Can we do better with our sexual offense prevention dollars?

By Sandy . . . From Tennessee comes this all-too-familiar story: Law enforcement is patting itself on the back for a job well done in assuring that those on the sex offender registry in Meigs County are in compliance. All 35 of them.

Titled “Operation Rising Sun,” and occupying three days — Tuesday through Thursday, July 23, 24, and 25 — this major undertaking was a joint effort involving the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office, the Decatur Police Department, the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, the Knoxville Police Department, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the United States Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

That’s eight agencies. Who knows how many individual law enforcement officers. All that in order to verify compliance in 35 individuals.

In the typical it’s-a-dirty-job-but-somebody’s-got-to-do-it style of reporting, the journalist lauds those involved and manages to include quotes from a couple of these heroic individuals stressing the importance of their work.

Congratulations, officers: it would appear that you are truly doing your share to keep people safe, but let’s just look at the science: A Dept. of Justice study of all released sexual offenders in 1994, almost 10,000 persons, shows that 96.5% did not recidivate. 3.5% were convicted of committing another crime.

 

 

Since child victims are normally the greatest concern with this issue, I have tried to find a study giving some indication of what percentage of sexually molested children were victims of repeat offenders. It appears those studies haven’t been done. Instead, I find statements by law enforcement personnel that in years of dealing with child sexual abuse cases, not one, or maybe one or two out of hundreds, was committed by a repeat offender.

What I find are studies showing that virtually all of those who sexually abuse children, as high as over 98% for young children, are those close to the children in their everyday lives and people highly unlikely to be on a sex offender registry. And what I find is that, as horrible as it is, sexual abuse of children accounts for only 7.6% of the abuse that children suffer, almost always at the hands of those who claim to love them.

 

It would appear that, no matter how you slice it, the resources expended in monitoring this specific category of individual, even if it actually prevented crime, are only addressing the tiniest percentage of the problem, yet this activity and the system that supports it cost, literally, billions. How much is being expended on fact-based education and prevention initiatives that are shown to actually reduce the other 98-or-higher-percentage of child sexual abuse? How much is being expended on effective rehabilitative and re-entry initiatives for former offenders, things shown to bring down the already extremely low re-offense rate? How much is being expended on initiatives to reduce the other 92.4% of non-sexual violence and abuse of children as well as that of vulnerable adults?

I wonder if the answer would show a concern for public protection that is in concert with the facts, or if it would show a topic that captures the public’s imagination and earns public officials kudos for keeping children safe even though it falls far, far short of that noble goal.

Source image 1: Pub. 2003; “Recidivism of sex offenders released from prison in 1994” (NCJ198281)
Source image 2: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Statistical Briefing Book 2008
Source image 3: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and    Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families,Children’s Bureau.(2010).Child Maltreatment 2009. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/index.htm#can

 

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Sandy Rozek

Sandy is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.

This topic contains 8 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Avatar Saddles 2 weeks, 6 days ago.

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  • #58591 Reply
    Sandy Rozek
    Sandy Rozek
    Admin

    By Sandy . . . From Tennessee comes this all-too-familiar story: Law enforcement is patting itself on the back for a job well done in assuring that th
    [See the full post at: Can we do better with our sexual offense prevention dollars?]

  • #58592 Reply
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    Tim

    All useful at my FTR, I thank you and intend to use the graphs.

  • #58600 Reply
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    EdC

    Sandy, once again you’ve created a great article. Each of us needs to have this sort of information at our fingertips. So often registry defenders will make comments with which all of us agree. A common assertion is that one incident of sexual abuse against a child is one too many. Absolutely correct!

    The obvious reply to this statement can be derived directly from information in your article. Since recidivism among those convicted of a sex offense is extremely low, resources should be redirected toward that small group. While they make for great political theater (e.g. the picture in your article), ineffective broad-brush approaches, like registries, create a false sense of security and do nothing to protect children.

    There are over 900,000 persons on registries who have friends and families. When equipped with proper information, each of those could educate others one person at a time.

    Veritas.

  • #58621 Reply
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    Dan Holstein

    Great article Sandy. I wonder how many tax dollars were spent on this operation that accomplished absolutely nothing. I wonder if we could send a copy of this to the Meigs County sheriff’s department?

    • #58633 Reply
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      EdC

      Not a bad idea. I’d like to see this available in PDF form. The people who need this information will never come to the NARSOL site. I’ve already sent a letter to the editor of the local paper, but I’d love to follow up with more.

      Little by little …..
      Veritas

      • #58644 Reply
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        Mp

        Yes, a pdf would be great. I printed it out, but it does not come out correctly.

  • #58647 Reply
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    Hello it’s me

    Yes a pdf and a permanent link. Excellent information

  • #58653 Reply
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    Saddles

    Prevention is good but responsiblity is better. Who can prevent prevert human mind from going astray in this heartache that seems factored by inducement.. Prevention taxes or dollars are good if they prevent but who can prevent a bullet or a Perry Mason who done it. Education is good if the learning curve is there. Today schools teach kids nothing today. Even Dan said a lot of this sex prevention amounts to nothing. This specific type of war on crime is a judgemental nightmare

    Prevention Dollars being spent wisely are like an ounce of prevention. One cannot cure themselves unless the enthusism is there. With this sex oiffender or registry situation its a paranoia that stigmatizes more and depresses one psychologiclly At times one wants to stay in the house and sulk about this situation, but thats not the answer. It drains on the person and strains. Its like a brain washing factor.

    Ordeals like this will at times make one feel like they have no rights and is this embarrassment to society. One can’t understand until they walk in one’s shoe’s. Probation officers are just open ear vessels in these’s still open cases of blind justice which is no more true than Washington chopping down the cherry tree in many instances. I live in VA and I think it is a federal offense to chop down a cherry tree. Could one even say internet present an encrochment in this method of prevention. sure harsh words can sting one but who is doing the sting.

    Ttaking a bit out of crime is good as McGruff would say but overdoing anything is like baking a cake and overcooking it more or taking things to far when they ask one for pictures and things of a sexual nature. It is a bit too much in a lot of these ordeals.

    Sandy I would hate to induce someone in this gothic Poe penal system of this sex registry drudgery. Problem solving of this recidivism is a bit of a balancing act. Sure the studies are good but studies change. What inbalance’s social norms and factors today man’s authority of man. or should behavio by both partiesr be the preventible aim. One would hope this is not some prize fight were best man wins or winds up in jail for not speaking out to avoid prevention done unjustly.

    Basically human’s shouldn’t be treated like some second class citizen This is real life and not some kindergarden cop movie. Right is right and wrong is wrong in any type of altercation with another human whether it be a kid or an adult of the opposite sex. Even Goldie Locks and the three bears could have been a grim fairytale of a devilish nature..

  • #58797 Reply
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    Connie

    Well written! My husband and I both volunteer in one of the best programs for people who want to be free of sexual addictions. It is called “Conquer Series” and “Seven Pillars of Freedom” for the men, “Eight Pillars of Freedom” for women, also “Betrayal and Beyond”.
    It teaches about the brain and how to change the neuro pathways. It is possible to prevent sexual offenses if people know about and want to get help in programs like these.
    So why does the public, including law enforcement, not advertise and support programs like this?

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