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How Big Money Stymies S.O. Reform

By Michael M . . . When SORNA (Sex Offender Registration Notification Act, aka Title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006) required the states to establish comprehensive minimum standards for their state sex offender registries, it created an unfunded mandate that left many states scrambling to comply or lose Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funding from the federal government. Many states did not have sufficient funds earmarked for the creation of a whole new bureaucracy, especially one that depends so heavily on expensive information technology, so they outsourced it.

One of the big beneficiaries of that outsourcing decision was a company called Watch Systems LLC. Watch Systems provides a turn-key solution called the Offender Watch Network to over 3500 government agencies, including sheriffs’ offices, police departments, attorney generals’ offices, US Attorneys, federal and state probation offices, the Department of Corrections, Indian tribes, and the US Marshals’ Service. In fact, they claim that 61% of the nation’s sex offenders are in their database, which resides on their privately owned hosted servers. Their “supplemental” products include mobile sex offender mapping applications, a postal sex offender notification mailing service, and a robo-caller to verify sex offender phone numbers. In addition to their sex offender registry products, Watch Systems also maintains and markets other registries for arsonists, deadly weapon offenders, metal thieves, gang members, and animal abusers.

Watch Systems employs about 40 people at their HQ in Louisiana, and they generate $7.2 million per year in revenue, almost entirely from government contracts. Their clout in the industry reaches far beyond their Covington, Louisiana, home base, however. In 2017 alone, Watch Systems spent $120,000 on lobbying efforts in Washington D.C. and is on track to spend even more in 2018.

Other corporate players in this market include TriBridge with $130 million in annual revenues and 650 employees, DeveloApps with their COPS™ (Court Ordered Program Supervisor) platform, idSoftware with their ASOMS (Automated Sex Offender Management System, and GCOM’s SOMS (Sex Offender Management Software).

In addition to high-tech sex offender management software solutions, there are literally hundreds of government contractors peddling sex offender treatment and rehabilitation programs, analytical tools, penile plethysmography testing, and polygraph testing.

The polygraph industry is huge. The U.S. market for polygraph testing is estimated by one “lie-detector” manufacturer to be $3.6 billion per year. 70% of U.S. states use polygraph testing as part of their sex offender management programs. One state, Colorado, has spent $5 million in the past seven years on polygraph testing for sex offenders. In addition to what the state spends, offenders are expected to pay out-of-pocket costs of $250 and higher for every test, even the inconclusive or deceptive test, which are more common than one might think. That’s a lot of money for tests that are considered to be so unreliable they can’t be used as evidence in criminal or civil courts.

In 2003, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences reported to Congress that “practitioners have always claimed extremely high levels of accuracy, and these claims have rarely been reflected in empirical research.” They also noted serious conflicts of interest, systemic bias, and a significantly high rate of false positives in their use.

According to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry,

Studies report an average specificity of 52 percent, meaning that out of 100 people who are not lying, only fifty-two will be identified as telling the truth while forty-eight of these honest individuals will be branded as liars. These odds are similar to a coin toss, which would have a specificity of 50 percent.

These estimates are further corroborated by a “truth verification” company called NITV Federal Services, which markets high-tech voice stress analysis equipment as an alternative to polygraph testing:

Studies have varied results measuring the accuracy of the polygraph, with estimates ranging from 70 to 90 percent accurate. Furthermore, only 29% of 194 “scientific studies” touted as proof by polygraph advocates met the minimum standards of scientific adequacy…   Former polygraph examiner and Oklahoma City Detective Sergeant Doug Williams was sentenced to two years in prison by the federal government in 2015 for activities associated with his teaching people how to beat the polygraph. After years of using the technology, he came to distrust the results and taught thousands of people to use countermeasures. He rates the accuracy of the polygraph at 50 percent at most. In fact, U.S. government agencies have taught individuals involved in undercover operations to beat the polygraph, thus validating Williams claim that techniques can be taught to defeat the polygraph.

The Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) tracking of sex offenders is, likewise, big business.   The devices themselves cost between $100-$150 each, and then there’s the associated equipment, software, and technical assistance required to run a monitoring program. Federal and state courts are spending approximately $36 a day per offender for GPS monitoring, which is more expensive than traditional methods of enforcing parole or probation ($27.45/day), but cheaper than civil commitment, which averages more than $100,000 a year per person. According to Peter Michel, the president and CEO of iSECUREtrac (a maker of electronic monitoring devices), about 40 states currently have legislation on the books or are in the works that require GPS monitoring of certain sex offenders. In 2015, there were more than 125,000 people overall being monitored by the courts using GPS devices, up from 53,000 in 2005. With an estimated 10% rise in that number each year, that   would equate in 2018 to 166,000 users, or $6 million dollars per day, $2.2 billion per year.

Seven companies have already captured 96% of the offender GPS market. Since GPS device users can’t be upsold or super-sized (limit, one per customer) the only way these companies can increase sales and revenues is to increase the size of their potential market.

The 900,000 people on the sex offender registry represent a huge potential market for more GPS tracking devices and software applications. If even one tenth of those offenders become future candidates for GPS monitoring, that would amount to $3.2 million every day, or an additional $1.2 billion dollars per year.

Let’s also consider the privately owned and managed civil commitment facilities for sex offenders who have completed their criminal sentences but are deemed too dangerous to be released into communities.  The cost of incarcerating one prisoner in a traditional prison is roughly $31,000 per year, but civil commitment costs run closer to $100,000 per year by some estimates due to programming and therapy costs. There are over 5,400 sex offenders currently languishing in civil commitment facilities in twenty states. That’s a whopping $540 million per year!

Private prison companies are raking in the cash. And they’re dishing it out, too. They paid 10 lobbyists $480,000 dollars to lobby Texas state lawmakers in 2017. The GEO Group alone spent $320,000 on lobbying there. Private prison lobbyists also gave more than $225,000 to Texas lawmakers via political action committees between 2013 and 2016. And that’s just one state.

Finally, we should make note of the fact that the news media industry absolutely loves sex offenders, but not in a good way. Consider this recent Newsweek story: “Sex Offender with no nose jailed for child pornography,” where the writer goes out of her way to outrageously depict the accused man as a real-life boogeyman. Just when you think the media can’t sink any lower, they prove us wrong, and in a big way.

Network television news revenues have been stagnant for years, and newspapers and magazines seem to be leading a charge into bankruptcy. This leaves the media increasingly desperate to generate as much hysteria and fear as possible to increase ad revenues. Sex offenders, like it or not, are their new cash cow.

Is it any wonder that, every year, companies that specialize in “sex offender management” solutions for the courts and law enforcement send their lobbyists to each of the state capitals and to Washington D.C. to influence public policy and legislation with huge wads of cash to spread around? At the same time, many sex offender registrants are deprived of their right to vote, are kept off of the internet, and are saddled with unemployment and homelessness.

There’s a problem-solving principle called “Occam’s Razor” which postulates that a person, when presented with competing hypothetical answers to a problem, should select the answer that makes the fewest assumptions and is inherently the “simplest.”

You want to know why very little ever seems to get accomplished in the sex offender law reform movement? The answer is simple.   Money talks.

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Michael M.

Michael M. is the published author of several non-fiction books, a writer/researcher for NARSOL, and the executive editor of The Registry Report. He also assists NARSOL in marketing, social media, and podcasting.

This topic contains 12 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Saddles 3 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #42911 Reply

    Saddles

    All things are good but all things are not necessary. I wonder what stymies today? This article is good but I never wanted to stymie anyone. That word is seldom used today. Its more of a scientific term for a geek squad.
    Sure money is the issue and believe it or not the sex offender is a money making scheme. I don’t like to think above my means. Sure I like to be rational.No one can prevent human naturee or let alone prent the volcano in Hawii just like one can’t prevent sexual encounters. Even history can tell you that or are well still on this “witch hunt” as everyone talks about on here.
    Understand it this way, if computers were never came of age a lot of us wouldn’t be in this mess. Oh yes man would think of some way to “get over” on man. We can look ato this nation how they are treating the sex offender, how they are hindering the passports, immigration, etc in today’s good old USA. Look at computers today seems everybody wants to outdo the other on the computer.
    Polygraphs want to outsmart the human psyche, man wants to dominate mankind so is the sex offender really in a class by his or her self? Now someone talked about voting. Sure its our right if we want to vote. Its our right to speak out as Brenda Jones and so many of NARSOL do and others. Sure I respect one with good wisdom but human understand who can understand that. Are we all creating our own monster at times or should we all be the first on the moon… were do they come up with .. we want to be the first. Sorry I didn’t take German in school.

  • #42912 Reply

    citizen

    Maybe someone should hack these databases and erase all the information they have gathered on bonafide and entitled US citizens.

  • #42922 Reply

    Tim L

    The electronic device commonly known as “the database” will rival, “the printing press” with respect to its impacts upon the human condition. State’s (the people’s) justification for some uses of the device are unconscionable and nearly fruitless concerning recidivism. Ultimately, such uses will prove to impact political security more than individual safety.

  • #42955 Reply

    Saddles

    I sort of like Michaels articles on here, but to me it has too much comupter swavy in it at times, of course there are pros and con’s for everything today that do not sound right at times in a lot of this sex registry stuff we all go thru. Don’t get me wrong I’m sure we all mean to belp each other and that’s what any support group or organization is for.

    While I have loved most all these articles on here. I have even loved my little quabbles at times with Maestro and Sandy. Here I come into this NARSOL with my little situation and am told we are not allowed to used religon as its not about religon. Brenda Jones know’s what she is doing but I wonder if any know what they are doing in today America. If it saves lives, if its for public safety, moral or humane purposes, or the betterment of the country. So what is truth Smokey the bear don’t play with matches unless “We” start it. Its for safety remember.

    We are all sex offenders, I believe that was an article I sent to Brenda Jones several years ago and yes I also sent it to Vicki Henry and her crew. You can even look it up on the internet. I was even fooled when I came on here and even wanted to forget my ordeal and understand NARSOL’S as a means of a support group. Even hearing of some of the story’s of others and things, Even one person on here in particular saying about sleeping with a girl underage and being the part of a live in companion to her and contributing to her, than things blew up in his or her life, than trying to cover it up. Consent of an underage girls sleeping with one, to put it mildly isn’t a good principal. Was that person trying to cover his or her actions to make it more reasonable or understanding. Why do people try to cover their actions?

    Today its not about who’s right or wrong its about principals. Its about not only about sex offenders, immigration, abortion, gay marriages and other disgraceful things. Sure I know Mike talks about this data and all this money issue but that doesn’t help when it comes right down to true principals. Can a person honestly cover up a lie or pay someone to cover it up for them. Why do you think lawyers and going to court is all about. Courts don’t get at the truth and lawyers are trying to do their best at times. The main issue in everything is principal and I wonder who has the sovernign “supreme” authority on that. I’m sure you know or should we all go back to George Washington’s days.

  • #43115 Reply

    Tim Lawver

    Is it possible to introduce this type of evidence in a “failure to provide” cases?

    Anyone?

  • #43197 Reply

    Tim L.

    HEY FOLKS,

    No bigger money on the table than that of big data. Circa 1990 some “in the know” positioned themselves very well in the developing market. The sex offender made the ideal scapegoat for certain uses of the new tool called the electronic database.

    The outlandish and unconstitutional moral justification for the “unfettered” USE of the database to protect the people. If you can enslave a man to it(the machine), and it’s upkeep the one can do anything with it. A more apt description to the “exact nature of the deprivation” unavailable to my tongue and finger.

    The way to a more perfect union may or may not be achieved through electronic means. That the people, more often than not, opt for convenience electronically speaking is an important clue to the ultimate outcomes concerning individual liberty.

  • #43332 Reply

    Chris

    This is why we need a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics. Since there’s such a huge industry for these products, companies will continue to lobby lawmakers to push for more and more monitoring. I can already see politicians using the popular prison reform movement to push GPS monitoring as an alternative to incarceration. Voters who don’t know about the problems with GPS monitors will applaud these steps, and the companies that manufacture and license the ankle bracelets will rake in the cash, further bilking tax payers of billions of dollars.

  • #44373 Reply

    Glen

    So, now I can see the new next bestest argument made by legislators in support of the registry. “We are creating jobs!!!”

    • #44425 Reply

      Tim L

      Glen,

      IMHO,
      THE regime was more about establishing justifications for certain gov’t uses of a database than protecting and informing. The men in grey, who I often refer to as Surveillance, Saints, needed the legal bars hoisted upon networks via U.S. V. AT&T cases to not be applicable to the internet. The sex deviant made the perfect scapegoat.for the men in grey to advance their cause and desires to both collect and analyze data for political security via the PRIS PROGRAM in Saratoga Springs, Utah.
      https://www.eff.org/search/site/Prism

      • #44462 Reply

        Glen

        Tim,

        I would not be surprised to learn you’re exactly right about that. I worked for the government once and Ive seen some things. It makes sense to me.

        Since they have a precedent with the registry that’s judicially supported, it pretty much ensures the “Surveillance Saints” will continue to expand their efforts.

        I read the article you posted. Very interesting. I’m going to read a little more about it. But, it got my attention.

  • #44497 Reply

    Tim

    Glen,
    Andy who broadcasts registry matters seems to think I need a tin foil hat for my conspiracy theory. According to him, the database has nothing to do with sex offenders or the registry. Clearly the gov’t USE of the devices were FIRST aimed at the sex offender making them subservient to the state’s machine. When one human forces another human subservient to machines we are in very dangerous and onerous times. (See:eff.org)

    To be clear, informing the public about about criminal convictions IS appropriate and legitimate gov behavior, but only if the information is clear and concretely informative. SOR fails that end precisely because of the ambiguous nature of states broadcast. Simply put, if I know a man is on the registry does it inform me of his character or what he actually done or capable of..No? Therefore one cannot know what the registrant is capable of, a threat or not, based solely upon conviction. The reason being we know for sure some on the registry were never actually guilty of harming a child. What’s more some registrants were completely innocent and on the list because of wrongful conviction. Ask me how I know.

    The reason the men in grey and the establishment erected the facility in Saratoga Spings, UT. was for political security against the threat of social media to upset their financial Apple carts. The Dems were the first to harness the web’s social media platforms to get a man of color elected to POTUS. Trump came next. The Don’s e-campaign via Twitter demolished the establishment Rs field of RINOs, and cut out mainstream media first crack at breaking political news. Mainstream media, TV&PRINT, are dinosaurs and their power to influence the public wanes. All of these facts prove the power of electronic media as a serious threat to established interest groups who depend upon congressional appropriations for working cash. The tax pie is key to their survival. (See Byrne grant history at: https://www.bja.gov/JAG/)

  • #44738 Reply

    Saddles

    Actually I liked wonder woman’s golden lasso of truth, and that stymie’s enough in a lot of government circles. Sorry just the truth. the facts matter when one says where’s the money…

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