Originally published at Arizona Capitol Times
By John Covert . . . .Based on a false premise, Justice Anthony Kennedy asserted in the case of McKune v. Lile, 536 U.S. 24 (2002) that “the risk of recidivism posed by sex offenders is frightening and high,” as high as 80% for those who are untreated. This, he contended, made it vital that the public be able to identify these individuals in the interest of public safety.
Justice Kennedy’s statements were wrong then and they are wrong now. They were based on an article in a lay publication, Psychology Today, not a peer-reviewed journal, that was written by a sex offender counselor, not a researcher, who earned his living selling his counseling program to prisons. The author has since disavowed these numbers and said they were never meant to be used as a basis for any type of judicial ruling.
It is now clear, based on decades of data, that those who have committed sexual offenses rarely recidivate. Indeed, while the recidivism rate for drug offenses exceeds 80%, study after study finds the three-year recidivism rate for people who commit sex offenses to be 3.5%, much lower than that claimed by Justice Kennedy. This low recidivism rate is in line with the finding that the vast majority of sexual offenses — as high as 95% — are committed by people who are first-time offenders and thus are not on the registry at all.
University of Miami law professor Tamara Rice Lave found an Arizona state government analysis showing only 2.4% of the 209 individuals released in 2001 had committed a new sex offense within the next three years. ”[T]he … belief that sex offenders have a high rate of reoffending is not supported by the evidence,” she concluded.
Professor Ira Ellman, retired law professor at ASU, points out: “Many assume that most registrants committed violent rapes or molested children, but they would be wrong.” In fact, sex offense registries sweep in individuals with vastly different backgrounds who pose vastly different levels of risk. Individuals have been placed on the registry for such acts as teenagers having consensual sex, public urination, or sexting.
Ellman said “if the registry’s main purpose is to let us monitor and warn people about those who committed violent, coercive, or exploitative contact sex offenses, we dilute its potential usefulness when we fill it up with people who never did any of those things.”
Several of the Supreme Court justices in Doe wrote separately.
Justice David Souter wrote, “The fact that the [registration process] uses past crime as the touchstone, probably sweeping in a significant number of people who pose no real threat to the community, serves to feed suspicion that something more than regulation of safety is going on; when a legislature uses prior convictions to impose burdens that outpace the law’s stated civil aims, there is room for serious argument that the ulterior purpose is to revisit past crimes, not prevent future ones.”
Justice Stevens noted that registrants and their families justifiably live in fear of vigilante justice. They have experienced “profound humiliation and isolation as a result of the reaction of those notified. Employment and employment opportunities have been jeopardized or lost. Housing and housing opportunities have suffered a similar fate. Family and other personal relationships have been destroyed or severely strained. Retribution has been visited by private unlawful violence and threats.”
The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg complained that the registry completely ignores the possibility of rehabilitation. “Offenders cannot shorten their registration or notification period, even on the clearest demonstration of rehabilitation or conclusive proof of physical incapacitation,” Ginsberg wrote. “However plain it may be that a former sex offender poses no threat of recidivism he will remain subject to long-term monitoring and inescapable humiliation.”
The American Law Institute, authors of the Model Penal Code, an independent organization consisting of thousands of lawyers, judges and scholars, recently concluded a nearly ten-year process to help guide states in updating their laws, making positive recommendations for reform to the sex offender registry.
The Supreme Court’s decision 20 years ago has led states to implement increasingly onerous laws that feed the public’s fear of people who commit sexual offenses while at the same time doing nothing to enhance public safety. Decades of data show unequivocally that the sex offender registry is a failed social experiment. It’s time for a new paradigm in sex offender policies, one that considers real studies by real scientists.
John is a member of NARSOL’s Arizona affiliate organization, Arizonans for Rational Sexual Offense Laws.
19 Thoughts to “Arizona RSOL: Changes needed in sexual offense policies”
The primary reason this will never change is that it is the ONLY subject upon which both parties can entirely agree. The least that could be done is to abide by the US Constitution and not make any of these laws retroactive.
Amen John! Well said. Some great quotes and good historical information here. Cheers!
Very good article. I’ve been on the registry for many years and have lost jobs and been refused housing. I’m still being punished sence 1995. When will it end. I hope someday the lawmakers or courts will stop this nonsense and let me be free again.
The Lawmakers will not stop these laws from being passed, it is them who make them. It is solely up to the judicial branch to strike down these laws as the unconstitutional human rights violations that they are! When will the judges stand up for the Constitution as they swore to do!?
They will fight to the death to defend the machines use. Slavery as a means of production! version 2.0. There is nothing thing new about slavery. And there is nothing new about the concept of involuntary servitude!
Not so suddenly half of the 13th amendment evaporated as per the purveyors of the SOR regime.
Supreme Court weighs in on internet accountability.
Unfortunately as long as the states are subsidized for the number of registrants there will always be a push to expand it, not constrain it. This is exactly why it’s gotten so out of control.
The way this is approached is, “My minds made up. Don’t confuse me with the facts. “
If the Lawmakers have knowledge that the sex offenders registry is causing most Sex Offenders homeless, how is the Rigistry keeping the Public safe? Make it make sense because I know some families are Homeless and Jobless due to this nonsense. Again, this is a Waste of Tax payers monies.
Thank you John, the article is very awesome. Changes are needed in Littlefield, these men have been abused enough.Texas Civil Commitment Center ran by Tcco and Mtc do not care about the men’s Medical CARE nor their is no Treatment happening.If its the same,then its just being abused for the money TCCO has gotten MILLIONS OF DOLLARS for these men Medical and treatment, which is not happening, the Men are not taken to VA as Veterans,ACLU need to come and help these men,why are they in this secret Prison? Veterans appointments are not being followed in Littlefield. Also they are pushing the Families from these men away, There is no Plan for Release for Them,Why??
Why are us Tax Payers Allowing this Treatment where they are placed in another Prison called Texas Civil Commitment Center?
Everyone Knows the Wrong that is Going on yet nobody is Correcting this starting from Senator Perry, SPU Erin Faseler ,whom is not releasing them. Also there is a New Attorney for Civil Commitment Hayley Rebecca Glisson. We need to email them to find out What are they doing for these men? Treatment over and over is not Working,Also Medical help for them is Failure, This Program is Failure. Texas has the highest of incarcerated People and the Most Prisons,Why? There is no Rehabilitation happening just like Civil Commitment. WE NEED CHANGES,THESE MEN ARE DYING…. Thank yall whom can Help.
From: Irene Rubio
It really does not matter whether it’s a sex offender, alcoholic, drug abuser, murderer or people in public office that violate their oath of office. Without treatment their is always a substantial chance of reoffending. But with successful completed treatment the chances of reoffending is considered minimal and well worth giving the chance to be normal and not on a registry. Non treated individuals in any realm of offending behavior that refused treatment the public should be weary.
Have you had sex offender treatment? It is not treatment. It is just a program made up by someone to get money from the government. Do you know they rate a person’s recidivism based on things like 1 . Your a man. That 10 points against you. 2. Your over 30. That’s another ten. Your victim was under 18. That’s another 10 points even it Your victim was 15 and you where 17. These are not the exact percentages. But it is an example of the system they use.
It’s not a system that rates on the level of violence. It will add points if there are multiple counts. You know a d.a. is going make up multiple counts. They don’t even have to have actual dates. They use on or about. So if you say I was out of town at that time they say we’ll it was about that time.
Hell I could come up with a better treatment plan then the one they use in Texas.
They just shun a person a label them. It’s not a positive system when they put you in a group and make you tell everyone what you did. They constantly remind you what a low down p.o.s. that you are.
I don’t see how the system they use could have any effect on recidivism.
I fully agree! The mandatory treatment for offenders if ran by those who hold to the belief that offenders cannot change. I was fortunate to have the only therapist among them that believed the opposite. The system lumps all offenders in one big bowl. I made a horrid choice to look at underage porn that I should not have. I never downloaded, bought, sold, traded, joined….I looked. That was wrong. But lifetime registration? That is wrong and overkill.
But few care about any offender or laws concerning them.
Great article. Time after time the studies and analysis actual data showed the need to change the registry and the laws of sexual offenses.
Every time we, the registrants, read such things get excited about a change is in the horizon and every time it is an absolute disappointment. Nothing happens just a talk. Sorry but that is also a fact. In a meantime we “the moral lepers ” remain cast aside from society and any opportunities for normal life ever again. However, thank you for all you are doing for us.
This is why nothing with ever change. No matter the side of the aisle that you sit. I’ll politicians will agree the targeting sex offenders will get them reelected. Same for judges in Das as long as they target sex offenders they will be reelected.
The politicians get their votes through “tough on crime” platforms and “lock them up and throw away the key” arguments based on the frighteningly high reoffense rate repeated by Justice Kennedy in 2002.
As long as those in power, from police to the Supreme Court, the white house, and more, we shall never be truly free again. Fifteen years of wishing I could take back my offense has done me no good at all. All I can do is to treat others as I would like to be treated. Helping others, from my neighbors to my friends to total strangers is the only peace I can find. God help us all.
I just heard a very profound comment by Brett Weinstein on Joe Rogan’s podcast. He said, you can’t pay attention to an organization’s stated purpose, goal, plan, intention, or mission. Pay attention to what it DOES. Police brutality is not a bug in the system – it’s a feature. In this same vein, when every single thing a “registered” individual encounters feels like punishment, has the same outcomes as punishment (jail, restrictions on travel, movement, privacy), and is accompanied by public shaming, then registration is NOT a public safety tool. Ostracism, failure, and despair are not bugs in the SOR scheme, they are features. Foolhardy, expensive, dangerous misuse of taxpayer’s dollars that would be better spent preventing sexual abuse by educating, protecting, and empowering children, women, and families..
Over and over again, I will tell you. It was never about recidivism! It was about how far you can go with a gov database! How may the people apply it to daily life. The industry purveyors sought and received special adjustments in law to lend unfettered use and unchecked application of the ubiquitous machine database. Simply put, the same invented the highly generalized, high recidivism rates as the way to establish a foundation ( means of production) for the machines unchecked use. If you ( A people) can impose involuntary servitude upon the human against their will AND use it to restrict liberty of the individual, what more needs said. We are moving to a digital dollar and the sex offender regime helped paved the way. I told ya; The fascist purveyors have big plans indeed for their ubiquitous properties.
The system turns people into property of the state, but it doesn’t end there. This “property” then enters the market and is used to make private firms money — the surveillance and control machinery. Much of surveillance and research could not have been done without a class of people without human rights to experiment on.
Hating those who even once committed some form of sexual offense is fuel for politicians. These elected “representatives” don’t undo their legislation especially when it continues to feed public fear and gains them votes to remain in office. Retaining office is their sole priority, NOT protecting the public. The experts have spoken, yet regardless of the truth, politicians will not follow expert finding. None will make any move that will lose them votes..
Sex offenders will face more and more onerous
laws and regulations as the current Supreme Court will not protect or support sex offenders. As the Republican Party continues to elect the likes of Ron Desantis and his ilk, people on the registry cannot expect that it will go away. I support Narsol. I have been on the registry. It was not fun. I am off now thanks to the PA Supreme Court. It was a lucky break for me and others. I fear that this break will not be passed on to others on the registry and my heart goes out to you. But the fact is without support from the U S Supreme Court, the registry will get more intrusive and more pervasive for those who commit sex offenses.