As long ago as 2003, based on the misapplication of an estimate, the number “100,000” was coupled with the phrase “missing sex offenders,” and America’s own Big Lie was born.
By the time the phrase was showing up on child-advocacy websites, even those with government backing such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the old adage was proved true: “A lie told often enough becomes truth.” An interesting side note is that, while the number of individuals required to register has increased each year due to constant additions to the list of registerable offenses, the 100,000 figure has remained the same.
Every politician from that point forward who wished to increase his chances of re-election used the figure to justify proposals of stricter and stricter sex offender legislation.
In 2007, it was employed to justify large grants to be used first to train and then later to fund Federal Marshals for the specialized task of hunting down and capturing these 100,000 missing sexual criminals. Apparently they do succeed in bringing to ground several hundred a year.
Those who questioned the validity of the figure were not inactive or silent. As early as 2006, analysis was being done in an attempt to determine the truth, and a scientific, university study published in 2012 using data from 2010 clearly shows the number was virtually invented with no supporting evidence whatsoever.
But its legacy lives on. The highest court in the land, in a decision just rendered, a decision supporting the application of ex-post facto conditions for a specific registered sex offender, used the 100,000 figure to justify the ruling. One justice wrote, “SORNA’s [Sex Offender Registry and Notification Act] general changes were designed to make more uniform what had remained ‘a patchwork of federal and 50 individual state registration systems,’ … with ‘loopholes and deficiencies’ that had resulted in an estimated 100,000 sex offenders becoming ‘missing’ or ‘lost.’ ”
Dr. Jill Levenson, one of the researchers who published the 2012 study, was quick to point out the myths that spawned the 100,000 number, writing, “It is astounding that in this age of widespread information and access to research, the Court is relying on inaccurate statistics…. This misinformation is frequently included in congressional testimony and in media reports, influencing social policy, public opinion and funding allocations.”
Along with Dr. Levenson, RSOL calls for legislation, social policy, and funding allocations to be based on facts and evidence, not adherence to a ten year old myth that has become carved in stone and accepted as truth by even the Supreme Court of the United States.