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

[ACSOL]

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

 

Join the discussion

  1. Is "Risk" Really Any Better?

    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 dangerousness, land people on a sex offense registry.” Again, none of Karl Hanson’s tools measure “current dangerousness.” The Static-99R, for example, does not measures anything current (unless you were *just* released from jail). And none of Karl Hanson’s tools measure ‘dangerousness.’ Only risk of recidivism from release.

    Carpenter cites Hanson at least three times in her paper (at footnotes 84, 88, 89). While it might be nice to see risk-based registries as a more fair alternative, I fear that it might lead to a slippery slope–not unlike the Minority Report–that will, once again, take many years to undo. We should all be exposing the fact that no test can predict human behavior while it is early, rather to be confronted with a statistical phrenological mess many years down the road.

    Maybe focus on the fact that registries have not been proven to prevent crime. So why should they even exist at all?

    • AJ

      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 be perfect.

      For me, the answer to your ID/Header is a resounding “yes”…*if* the science is allowed to be used and courts and legislatures follow it.

      • Dave C.

        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).

        High STATIC score meant more “treatment, more polygraphs, and thousands more of dollars paid to the CASOMB “treatment” center. I’m still paying debt from the about $10K that I had to pay for “treatment.” It left me broke.

        So now, the STATIC has been given even MORE power to classify one into Tier III! How ridiculous is that??

        • Is "Risk" Really Any Better?

          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 in more sessions, more polygraphs, more parole searches, and a lot of unfair/unprofessional/rude treatment. (BTW, I didn’t have any violations either; but the program *did* most certainly embellish and exaggerate a lot of what I thought were inaccurate perceptions by the pseudo “doctors” via its written reports. Perceptions that arose only because CDCR labeled me as a “high risk sex offender.”)

          I don’t know about you, but currently I am not even publicly listed on Megan’s Law website — thank God — so I am able to live a fairly normal life. However, the tiered registry and Static-99R *will* put on the website — which is, in many ways, even more frightening than having to register for life. Indeed it is “ridiculous” that a 10 question test is given so much weight, even if it defies all other logic.

          Publication on Megan’s List must be considered *punishment*. And the tiered law, with the reliance on the Static-99R to post people who otherwise would be unpublished, violates the prohibition on Ex Post Facto punishment. Ex Post Facto punishment is prohibited by the Constitution in Article 1, Section 9, Clause 3 (with respect to federal laws) and Article 1, Section 10 (with respect to state laws).

          The silver-lining with you, Dave C., is that you can seek reduction then dismissal under 1203.4 because you were not sentenced to state prison. You can do that yourself, without the assistance of an attorney. (Unfortunately, with me — even though it was a first-time offense — I will not qualify for dismissal, since I was sentenced to prison.)

    • Dustin

      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 not contained in other databases. It’s a typical government solution to a small (as in rare) problem, costing ridiculously large sums of money for absolutely no tangible benefit. The fact that even in the rare instances where an RC commits another sex offense, his status as an RC is never known until after arrest shows that the registry accomplishes absolutely nothing in regards to its stated purposes of promoting public safety and reducing (already nearly non-existent) sexual recidivism.

    • David Kennerly

      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 scrutiny, and suggest a capability of clinicians to assess “reoffense” risks that they do not possess. This is all just to get to a reality that is slightly less awful than the present moment with the hope of further advancement in the future. Meanwhile, and much to my occasional chagrin, we have to cheer it all on since it is our best, and only, hope.

  2. totally against public registry

    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.

    • David Kennerly

      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.

      • totally against public registry

        Right!

      • The Static-99R Is A Scam

        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!”

        • David Kennerly

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

    • Registry keeps me separate from my partner

      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.

      • Dave C.

        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?

      • David Kennerly, The Government-Driven Life

        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 a greater risk to children. Many of these risky adult figures provide advance notice of their terrible capacities, too and, were they treated with anything like the diligence with which we are scrutinized, there might be fewer child murders. Yet the family annihilators and the parental pugilists continue their murder sprees unchecked while we continue to exist as debased and subhuman pariahs who exist mainly to serve as objects of collective and directed hatred. It was common back in the eighties for the hysterics to say things like “Molestation is worse than murder.” That sort of rhetorical nonsense has largely gone away because it is so patently ridiculous and undermines the credibility of their witchhunt but, on a lower level, perhaps, it is what most in society really believe. They give every indication of believing it to be true whether in the time and attention they spend thinking about sexual abuse or in the laws and money spent to address it.

  3. Steveo

    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 limitations on my charges) they applied the requirement to register for life retroactively to me.

    Then the International Megan’s law came in, and now, not only am I simply treated as having been convicted as a technicality, now it’s announced to the world, to other sovereign nations as if it’s true, as if I were convicted in a court of law for the crime. I’m not even sure if these other nations have anything like a deferred adjudication in thier law, but if they do I’m pretty sure they would have a hard time believing that there was never an actual conviction (adjudication) against me. I mean, it’s hard to beleive or understand how this is just, or legal, or how a nation can do what it’s done to us. I think there’s a pretty good argument right there to make the United States government prove and document how this morphed from a technical slight-of-hand legal categorization to where they can now announce something as true that they as much as admit is not.

    • CR

      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?

  4. Steveo

    CR,

    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.

    • CR

      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 on new laws and new restrictions at a rapid pace, in every legislative session. Each new law just makes our lives that much harder. That’s how we arrived at this point today.

      I think all of us who are subject to the registration laws, presence or residency restrictions, frequent in-person reporting requirements, disclosure of internet identifiers, travel restrictions, et. al. ad nauseum, whether reaching back into the past to ensnare us, or imposed on us as a continuing condition of our existence after completing our sentences, know that it is punishment.

      We’ve always had some lawyers on our side. It appears lately that some judges, some people in the media, and perhaps even a segment of the public is coming to understand that these restrictions and duties being imposed on people who have completed their sentences is unjust, or unwise, or even unconstitutional. All we can do is hope this trend continues, and aid it in any way we can. Maybe someday SCOTUS will reverse itself, or at least draw a brighter line on what kinds of duties and restrictions can be imposed after completion of sentence. After all, registration schemes today bear little resemblance to the Alaska registration scheme that SCOTUS reviewed in Smith v Doe. I just hope it doesn’t take another 20 to 50 years.

  5. USA

    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!

    • The Static-99R Is A Scam

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

  6. Nondescript

    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.

    • The Static-99R Is A Scam

      @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.

  7. Gralphr

    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 have a way off and its really pointless to give people life on the registry when they still have to function in society. I went to school and received a Bachelors degree and have worked the whole time I’ve been out, but I can tell of the many times I had a offer letter rescinded for a job, not based on a conviction, but due to being on the registry itself. Anyone who thinks the registry isn’t a punishment meant to make people fail and end up in prison due to breaking the law is a complete fool.

  8. Tim L

    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 the time the disability imposed is unreasonable yet imposed anyway.

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