Once again: Registries do not reduce or prevent sexual crime; NARSOL’s PA advocate quoted

By Joshua Vaughn . . . The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is expected to rule on five cases this year that could change how the state treats people convicted of sex offenses, and could ease the state’s sex offense registry restrictions, commonly referred to as Megan’s Law.

But in a December opinion piece, State Attorney General Josh Shapiro warned that if the court were to “dismantle” the state’s sex offense registry it would “put the public at risk,” and Pennsylvania could become a “safe haven” for people convicted of a sexual offense.

“A loss [for the state] in even one of [the cases] would be a loss for children’s safety across our state,” he wrote in the Morning Call, an Allentown newspaper.

Shapiro’s assertions that the state and its residents would be in danger if the registry goes away is not born out in fact, said Kelly Socia, a professor of criminology at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

“The research that we have shows that there is very little evidence registries help to reduce sex crimes,” Socia told The Appeal. “It’s not just that they aren’t preventing sex crimes but they are not reducing sex crimes at all.”

“I don’t think the public should be concerned if the registry goes away,” he said. . . .

Shapiro is defending the sex offense registry and civil commitment laws in all of the cases awaiting review by the state Supreme Court. When asked for the evidence he used to assert that the registry is good for public safety, Shapiro told The Appeal, “Obviously the sex offender registry is a public safety resource” that is “a crucial part of protecting the public.” He did not respond to a follow-up request for any studies or research to back his claims.

Socia pointed to three factors to explain why sex offense registries do not work to bolster public safety: People convicted of sexual offenses are unlikely to reoffend, most sexual offenses are committed by people not on the registry, and most sexual offenses are committed by people the victim knows, not a stranger.

The general public tends to believe people convicted of sexual offenses are highly likely to reoffend, Socia said, but that is simply not the case. Studies have found that fewer than 8 percent of people convicted of sexual offenses are arrested for a new sexual offense within five years.

This mimics findings in Pennsylvania from nearly four decades before the first official sex offense registry was created in the state. In 1948, parole departments began tracking individuals under their supervision who had been convicted of sexual offenses. More than 1,400 people were registered and tracked from 1948 to 1955. Fewer than 4 percent of those people “repeated sex crimes” during that time, and fewer than one percent involved an act of violence, according to a 1955 report from then-Governor George Leader. . . .

There are currently more than 20,000 people on Pennsylvania’s sex offense registry. Most of the people on the registry are men, who range in age from 18 to more than 90 years old. More than 200 people are on the registry for offenses they committed as children.

For Theresa Robertson, chairperson of the Pennsylvania Association for Rational Sex Offense Laws, a nonprofit that advocates for reform of sex offense policies, the registry means that when her son, who is now in his early 30s, soon moves into her home, the home will be listed on the registry.

Robertson’s son was convicted of a sex offense nearly a decade ago. According to Robertson, her son and his girlfriend recorded themselves having sex. He was 19 and his girlfriend was 17. After the two broke up, Robertson’s son posted the video on the internet, and he was charged with production and distribution of child pornography, she said. The conviction has led to him losing custody of his children. Robertson has had to sue for partial custody to be in her grandchildren’s lives because of the fallout from her son’s sex offense charge. She said the registry stigmatizes the families and children of people listed on it and does nothing to further public safety.

“The evidence is clear,” she said. “What we have going now, especially with the registry, does not work. [The laws] don’t keep our community safe, our children safe and they actually make things worse for children of people on a public registry.”

Read the full piece here at The Appeal.

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    • #66964 Reply
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      KathyAnn

      I believe that MOST sex offenders are everyday people like us who for whatever reason have gone down the wrong path be it curiosity, temporary mental issues, addictions and or a problem in their past. I do not believe Most are monsters lurking among us. I do believe however, that in this type of behavior once it comes out in whatever manner either being caught, reaching out for help or acting out that a person when faced with their problem CAN rehabilitate. Many on their own and certainly some with HELP. I believe HELP is what they need more than incarceration. How do I know this ? I know someone who rehabilitated himself because he had great remorse, he wanted to know what got him to that point in his life and decided to do something about it ! He has a huge desire to give back and has already mentored others who want to help themselves. He was over sentenced as the Judge said she wanted to make an example of him. He needs his family and his family needs him. A registery hurts the family as well and causes continuous pain for all in one way or another. Everyone deserves a second chance !

    • #66974 Reply
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      WC_TN

      I’m glad these cases are being heard by judges who are NOT beholden to an electorate! They can rule honestly without fear of being ran out of town on a rail and having their judicial careers decimated by an angry, vengeful, hateful, and willfully ignorant public who only cares that registrants pay and pay for the remainder of their days.

    • #66982 Reply
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      Saddles

      You know I liked that “ran out on a rail” it was plain and simple and even made a statement. I also liked yours Kathy. While we are not suppose to judge nothing wrong with opinions because conflict comes up in many or much of this sex ordeal.. such as I’m going to make an example of you or something like that. I’m sure that has came up thousands of times in trails. This sex ordeal in a lot of ways is a bit much.

      One would wonder who does a lot of this vain glory even trespassing on another man’s conscious. True justice is still true justice and nothing wrong with a bit of punishment. Even a small conviction for smoking dope which is legal now in some states.. Much of this is overkill justice.

    • #67016 Reply
      Charlie
      Charlie
      Moderator

      Until the public truly understands that the hyperbole used by politicians to fan flames of fear and then allows them to score political points, e.g. inciting false fear in the public to enhance their political advantage, courts will err on the side of caution. Courts are very vulnerable to public opinion as well, and without good research at hand, has been educated by the hate politics of the registry. I find it unconscionable that politicians can treat the public with such blatant disregard for their safety. just like a domestic violence, it’s all about power and control. They’re using their power to create specious arguments in order to make the public fear imminent harm, which in turn inspires the public to turn their power and authority back over to the abusing politician, granting that politician the power to act with impunity. It disgusts me.

    • #67017 Reply
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      Maestro

      “ But in a December opinion piece, State Attorney General Josh Shapiro warned that if the court were to “dismantle” the state’s sex offense registry it would “put the public at risk,” and Pennsylvania could become a “safe haven” for people convicted of a sexual offense.“

      Oh really? And what about the time BEFORE the registry existed? Were sex crimes on the rise in PA?
      It seems people like him need to be reminded that there was a time when there was no such registry.

    • #67048 Reply
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      Not a SO

      If I may, I would like to offer a piece of insight that was brought to my attention here resently, and it has to do with the (mis)labeling of people with a sex related offense. Now this may not sound like much but think about what it is that I am saying here. Take a real good look at the label/name/characterization: “Sex Offender”. The word “sex” is self explanatory so let’s break down the word “offend(er)”. Offend, this word is an “verb”, it means to: cause an illegal act. Then “ER”, this is a suffix and a means “Present Future Tense” in parts of speech. Now, when you attach this suffix to the action verb “Offend(er)” and apply it to a person, what this denotes is, that the object of this label/name/characterization is designated as such, that this is who this person is and what he/she does like an occupation, e.g., FIRE FIGHT(ER) or POLICE OFFICE(ER)—get it? Therefore, when the state tells the public that a person is a “Sex Offend(er)”, what they are saying is that this individual commits sex crimes on a continuous bases and is therefore a threat to the community. Not that this person has committ(ED) “past tense” a sex crime. Understand? So naturally the general public is upset, caustic, I’ll tempered and wants something done about these people. Am I making sense here? Think about that label/name/characterization: “SEX OFFEND(ER)”. Think long and hard on it. So my suggestion is, kill this label/name/characterization and the general public just may turn about.

    • #67053 Reply
      Charlie
      Charlie
      Moderator

      To Not a SO, Which is a good reason why many of us prefer to use the term Registered Citizen (RC). Still a lable, which is still offensive, but it at least denotes a certain status with accuracy versus labeling the present and future of our existence with a past event.
      But to your primary point, why on Earth would those in power choose to alter their use of “sex offender” if it misleads the public? After all, that would remove some of their power to “rescue” that same misled public from the evil that surely awaits them, if not for the wise and daring action of our benevolent politicians. (Sarcasm intended).

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