Current sexual offense policies: “Less about managing risk than maximizing punishment”

Image and article used with permission from Prison Policy Initiative

By Wendy Sawyer . . . By now, most people who pay any attention to criminal justice reform know better than to label people convicted of drug offenses “drug offenders,” a dehumanizing label that presumes that these individuals will be criminals for life. But we continue to label people “sex offenders” – implying that people convicted of sex offenses are somehow different.

A new report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics should put an end to this misconception: The report, Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from State Prison: A 9-Year Follow-Up (2005-2014), shows that people convicted of sex offenses are actually much less likely than people convicted of other offenses to be rearrested or to go back to prison.

But you wouldn’t know this by looking at the report’s press release and certain parts of the report itself, which reinforce inaccurate and harmful depictions of people convicted of sex offenses as uniquely dangerous career criminals. The press release and report both emphasize what appears to be the central finding: “Released sex offenders were three times as likely as other released prisoners to be re-arrested for a sex offense.” That was the headline of the press release. The report itself re-states this finding three different ways, using similar mathematical comparisons, in a single paragraph.

What the report doesn’t say is that the same comparisons can be made for the other offense categories: People released from sentences for homicide were more than twice as likely to be rearrested for a homicide; those who served sentences for robbery were more than twice as likely to be rearrested for robbery; and those who served time for assault, property crimes, or drug offenses were also more likely (by 1.3-1.4 times) to be rearrested for similar offenses. And with the exception of homicide, those who served sentences for these other offense types were much more likely to be rearrested at all.

The new BJS report, unfortunately, is a good example of how our perception of sex offenders is distorted by alarmist framing, which in turn contributes to bad policy. That this publication was a priority for BJS at all is revealing: this is the only offense category out of all of the offenders included in the recidivism study to which BJS has devoted an entire 35-page report, even though this group makes up just 5% of the release cohort. This might make sense if it was published in an effort to dispel some myths about this population, but that’s not what’s happening here.

Read the rest of the piece here at Prison Policy Initiative.

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Avatar Saddles 5 hours, 57 minutes ago.

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  • #56668 Reply
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    admin

    Image and article used with permission from Prison Policy Initiative By Wendy Sawyer . . . By now, most people who pay any attention to criminal justi
    [See the full post at: Current sexual offense policies: “Less about managing risk than maximizing punishment”]

  • #56675 Reply
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    D

    Nice proof that they are not trying to prevent re-offence of crimes, or they would have every one of the people in these categories on a list. It is obvious that the registry is personal, and vindictive punishment that violates the constitution in more then one way. Double Jeopardy, Compelled speech, Illegal search, and Due Process. The only reason it is aloud is because the people are ok with it because the average Joe thinks that everyone on the registry has raped a little child, or is about to because this is what they have been told by this very system. The bulk of Americans hate people on the registry, and they lack the sympathy to care for anyone who is not on their short list of loved ones or friends because this same system is raising them not to care as well. Stop the system not just were it effects your life but everywhere you see it rear its ugly head. The constitution does not allow for these things anything that fights against the constitution is part of the system.

    • #56867 Reply
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      WC_TN

      Moral outrage and a lack of comprehension fuels these laws and the vitriol behind them.

      Let’s just put the facts on the table in plain English here:

      1. No one can understand why a grown man or grown woman would have sexual interest of any kind toward a child who has not yet begun puberty. It is so foreign to people. Across history we see that people hate and fear that which they cannot understand and make sense of in their own minds. What they can’t understand or identify with they want to DESTROY. I don’t think even those among us who have sexual interest in children understand why they have such an attraction. No one can tell the root cause of it; not the one who has the attraction and not the “experts” who “treat”.

      2. Children are innocent and the power and resources in the dynamic between child and abuser is fully tilted in the abuser’s favor. It’s just a fact that most folks in society are perfectly ok with letting the parents of a molested or raped child dish out the justice with their own bare hands and never mind the courts. “Just give the victims’ parents about half an hour alone with their child’s molester….” That’s the mentality the facts are up against. When such strong emotions are involved, facts simply don’t mean squat. It’s sad and infuriating for us, but that’s just the truth of it.

      3. When the sex offender registry is mentioned, the first thing…THE VERY FIRST THING that comes to a person’s mind is a child rapist; not a child molester, but an out-and-out child rapist; the individual who uses brute force and extreme fear of harm to gain a child’s compliance. I’m not inferring in any way that grooming, manipulation of friendship and subversion are any less cruel by any means. It just needs to be pointed out that there are ways a child’s compliance can be gained without them feeling afraid or feeling as if they are in any danger. After all, the stats prove out that most children are sexually abused by someone they know, trust and like or even love. It’s a trusted family friend, a close relative, etc.

      4. Raping a woman or a woman raping a man is a violent act. While I don’t think all victims of child molestation or forcible rape are damaged goods for life, I do fully believe that these acts do inflict pain of a sort that we as abusers will never fully understand, except for those offenders who have been victims of sexual abuse or rape in the past themselves. Society sees the man who rapes as less than a man since “He can’t get any pussy and has to take it….”
      I apologize for the crass language here, but that’s EXACTLY how I heard it said while in prison for 10 years. I’ve heard prisoners ask, “Why didn’t you just go and BUY yourself a piece of pussy in stead of raping a woman or messing with a little kid?”

      The powerful people behind the media machination support the registry and the restrictions associated therewith. That’s just how it is and how it’s going to continue to be. The people who own media outlets want these laws to stay in place and they intend to slant and distort, minimize and ignore the facts in such a was so as to ensure continued support for said laws. Even our courts have for many years ignored the facts. The proof is there that sex offenders re-offend at a much lower rate than pretty much any other class of criminals, but when the courts answer legal challenges, they default back to the same old “frightening and high” myth they KNOW has been scientifically debunked time and time again with empirical evidence to support! THANK GOD THE TIDE IS SLOWLY STARTING TO SHIFT IN VERY SMALL INCREMENTS, BUT CHANGE IS TAKING PLACE A TINY PIECE AT A TIME. A VICTORY HERE….A VICTORY THERE..IT IS ADDING UP AND AS TIME GOES ON WILL CONTINUE TO ADD UP.

  • #56835 Reply
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    R. Arens

    I always got a huge laugh over how the Iowa prison system stuck sex offenders with hidden mandatories that forced sex offenders to completely discharge their sentences and drug offenders on 40 year violent sentences we’re released after a couple of years. It tells us all that in picking the lesser of two evils, society would rather have a gang banging drug dealer peddling on their streets armed to the teeth than a guy who’s only weapon was simple coercion, ( the gift of gab).

    • #56878 Reply
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      Craig

      Also i Iowa is that wonderful lifetime special sentence so you do your full time in prison to discharge and immediately go on parole for life. I’m currently in year 8 of the lifetime parole and if I come up with $2,600 I can get a registry modification and then have a chance of being released.

  • #56851 Reply
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    lawrence rider

    alaska decision – no due process – https://www.foxnews.com/us/alaska-supreme-court-rules-state-sex-offender-registry-law-unconstitutional.amp

    maybe because it was the product of a legislative trial

  • #56936 Reply
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    Saddles

    All this analogy of this mathical recidivism rate is good that Wendy presents but actually who offends, Don’t we all offend in many ways. These charts and compairsons seem to be someone’s bread and butter at steryotyping other crimes but who has or is the real vistim or not?

    Comparisons are good if they prevent. Nothing wrong with charts and graph’s but one should wonder why criminal Justice is called criminal. Maybe one has to wonder who was intimidated to make it on this list of offenders, considering as everyone says sex offenders are in a class by themselves.

    Do we all compare apples to oranges or who is overriding one in this recidivism of justice in many of these 21st century truths. Truth. one wonder what the recidivism rate of truth is for that one.

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