother as so often proves the case, pose vastly greater risks of murdering children than do sex offenders. On average, six hundred kids are killed in the U.S. every year by one or both of these, yet sex offenders murder something like one or two kids on average every year in the U.S. Clearly, parents pose… Read more »

So I have a sort of general question. This is based on my understanding of things, and so please correct me if I misunderstand anything. I committed my crime back in the early 1990s, and my lawyer advised me to take the deferred adjudication route, telling me that it would all go off my record if I kept my nose clean for 10 years of probation. So I did, and about halfway through my probation, all of the Megan’s Law stuff was put into place, and somehow (I think it’s through a technical implementation of a never ending statute of… Read more »

My situation is similar to yours. Texas 1992, deferred adjudication on two felony charges. 10 year probation. There was either no registry in Texas at the time, or it didn’t apply to me. In 1997, half way through my probation, I was told I had to register for life with reporting in person every 90 days.

You didn’t mention what state you are in. It makes a difference, as laws vary from state to state. Also you said you had a question, but I’m not seeing it.

Where (in what state) were your offenses adjudicated, and what is your question?


I’m in Texas too. Committed my crime in 92′ went to court in 94′, got off probation in 04′. Next January will be 25 years since my court date.

It is difficult to believe, to understand, how a registration law can reach into the past to ensnare people who committed their offenses prior to the enactment of the law. I think a number of lawyers, civil libertarians, and civil rights groups thought that it would be found unconstitutional back in the day. They considered it an ex post facto punishment, or a due process violation, or both. Unfortunately, SCOTUS didn’t agree, saying in Smith v Doe 2003 that sexual offender registration laws, even when applied retroactively, are regulatory laws that do not impose punishment. And then legislatures started piling… Read more »

Dustin, the comment regarding the Tiered Registry is lame! Now, I certainly don’t agree with the Static 99, but if your arrested multiple times etc, you certainly pose a higher risk. I would avoid jumping to conclusions and remember that a lot can change before 2021! As already noted in my readings, a Static 99 isn’t really that valid if 10 years or more have passed/and your crime free. So, lets be proactive rather than reactive. If everyone had that negative attitude, this website wouldn’t exist and we would still be banned from parks!

Even first-time offenders can score “high” on the Static-99R.

Of course they can easily assess ANY persons risk at sentencing to be high/danger to reoffend. The problem is not that they deem someone dangerous, but that there is no reassessment after the initial judgement. If people are going to be put on a list, and especially a public one , reassessments should be made at 6 month intervals with the burden of proof being on the government. People are committed to mental hospitals all the time because they are a danger to themselves and/or others, but the vast majority don`t stay there for life.

@Nondescript, you said “reassessments should be made at 6 month intervals with the burden of proof being on the government.”

I agree, 100%.

However, with regard to the Static-99R, nothing in the Static-99R indicates that it purports to fortune-tell “dangerousness.” The Static-99R only claims to measure “risk of recidivism from release.” Because the Static-99R sample mixes all types of sex offenses together, it can actually be debated that it isn’t clear what the Static-99R is measuring in the first place.

The registry is useless as it is right now. I was put as a tier III (not based on any psychological examination, but the charge). I have been out nearly 11 years now, crime free, married with children of my own, yet I’m considered the worst of the worst with no way off (actually here in Indiana I can petition now, but they don’t give any information as to how to get this into court). So now, I’m a 41 year old man considered the worst of the worst due to something from when I was 22. All tiers should… Read more »

It SOR was always INTENDED as punishment that IS why the Whetterling act evolved the way it did. The pretext of the act stated the intent was civil, but it was a thin veil disguising indentured servitude to databases. A database is a machine. Humans are now formally legally indentured to the machines. Our leadership from both parties have secured their public futures by appearing to provided a modicum of security when they actually do not. The required data maintenance is in reality mainly administrative yet extensive. Most importantly the machines are being used to impose affirmative disability most of… Read more »

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