Another letter to NPR about its erroneously written sex offender piece

Cheryl,

My name is Christopher E. Pelloski, MD. I have written two books that chronicle my experience within and research about the current U.S. criminal justice system and sex offender registry, Trauma, Shame, and the Power of Love, and A Torturous Path.

I listened to your recent piece about the sex offender registry on NPR, and I believe some key elements to your arguments were missing while others were off the mark. The registry fails to protect those it is intended to protect, not because it is implemented improperly, but because it would fail to protect the public even if the policy was followed to a T by every registrant and law enforcement agency out there.

Consider these points:
While there certainly are individuals who may remain dangerous after their incarceration and supervision, there is a large proportion of non-violent / non-forcible / non-contact / rehabilitated offenders who are on the registry. Examples of offenses/offenders include: teens close in age who engaged in consensual sexual activity below the age of consent, teens who were caught “sexting” images of each other, consenting adults who were caught having sex in public, public urinating while intoxicated, viewing/possessing child pornography, sex worker/customer activity, etc. These individuals pose very little threat to the general public based on these activities alone, yet they fall under the terrifying umbrella term, “Sex Offender.”

The rationale for having the registry is the erroneous belief that those who commit sexual crimes have a high recidivism rate and are “hard-wired” to reoffend. Department of Justice statistics and a large body of peer-reviewed, scientific criminology/psychology literature have routinely concluded that next to murder, sex offenses have the lowest recidivism rate of any category of crime. Even for the high-risk/violent contact offenders, by 5 years post-release, their recidivism rate, on average, is 5%. Further, recidivism rates often include non-sexual crimes and probation/parole/registry violations, which makes the true repeat sex offense rate even lower than reported.

The common perception that sex offenders pose a continuous, sociopathic risk to the community stems from a phrase uttered by then SCOTUS Justice Antony Kennedy in McKune v. Lile, where he stated that sex offenders have a “frighteningly high rate of recidivism (80%+).” The events leading up to and the aftermath of this false proclamation are highlighted in Jacob Sullum’s article.

90% of children are sexually abused by someone known to them (as I was, when I was little)—not some masked stranger hiding in the playground bushes, waiting to pounce.

Focusing on the extreme outlier cases is a great disservice to the public. From a journalistic point of view, it stokes panic and perpetuates misconceptions. From a policy-making perspective, it uses the horrific actions of a few, along with the public’s fear, fueled by news media, as a basis for flawed and punitive policies that crush the lives of thousands who are just trying to recover from their past mistakes and redeem themselves. This results in the truly American phenomenon of “Apostrophe Laws” and their unintended consequences.

Many sex offenders fail to register or keep in compliance because their lives are in upheaval or they are rendered homeless by residency restrictions and/or an inability to obtain employment as a result of the stigma associated with the sex offender label. Further, once a check-point has been missed (like an annual in-person update, a new car registration, reporting a new email, etc.), many are afraid to go to the authorities, thinking, often rightly so, they will be apprehended on the spot because of the lapse in compliance, NOT because they are avoiding detection for the purpose of preying upon unsuspecting citizens.

It should also be pointed out that since thousands of registrants are unaccounted for and most are only discovered when there is a non-sexual crime run-in with law enforcement, they obviously are otherwise staying out of trouble. If anything, this observation underscores why the current registry is unnecessary and ineffective. It also provides an explanation as to why law enforcement often chooses not to devote their resources towards tracking down every last sex offender: they know (as well as many other officials who work within the system) that most registrants pose very little risk—making additional funding towards enforcement of this policy a further waste of money.

Using totally fact-based and documented information, it is clear that the registry doesn’t really protect anyone to begin with, and its existence  serves as a barrier to released offenders in that it severely interferes with rehabilitation and reintegration and in that it is a potential trap for technical violations, which in turn artificially manufacture new crimes.

For socially progressive organizations (like NPR) to present sex offenders and the registry in the manner of your article is disingenuous and logically inconsistent with the rest of your messaging. To dehumanize sex offenders and hunt them down, while championing other justice reform issues, is jarring, disturbing and hypocritical. In many instances, sexual offenses have the same psychological basis as drug addiction, alcoholism or other compulsions. These are all different maladaptive coping mechanisms originating from similar childhood traumas/adversities and mental illnesses and are amenable to rehabilitation. If we are going to talk about true criminal justice reform, we cannot pick and choose which offenders will be at the table and which ones will be excluded.

And sex offenders have routinely been excluded from recent law reforms. In many cases, the severity of punitive ordinances have been further ratcheted up against them despite the risk evidence pointing in the opposite direction. This is because the public has been socialized to believe that sex offenders are wired differently, Hannibal-Lecter-like, and therefore different and subhuman. And it’s articles and news segments like these which perpetuate this mentality.

Articles like these are also irresponsible in that they can encourage vigilantism. By giving the impression that remorseless sex offenders are out there, running amok and reoffending against anyone they can get their hands on, certain segments of our society may take the law into their own hands and, in their minds, proactively protect themselves and others from the eminent threat, since the system is not getting the job done. Violence and harassment against registrants is an unfortunate reality. This kind of reporting, therefore, creates a potential scenario whereby a 45 year-old man receives an extrajudicial death sentence because, when he was 19 years-old, he had consensual sex with his 16 year-old girlfriend and her parents found out.

I truly hope that you and NPR will ‘Consider All Things’ in your future programs,
Chris

 

Help us reach more people by Sharing or Liking this post.

Christopher Pelloski

Christopher E. Pelloski earned his medical degree from the Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago in 2001 and was accepted into the Radiation Oncology Residency Training Program. He worked at the University of Texas - MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. He ran his own full clinical practice, supervised his own basic-science research laboratory, and served as his department's residency program director and as the director of pediatric radiation oncology. Chris is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and subsequently suffered throughout most of his life with undiagnosed and untreated post-traumatic stress disorder with dissociative features. After a sexual crime conviction, he was sentenced to the Federal Correctional Institution, Elkton, then a halfway house, and he completed probation in July, 2020. Dr. Pelloski has received numerous literary awards for both of his books and is a strong advocate for change in social policies and a better understanding of mental health issues.

  • This topic has 2 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 1 week, 6 days ago by Christopher PelloskiChristopher E. Pelloski.
Viewing 24 reply threads
  • Author
    Posts
    • #75761 Reply
      Avatar
      Maestro

      Excellent! A letter similar to this should be sent to the President. So challenge the conservatives’ religious beliefs with pointing out how unforgiving it is to banish people for consensual relationships, older/younger consensual relationships, teen sexting, public urinating, public sex (like most of our Gen X and baby boomers did in the backseat), and all the other ridiculous things that get people subjected to a “Schindler’s list” originally created due to an actual, psychopath who had prior child molestation convictions.
      No one is being saved from a consenting age couple getting it on in the backseat.

      Letters like this to the White House might at least get this entire registry revamped. But do nothing and expect nothing.
      I wish I had the professionalism to write something like this addressed to the President but I don’t. I’ll be too “layman” and no one in positions of power read laymen letters.

    • #75770 Reply
      Avatar
      Tim in WI

      Unfortunately NPR\ National Public Radio & PBS\Public Boroadcasting System have each been compromised b corporate cash. These two enterprises were forced to take on corporate donors to stay afloat in a nation of extraordinary amounts of debt. Each of them naturally are content compromised in favor of the left leaning socialists elites. While many folks automatically think CORPORATE MONEY is always associated with right wing ideals, nothing could be further from truth.

    • #75795 Reply
      Avatar
      CJB

      The Term ‘Dangerousness’…

      As a Professional Courtesy Reminder, there is NO PERSON IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE, that can PREDICT a Person’s Dangerousness….That is impossible to make that claim

      Think about the Term, ‘Going Postal’ and other gross innuendos!

      FOR THE LAW TO VALIDATE AND VERIFY THE AFOREMENTIONED, IS WELL POPPYCOCK!

      EMPIRICALLY IT CANNOT BE VALIDATED AND VERIFIED!

    • #75794 Reply
      Avatar
      CJB

      Great Point!

      All parts of the great landscape of the MEDIA, are skewed! That is why, we all must do the FACT CHECKING!

      As Ms Sandy R, has always done! We should be very thankful!

      What we are faced with is understanding the Rule of Law, Statutory Law, and Case Law!

      Most Media Outlets, BLUR THE TRUTH, along with all the Hack Reporters!

    • #75800 Reply
      Avatar
      SupportOurConstitution

      Bra-vo.

      Will be purchasing these two books shortly.

      Thank you for the enormous amount of life that you have spent, sir, for the sakes of others, whom you may never even meet.

      Bless you, Mr. Pelloski.

    • #75810 Reply
      Avatar
      DavidM

      Thank you for addressing this critical issue in such a well written manner. All the information is very accurate and important to be understood by a misinformed public.
      There are a few points that could have been added
      One the hundreds of thousands of family members and friends of registered citizens whose lives are adversely effected by the registry.
      Also as a personal experience being put on the registry in 1997 because some kids who were trespassing climbed a back yard fence and one of them happened to see me from about 100 feet away when I stepped out of the the bathroom from taking a shower. Seeing me from a back yard window. The one who saw me was a good friend of another boy 15 who was responsible for dozens of burglaries in the area in past years . The two were later convicted of breaking into a police car and stealing guns. Later cars and other things.
      But I was charged with lewd and lascivious. A misdemeanor offense. But because they were minors I’m still required to register and check in every 90 days or suffer felony charges for not filling or keeping up current information.
      I was never allowed to question them as to what they were doing in my yard because they were minors.

    • #75814 Reply
      Avatar
      Mark Keenan

      Thank you for responding. I am glad someone did. I would add one additional point to this which is the sex offender registry is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. Given that most prosecutions are pushed toward plea bargain agreements, this threat of an unusually harsh and cruel punishment often greatly impedes individual’s right to a fair legal hearing.

    • #75820 Reply
      Avatar
      Perry

      Ok, Guess that last Posting I put up was not acceptable-again-so I’ll just say this: Join the NARSOL COMMUNITY, where we-and I-can speak freely to each other and we can Brainstorm on things, as well as say what we feel. As for this latest NPR Mess? What else can we expect from this Media?
      Done.

    • #75822 Reply
      Avatar
      Josh

      Hello yes I am a sex offender the registry is a joke all it does is calls problems for us I have had to beat the crap out of people in self-defense. And other people get forgiven why can’t we? Most of us learn the first time that does not excuse what I did but seeing how I have been a low risk that should be taken in account but it doesn’t matter to anyone we will never be forgiven for that people have judged me for something that they have no right to judge me for. And as fare as the reoffenders go throw there butts in jail or give them a lifetime of probation/parole. Just that simple

    • #75823 Reply
      Avatar
      Ernest B Tucker

      Thank you so very much for taking the time to address this issue. The whole reason the registry has become what it is, is because of misinformation proliferated by the media and their exaggeration of rare cases, sensationalizing what amounts to nothing for the purpose of increasing the ratings.
      Has anyone else noticed that CNN is an entertainment company? Fox is the same. There are no real news agencies anymore that just report facts. They all put forward their own agendas and they use whatever means available to them to increase viewership and subsequently profits. Once again, it’s all about the money.

    • #75824 Reply
      Avatar
      Mark Mancebo

      I was 12 years old when it was discovered that four other friends and I had watched two of the friend’s parents porn and then acted out what we saw. As the oldest boy in the group I was targeted by the authorities. Never mind that it wasn’t my parents porn and I wasn’t the one who introduced it. I was manipulated to plead guilty by being placed in an adult facility and after more than a few weeks, I was told I could go home. I didn’t go home again ever ….
      At the age of 48, because of a new law, I was notified that I was now to register as a sex offender. That I couldn’t go to parks or anywhere kids where known to be, that I have a curfew, that I can’t be around kids…
      I engaged in inappropriate sex behavior at the age of 12 and at the age of 48 I’m being treated like a Pedophile. My lawyers are now saying that the courts might not be of any help because according to them… none of this amounts to punishment

    • #75825 Reply
      Avatar
      Off the Grid

      It is referred to as a ‘piece listened to’ in the beginning, then referred to as an ‘article’ later on.
      Is the original NPR product available?
      I do not see a link to it.
      I suppose it was on ‘All things Considered’ … recently….????

      I’m sure it is the same old ‘fear mongering’ saw….. ‘Oh, those pesky sex maniac perverts that just won’t go away’ ….
      Let’s have more surveillance society so we can all be safe….. mumbo jumbo …..
      except don’t watch us NPR show producers while we go have our gay old, God-hating, closet luv time with the politicians….after the microphones are turned off….of course…

    • #75857 Reply
      Avatar
      Lori, OK VOICES

      Great letter! Loved using their one liner at the end!

    • #75871 Reply
      Sandy Rozek
      Sandy Rozek
      Admin

      Mark, it has not been ruled cruel and unusual by any court. In fact, the registry itself is not legally punishment. It is a civil regulatory scheme. In a few cases, certain applications of it in certain situations have been ruled punishment, but the registry itself and in general — not. You can read my earlier piece about this here: https://narsol.org/2018/05/the-sex-offender-registry-a-non-punitive-civil-regulatory-scheme/

    • #75872 Reply
      Sandy Rozek
      Sandy Rozek
      Admin

      @ Off the Grid: There is now a link at the beginning of Chris’s letter to the NPR piece. Sorry; it should have been there when posted.

    • #75889 Reply
      Avatar
      Brandon

      Of course NPR and other main lame media runs stories of those who aren’t compliant to the hit list. Have they ever run stories about the thousands and hundreds of thousands that are compliant; while trying to live a productive life without society’s hold on their live? Media, politicians, law enforcement and courts are all in bed with each other.

    • #75894 Reply
      Avatar
      Maestro

      So, in cases like yours, Mark, the courts are literally saying that you have the same mental capacity now as you did when you were 12. If this is how the courts feel about this issue, then why the hell even bother to have SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE about what age our brains are developed enough to consent to a natural thing like sex? We may as well just eradicate that idea altogether.
      I always see people leaving comments on sex offense stories (where the offense was an older person with a POST pubescent teen) making the claim of how it doesn’t matter if the age of consent is 16 in most states, the human brain isn’t fully developed until yadda-yadda age. Well, it seems when a person is WAAAAAY under yadda-yadda age, they are later in their life treated as if they are still of the same mindset and immaturity as when they were kids.

      I’m not buying the bs from attorneys that say nothing can be done about it. Find the right attorney (most give free consultations) who will use the scientific studies against the DA’s who also like to rely on those scientific studies to get convictions because the younger person “can’t consent”, even tho they do.

    • #75913 Reply
      Avatar
      ron

      maybe Narsol could get as many sex offender Counselors to write their opinions and bundle them up and send them to the Supreme Court for these so called intellectual scholars to read and maybe, just maybe start them to rethink their screwed thinking process. I committed my crime in 1988 to 90 or there about. It’s been so long I really can’t remember the date. I turned myself in and followed all the rules and did counseling. I was charged in VT and NH. Vt was glad that I had the courage to turn myself in and charged me with L&L. NH on the other hand hit me with a 7.5 to 15 year sentence. I served 5 year for doing the SOP and did counseling when I got back on the outside. I did 2 years consoling on the outside now life is what it is. I’m 73 and never expect to get off this damn registration B.S. I feel like I’m still in prison. I’m still paying for a crime I committed almost 30 years ago. The best part is I was able to stop smoking and I haven’t drank since I got out. We all can stop our addictions, but the question comes. Do we really want to? Most of us do but there are some that don’t and that very few shouldn’t have an effect on our lives but it does. I hope that someday this will blow over like most everything else. Chances are it won’t but one could only hope. Stay safe, stay strong and stay happy if you can.

    • #75943 Reply
      Avatar
      Donna

      Every time I read how another journalist has skewed the facts, I become more and more insensed. Must be that fear and untruths sell, as we know. It seems to me that after all this time with facts and data pointing in the opposite direction of what is reported they would try to report some of the truth. Doesn’t truth also sell? It certainly does in my house with my family and I don’t think it has anything to do with knowing a registered citizen, its just the way it is. Who on Earth wants to be misinformed, mislead, and misguided? Can they possibly move on to greater and better subjects that would truly help people. I’m sure we could add to that list! I hope that journalist reads these comments, as I would hope she can see how much it damages and reenforces the lies out there that hurt the striving individules on the registry and family and friends who are lucky and blessed to know the truth! Why not everyone else also!

    • #75951 Reply
      Christopher Pelloski
      Christopher E. Pelloski

      I still have not received a response from the reporter of this story nor the senior editor of “All Things Considered.”

      I saw that a fellow registrant sent a rebuttal as well and the reporter responded only by asking if he was in compliance with the Registry. Perhaps she’s been deputized?

      Apparently, Yellow Journalism is alive and well. Even within the Ivory Tower that is NPR, which smugly touts itself as enlightened and above the noise of politics and bias. It is currently fashionable for Limousine Liberals and Soccer Moms to champion for some of the historically oppressed and stigmatized groups – but not all of them, it seems.

    • #75977 Reply
      Avatar
      Tom Henderson

      Isn’t it ironic that NPR gets support from foundations that promote a more just, sustainable, etc., world. Thank you, Dr.
      Pellowski, for your eloquent rebuttal. We need more such voices speaking outside our own circles, directly to lawmakers, judges, and media outlets.

    • #76167 Reply
      Avatar
      larry evans

      yes, the media of all in this country use the sex offender post if someone was charged 20 to 30 years ago to sell their propaganda if someone is arrested even for something not reguarding a sexual crime they have to mention their past and the phony prosicutors to build their careers on. but i’ve had to defend myself 6 times 3 in the recent years after the guy got the publisity about punching the sex offender while in court, so the last three i beat them till they couldn’t get up the last two were brothers who brought their wife along so the first i knocked out the other his wife begged me to stop hitting him i beat on him 10 more minates i told her he got what he came for so i always go out prepared for the idiots. thats the state of the registry thats what their so called justice brings so when they come they’ll leave with something to think about.

    • #76216 Reply
      Avatar
      Tim in WI

      @C.E.P.,
      Please keep us posted on a by responses from NPR. Given your reply to their lopsided product does not exactly fit their narrative nor their corporate agenda, you may never hear from them.
      . Naturally with all things considered, sex offender registration is the plain indenture of human to database machine property maintenance. The reconstitution of American slavery. Be not dissuaded by the point that no registrant is compelled to actually interface directly to the computer. Remember it was the hired men who took the commodity to market in the plantations of America’s past. It was hired men & police which brought runaway slaves back.
      BTW Wisconsin’s S.O. registration form number is “1796.” Not by coincidence I’m sure.

    • #76459 Reply
      Christopher Pelloski
      Christopher E. Pelloski

      I haven’t heard squat from NPR. And another segment of this series was aired the other day. Yellow Journalism. Plain and simple. It’s a compounding and propagation of fallacies. Corporate sponsors buy into the BS narrative and NPR is forced to parrot their views in order to stay financially solvent. The Press is supposed to be the 4th branch of government in a democracy and it fails miserably.

    • #76671 Reply
      Avatar
      Paul in Ohio

      The registry places many restrictions on me and limits where I can live, travel, work (if I can find it) and who I can see.

      As I read in earlier posts, these limits on my civil liberties are not considered criminal punishments by the Supreme Court but rather civil restrictions.

      Am I allowed ‘due process’ when these restrictions are placed on me. Do I have no rights to argue that these ‘restrictions’ are too harsh or unfitting of my crime?

      What if they violate my constitutional rights. Because such limits or restrictions are labelled ‘civil’ does that give law makers the right to abide by no limits and strip away all my rights? What stops the ‘non-punishment’ from becoming more drastic and outrageous?
      Please help me understand how calling something a civil measure takes away my right to defend myself and argue my side.

      Paul in Ohio

Viewing 24 reply threads
Reply To: Another letter to NPR about its erroneously written sex offender piece
We welcome a lively discussion with all view points provided that they stay on topic - keeping in mind...

  • *You must be 18 or older to comment.
  • *You must check the "I am not a robot" box and follow the recaptcha instructions.
  • *Your submission must be approved by a NARSOL moderator.
  • *Moderating decisions may be subjective.
  • *Comments arguing about political or religious preferences will be deleted.
  • *Excessively long replies will be rejected, without explanation.
  • *Be polite and courteous. This is a public forum.
  • *Do not post in ALL CAPS.
  • *Stay on topic.
  • *Do not post contact information for yourself or another person.
  • *Please enter a name that does not contain links to other websites.

  • *DO NOT POST LINKS TO OTHER WEBSITES
Your information:





<a href="" title="" rel="" target=""> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <pre class=""> <em> <strong> <del datetime="" cite=""> <ins datetime="" cite=""> <ul> <ol start=""> <li> <img src="" border="" alt="" height="" width="">