Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Is Our Approach to Sex Offender Risk and Policy on the Mark?

Sex offender registration laws and policies appear to have been based on popular misconceptions regarding sex offenders. That is, law and policy were based on the premise that ALL sex offenders are a danger to society, a danger to children, strangers to their victims, and likely to reoffend (Levenson & D’Amora, 2007).

However, this is not the case.

In some states where laws have been applied retroactively, persons who have been charged with indecent exposure (such as urinating in public) have been required to register as a sex offender (Freeman-Longo, 2001). Additionally, several teenagers have been found guilty of the recent trend of “sexting” and must now register as sex offenders. The problem is, not all sexual offenders have committed sexual crimes against children, yet the majority of the laws are focused on protecting children from sex offenders.

The Need for Better Risk Assessment Strategies

Most policy initiatives have not incorporated risk assessment strategies into their programs. Instead, they are applied broadly to all sex offenders. This flaw has been acknowledged and risk assessment has been included in more recent studies (Parent, Guay, & Knight, 2011). Additionally, the percentage of recidivism rates of sex offenders have been relatively low, as only a small percentage of convicted sex offenders have returned to prison because of committing additional sex crimes (Bonnar-Kidd, 2010; Galeste, Fradella, & Vogel, 2012).

In a three-year follow-up study of sex offenders in 15 states, the rate of recidivism was about 5.3% (Galeste et al., 2012). This has been compared to recidivism rates over a three-year study of other crimes; offenders who committed burglary recidivated 74%, larceny 75%, and theft 70% (Galeste et al., 2012).

Increased Restrictions Foster Unanticipated Issues
Despite these findings, restrictions for sex offenders have expanded even further since the implementation of the first sex registration and notification laws. Many states have now enacted housing restriction statutes and zoning ordinances (Schiavone & Jeglic, 2009). These statutes have prohibited sex offenders from living in areas that are within a specific proximity of children (Schiavone & Jeglic, 2009). State laws have specified that sex offenders are forbidden to live in areas where children congregate, such as schools, daycare centers, parks, and school bus stops (Schiavone & Jeglic, 2009). This has prevented sex offenders from living in many areas.

Some states have imposed such severe restrictions that it has left a large number of sex offenders homeless (Bonnar-Kidd, 2010). For example, Proposition 83 is a law passed in California that prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park (Bonnar-Kidd, 2010). The reason for the passing of Proposition 83 was because California was reported to have the greatest population of repeat sex offenders (RSOs) and subsequently, this proposition would allow for improved tracking and apprehension of them (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 2010). Subsequently, approximately 2,700 sex offenders were forced to move, and many ended up homeless (Bonnar-Kidd, 2010).

Enhanced Legislation Increases Number of Offenders, But is it Fair and Accurate?

The result of increased legislation has had an impact on the number of sex offenders in the national and state registries. The number of sex offenders living in the United States has increased greatly over the past few years. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children survey of sex offenders for 2012 showed that there were approximately 747,408 RSOs living in the U.S. Those numbers increased from the 2011 survey, which indicated an estimated 739,853 living in the U.S. (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, News and Events, 2012).

The numbers have continued to rise each year, but an even more disturbing issue is the number of unaccounted sex offenders (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, News and Events, 2012). In 2007, there were approximately 100,000 RSOs who were unaccounted for or noncompliant in terms of registering and as of January 2012, there were more than 31,000 noncompliant or fugitive sex offenders (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, News and Events, 2012).
While these numbers may be a cause for concern, what is more concerning is the number of offenders who should probably not even be on the registry to begin with. Another consideration is the lives that may have been unjustly affected in a negative way as a result of this policy. Lastly, the mandate is costly and man-hour intensive, so researchers are calling for an examination of more evidence-based practices with regard to the treatment of sex offenders.

Florida Action Committee (FAC), founded in 2006, is a state-wide consortium of concerned citizens and professionals whose purpose is to promote the prevention of sexual abuse while preserving the safety and dignity of all citizens through carefully structured laws targeting the truly violent, forced, and/or dangerous predatory acts of sex. FAC believes that many aspects of the current approach to sex offenders seriously undermine justice and actually increase the threat of sexual assault against others, particularly children. FAC opposes a publicized registry of sex offenders and seeks to bring an end to the humiliation of people who have already paid for their crimes. FAC asserts that only by supporting justice for all people—offenders and victims alike can a truly safe society be built and secured for all Americans.


  1. Do they really believe that imposing restrictions like these would stop someone who had it in his mind to re-offend? If he lived under a bridge or in a lavish home, if he wore and ankle bracelet or had to stay 2000 ft. from where children gather, if he wanted to re-offend...he would. If these people would just understand that some of us just want to live and try to be productive. Granted there are some that will re-offend but the recidivism rate disputes the idea that we all are living our lives looking to harm another child. I served 13 yrs and 2 1/2 yrs CRD and i'm supposed to be free. The problem is we are never free we are hunted by the law and those who have been educated by the media and the misrepresentation by law enforcement. I committed one crime and will NEVER re-offend but you see, I am with shackles, as is my lady friend. I have to register 4 times a yr and if we want to go on vacation I have to register where ever we go if we stay anymore than 48 hrs. I have to notify them of all my email addresses and all my online names. I have a detective come to my house to make sure I still live in the same address. If I move i have to notify them and the same applies if i change my car, etc. etc. FREE? You tell me!

  2. I appreciate the feedback. It is from the heart and truthful in many respects.

    If you haven't already done so could you post your comment on the original link at: ?

    If you would rather have me do so, I would be delighted.


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"When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect."
~Adlia Stevenson U.S. Vice President (1893–1897) and Congressman (1879–1881)

On a Personal Note

Thanks for the opportunity to express my thoughts regarding the issue of citizens’ rights, particularly addressing certain sex offenders’ crimes that do not fit the devastating, inequitable and endless punishment given.

As you know, many young men and women lives across the nation are being destroyed by incarceration, life-time registry and restrictive laws that do more harm than good. For those individuals, there is no second chance.

Below is a personal letter to President Obama:
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“Dear President Obama,

I truly agree with your sentiments that individuals, such as ex-felons, should be able to receive a second chance at life. Since we all know that one can veer off that path of life and travel along rough, rocky terrain, sometimes running off and ending up in some ditch. We all have made our fill of mistakes and sometimes those held a costly consequence that changed life forever. So we lived through it, trying harder to make things right with family, friends and those around us, but what about those who aren’t able to make things right even if they tried…because they’re labeled as too dirty, a leper, a person who is rejected from society and home.

But what if they’re a seventeen year old and had sex with a fifteen year old, consensual at that? Or they’re a teen that had gotten so enraged after a breakup that he sent out naked pictures of his girlfriend on his cell phone or email? Or an individual urinates where someone just happens to see them?

All are wrong and a travesty but do they deserve the life of no second chance with a registry that ends all. They are labeled, no jobs, no where to live…they have been deemed a menace to society, a plague. These certain circumstances, and many other situations similar to these, I believe still deserve a second change.

Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

After my son’s early release and two years of prison, I thought I had handled that fact graciously knowing after serving his time he would be able to get that fresh start, that second chance. He was an exemplary inmate, GED, college courses and vocational classes. Little did I know that a second chance on the outside was the farthest from the truth? He now struggles and lives in a trailer park sharing a trailer with another and surrounded by others in the same rocking boat, one to float endlessly in shark infested waters. I see him little because of probation requirements (he couldn’t live with us because we were 800 feet near a school). My family is afraid of what would happen to them if he lived with them…vigilantism. My son has no other place to stay since others condemn him of his crime that is screamed from the highest rooftop. Sex offender, sex offender!

Not all sex offenders are pedophiles or predators but some are simply young kids that make one stupid and rash decision that eventually changes everything, and they have no idea what they’ve done until their life is never their own. Exactly, where is that second chance for those sex-offenders who are lumped together with pedophiles and predators? Now, it makes me sick to think of my son’s future and many like him that are on the registry and many with no second chance…ever. I am asking you as a mother and as another concerned citizen of the United States that these laws are looked at again and taken into serious consideration in what they are doing to the Constitution of the United States, not for sex offenders in general but the future rights of every citizen, before anymore are put into effect. They unjustly strip an offender of their rights and place them in a guillotine that can be easily set off by anyone and at anytime. Where is the second chance for ex-sex offenders in the present, pending and future laws?”
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What truly saddens me is the weakness and deterioration of what the sex offense issue is doing to our once, great nation. Across Europe, others are seeing the injustice and disregard of rights, but we ignore this problem and it makes me wonder where humanity is heading….

We have become a hysterical society in which our latest witch-hunt is a sex offender--no matter his/her crime.

Below is a email sent from a foreign advocate to a father of a sex offender:
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“The tragic story of your son's death is just so sad that it's difficult to explain how. It was very hard to read your letters. It seems almost unbelievable that this can take place in a democracy! From our point of view, there is no justice in this. Not in any way: not for you, your son, the former girl friend – or even the state.

It is an abusive legal system. It seems barbaric. And we are so very sorry that this takes place. That's why it's so important for us to try to neutralize the debate with this…, hopefully making some changes. ….. to show the every day life of the sex offenders, trying to show how they keep on being punished, even after served prison time…..But we will for sure tell the story of the injustice that your son has been exposed to.”
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I appreciate everyone's commitment and backing to protect everyone's civil rights, plainly as noted in the Constitution of the United States and is presupposed, giving ALL men are “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”