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General News

Sex Offender Registries Often Fail Those They Are Designed To Protect UPDATED

UPDATED with commentary from ACSOL Board Member Guy Hamilton-Smith (below)

Inside the sprawling two-story tan and coral stucco building on New York Avenue in Northeast Washington, D.C., is a men’s homeless shelter that once served as a halfway house run by the government.

It’s a place that some 20 registered sex offenders call home — according to the city’s sex offender registry. But at least one-third of them don’t really live there, and D.C. authorities have no idea where they are.

The men are among the more than 25,000 convicted sex offenders and predators across the U.S. who have absconded, their whereabouts unknown to law enforcement or the victims — often children — whom they sexually assaulted or abused, an NPR investigation has found. Tens of thousands of others are out of compliance with sex offender registry laws. Full Article

Related

NPR Eschews Journalism in Favor of Moral Panic –  Guy Hamilton-Smith

Normally, I don’t want to be writing this much but an NPR story ran today that I feel comfortable saying is journalistic malpractice. Thus, I’m compelled to say something about it. Here we are.

A piece by Cheryl Thompson ran under the headline of Sex Offender Registries Often Fail Those They Are Designed To Protect. As Stephen Hardwick — an appellate public defender in Ohio — often notes the only people that registries are designed to protect are incumbent politicians. That being the case, I would be extremely surprised indeed if the headline held up under scrutiny. And, strangely enough — it does! Just for reasons that are completely contrary to the reporting. Read the Commentary

Join the discussion

  1. G4Change

    Here’s an article. OF COURSE they use worst case scenarios to make their point.

    https://www.npr.org/2020/08/25/808229392/sex-offender-registries-often-fail-those-they-are-designed-to-protect

    At least they talked to someone with a brain who was able to say:

    “The registry really doesn’t work,” [Kelly] Socia says. “It’s a bloated, inefficient system that is incredibly expensive to maintain. I don’t think it really protects anybody.”

    I expected NPR to be a lot more balanced than this. I don’t donate to them, and I never will. And it pisses me off that they are partially government funded.

    I think this article should be followed up, and I’d love for the author to talk to Janice, Vicky Henry, Miriam Auckerman, etc. The examples in this article are mostly violent, repeat offenders. They make it seem like EVERYONE on the registry is like that. I’m fed up with this crap!

    • Confused Man

      #MeToo worked, G4Change. There’s been a sea change in left-leaning media, kicking out former public radio/television mainstay men like Charlie Rose, Garrison Keillor, Tavis Smiley, and Tom Ashbrook for vague harassment-linked offenses. They’ve been all replaced by women, and the viewership/listenership is also trending to women. I’ve been listening to NPR since the early 90s, and it’s not what it was. There’s definitely some interesting stuff in this article, despite all the flaws–a lot of the men described as “absconders” are clearly in urban areas. I live in an urban area, and I can say that, largely, my presence on the registry is a non-issue except in matters of travel and the gnawing fear I may have to find a new job in the next year after the Covid-related economic crash. When my wife looks at the sex offender map (I don’t bother), she tells me that tons of the names in our cities are designated as non-compliant (and this was before Covid). I still do my registration (I did, before Covid changed things in my state), but I realize that, honestly, the Detroit Police Department have bigger fish to fry than “absconding sex offenders,” and I take comfort in this. I haven’t had a police check-in visit in nearly 10 years. The moral of the NPR story should be that “cops with actual things to do really don’t care about registrants,” but instead it’s spun into the kind of fear-mongering that we know NPR can avoid when it chooses not to cover churches being burned in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Shameful what some brands of feminism can bring, but recall feminism once wrought prohibition not that long ago.

    • Confused Man

      I’d also add, G4Change–doesn’t this seem like an incredibly tone deaf article for NPR to run in 2020? Look at the photos–a white woman demanding the police monitor black men (while I realize the races in any individual story listed are different, the pictures present a narrative)? Is NPR really going full-out Karen in celebrating the monitoring of Americans, disproportionately people of color, by the police? If I had social media I’d be all over this–if Guy Hamilton-Smith is reading (I read your tweets and articles from time to time, interesting stuff) I’d like to hear your take on this. In general, I think we are missing the boat on trying to use the anti-authoritarian movement (even the RNC speakers are talking about police reform!) to tackle sex offender laws, and the easiest way to do that is RACE. While Law and Order: SVU likes to portray all sex criminals as preppy white guys, in reality urban areas are FULL of non-white registered sex offenders who literally cannot move out of those cities because the communities they could move into have geographical restrictions. While this isn’t red-lining, it looks a LOT like red-lining, and this movement isn’t about facts or accuracy, it’s about public perceptions and moods. An article like this seems straight out of 2015–haven’t the authors realized that SVU is culturally canceled, along with all other cops shows? This type of article would historically have only featured white criminals, but of course suburban communities are far better about keeping track of registrants than urban ones. It screwed up, and showed the ACTUAL reality of American sex criminals–disproportionately poor people of color, not white lacrosse players. THIS is the message we need to spread now, that we are having post-war-style red-lining of marginalized people to protect white Karens from people of color. Target Democrats with this messaging.

    • David Kennerly

      “I expected NPR to be a lot more balanced than this. ”

      Not me. They are the center-left-equivalent of FoxNews in that they have a very ideological agenda namely, “woke” progressivism shaped by decades of carceral feminism. No surprise to me at all that they should be propagating the scary sex panic. Even our reform movement is often muddled in its thinking, relying upon an expansive definition of “sexual violence” to fog men and women’s minds and to attenuate our defense.

  2. Resident

    I wrote to NPR. Here’s my response and I suggest people write in.

    I am extremely disappointed by Ms. Cheryl Thompson’s article “Sex Offender Registries Often Fail to Those They Are Designed to Protect.”

    First off, no sexual abuse or violence is acceptable in the least. There needs to be more accountability for those who commit them. That being said I was one of those people. I have been on the registry for ten years. Since released from jail, I have always complied with the law, payed my restitution, and completed court mandated therapy and continued it on my own time.

    The United States Supreme Court Case Smith v Doe 2003, listed the registry as non-punitive. Justice John Roberts said it was no worse than a price club membership. That is essentially what people’s pain and misery, especially victims lives, boil down to: A Costco card. It is incorrigible.

    Millard v Rankin 2016 came to the conclusion that the registry was ineffective and bloated, before being overturned. Doe v Snyder 2018 has also ruled portions of the registry as punishment.

    The registry is ineffective policy, as well as associated parts. It forces the compliant to register addresses, cars, work, schools, height weight, fingerprints for life, as well as their partners and children’s information. Meanwhile the most dangerous offenders can simply walk away. I would have rather paid restitution to my victim for the rest of my existence; at least it has the propensity to do something good.

    I hope that NPR follows up this article with another investigative article. I do applaud that the article laid out how there is little incentive for people to register save for jail, which contributes to the United States bloated incarceration rate. Moreover, I am glad that you focused on how even victims of sexual abuse find this ineffective.

    Sincerely,

  3. Facts should matter

    We’re in serious trouble when left-leaning NPR makes ALL sex offenders out to be the “common enemy” that everyone loves to hate and disparage. They predictably coddle victim interviewees as though we’re supposed to feel sorry for their “struggles.” Then allow them to whine about how the registry doesn’t give them the psychological comfort they thought it would.

    Did they actually think that an unconstitutional, intellectually dishonest law was going to prevent the same thing from happening to someone else???

    • Resident

      Buzzfeed did it too.

      I think most of us have accepted that the media is not going to report fairly on this. Panic sells.

  4. JohnDoeUtah

    The issue here is that the things that make the registry ineffective will not be evaluated and improved upon. There will be no empirical evaluation or regressive evaluation to determine what might be effective.

    They will simply push for more compliance more requirements, with the intent to incarcerate those who served their time.

  5. SR

    While the article was poorly written in how it presented the registry overall by highlighting the worst of the worst multi-time offenders, it did have a few points that highlighted how useless the registry is as well. The black man who “absconded” when he failed to register remained at the same address since his last registration. The fact that the local PD apparently not even once took a half hour to visit his last known whereabouts to try and find him, shows how much law enforcement “relies” on the registry to keep the community safe.

    • Joe

      And if they had “found” him at his home, how does that make anyone more or less safe? Whoever was it that convinced the public that knowing where someone lives (sleeps and collects his mail) has any bearing whatsoever on that person’s desire and propensity to repeat a type of crime?

      And if it so did, why does not every criminal have to register?

  6. Brandon

    A system built on fear mongering will never do what it was intended. The only person that raped and murdered Megan Kanka was her killer. The only person who kidnapped Jacob Whetterling was the guy who committed the crime. The only person that murdered Adam Walsh (if he’s actually dead) is his killer. The only person that can keep your family safe is you. If one can’t do that than good luck having the government take care of you when disaster strikes. For those who have endured sexual abuse you can heal and be at peace. Only rage, revenge and being forced to be a forever victim prevents them from that goal. A system designed on bias is doomed to fail!!

  7. Write the author!

    The author’s two professional email addresses can be found at this URL: https://www.ire.org/archives/board_member/cheryl-w-thompson

    Maybe if she’s given the other side or rest of the story, she may do so. Courtesy and politeness are the words of the day in writing.

    • Resident

      It must be said, do not dox the person! Irrelevant of how you feel, do give ample criticism, but do not insult her or her character.

      But yes, write the author.

      • Brandon

        I still never understood why society is okay with pushing a small percentage of the population to the fringes of society. Guess it’s okay to have people homeless, jobless, hopeless and forever branded due to their past; which puts communities in greater harm. It’s easier to hate someone who you don’t know about than to show compassion to try to get to know. Sounds like their character makes them the monster!!! See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil; yet be involved in evil thoughts.

        • KM in SoCal

          @Brandon A marginalized “Other” is necessary for the creation and maintenance of society. Society is at its most basic a banding together for protection. If there is nothing to unify against society has no purpose. A few misbehaving, but easily identified with members don’t work. You need inhuman monsters murders, rapist aliens(both types). In order for the ‘monsters’ to be scary and society to be ‘safe’ they must be ostricized and banished, but not allowed to get so far away as to lose the fear factor. Thats why they used the most shocking and heineous cases they could find. Unfortunately for their purpose the shocking and heineous are also vanishingly rare and look too much like law abiding citizens. Hence the broadly based terms and all inclusive Sex Offender label. Who fears a few well known monsters? No one, but every one fears the creepy chameleon who masquerades as the harmless neighbor who may be ‘too’ kind to the kids. Plus titillation and salacious gossip has long been a feature of societies since Samarian times.

  8. Will Allen

    I plan to write the author.

    Sex Offense Registries do make common sense. But they aren’t acceptable.

    It is reasonable to believe that if Robert Maurer were listed on the Hit Lists, that would have helped prevent future victims. It’s reasonable to believe that, but it’s a fantasy. The fact is that if Maurer were listed, perhaps he would not have molested person X, but he would have molested person Y. I expect that in nearly every case, the best the Registries can do is “relocate” a sex crime. Who would believe that is useful?

    Further, if Maurer were listed, he would be a lot more motivated to commit crimes. He would also be a lot more likely to commit crimes, including sex crimes. How much more likely? I personally think that multiplier is huge, at least 10x. Maybe much higher than that.

    I also think that people whose children are most likely to be molested are people who are not actually protecting their children at all. They include people who read the Hit Lists and think that helps them. And ignore everything else.

    People who will read the Hit Lists and use them appropriately, are exactly the people who don’t need the Hit Lists. Another way to put it is that people who are actually protecting their children don’t need the Hit Lists. Those who aren’t will never be helped by the Hit Lists.

    A person who would read the Hit Lists and “need” to tell Maurer to be homeless and go live in the woods is the exact same person who is not protecting their children. It is their children who will be molested – either by a person not listed, by far the most likely, or by someone who is and they don’t know it.

    I don’t have any sympathy for harassers like Kristen Trogler either. Perhaps if she wasn’t a harasser, I might. Millions of us have been victims of crimes, some surely worse than what she suffered. I don’t get to look on a big government Hit List and find my past perpetrators either. Why should she? And what business would I or she have to do that anyway? The Hit Lists aren’t for her entertainment, they are supposedly to prevent future crimes, which has nothing to do with her.

    Yet, despite my past, I’m not a drug addict like her. Everyone fights anxiety, depression, etc. Life is rough. She should try to live on the Hit Lists. Also, there are millions of sufferers just like her who have no sex abuse in their past. I guess most of those drug addicts don’t have excuses as good as hers. For most people, Trogler’s lifestyle is a choice. Not all, but most.

  9. G4Change

    Excellent commentary, Guy. Thank you so much for sharing this. I hope NPR gets an earful over this!

  10. SR

    NPR is doing an audio report on this and it’s slightly better. They had a snipped of an LE agent saying the registry doesn’t actually keep anyone safe and they just have to do it as a matter of law. They further said that the registry used to be just an LE tool meant for help LE in investigating local cases. So I guess that’s a bit more positive?

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