Thursday, November 26, 2015

How Sex Offender Registration And Notification Is Dangerous To Children

That Is A Mouthful

I do apologize for the long title. And you did indeed read that correctly: Registration and notification laws put children in more danger. The end result of these laws is a huge stigma around the word "sex offender". If anyone has that label, they are automatically an outcast. It does not matter if they committed their offense as a juvenile. They are modern-day lepers. All it takes is a single accusation, or a single mistake, and someone is slapped with that label. Sure, their prison term ends. Sure, they might get probation, or a little bit of jail time. But their punishment will never, ever end. Should you feel sorry for sex offenders? I have no idea. That really is not the point.

Label

Their punishment will never end, because of the hype and stigma surrounding that label. It does not matter what one has done to earn it. Not at all. Public urination? In several states: "Sex offender". Sexting? "Sex offender". Child pornography possession and distribution- sex offender. Touched a child- sex offender. Raped a child: "Sex offender". Had consensual sex that parents did not agree with: "Sex offender". Caught with pants down in public: "Sex offender". Streaking: "Sex offender". Skinny dipping: "Sex offender". If it is considered a sex crime by the penal code, there is absolutely nothing a judge can do to prevent the label: "Sex offender". All one has to do is be charged with and convicted of a crime that triggers the registration requirement: "Sex offender".

Is that list comprehensive? Hardly. I just picked the major ones. Of it, I can identify exactly two things on it that actually pose a risk to children, and even then... it entirely depends on the circumstances. You see, most people who abuse children are known and trusted by those children. I have harped on that fact many, many times because it drives home the point: Sex offenders, for the most part, are not a risk to children. That is what the facts indicate. The Department of Justice' own statistics back that up. You can click any number of the links under "studies" on the side for verification. Offenders typically do best when they are reintegrated and get treatment, according to expert psychologists in the field.

That means that the people you think of when you think of sex offenders? The child molesters, the child rapists, the rapists, and anyone else with the "sex offender" label? The majority are not nearly as dangerous as public hype and myth lead you to believe. But do not believe me just because I say something on the internet. Ask your local officials who handle sex offenders. Ask the therapists who treat them. Ask the Department of Justice. Look up the facts for yourself. That is why this blog has so many resourced linked on the side.

Dangerous Focus

The main reason that registration is dangerous is that it puts the focus of children's safety on a list of people who are supposedly threats to children. The problem is, the people on those lists, for the most part, never repeat their sexual crimes. The sexual recidivism rate, on average, is 11.5%. The general recidivism rate, for any crime that a sex offender is re-arrested for, is 33.2%. They get caught for not registering. For probation violations, like viewing pornography or being too close to a school. For owning a firearm (you sign on to a law enforcement hit list and then try to feel safe about it when it gets put on the internet). The majority if the time sex offenders reoffend, that is what their crime is. Not nabbing some kid off the street. Not molesting a child. For petty rebellious behavior against the authorities.

What happens when law enforcement has to weed through a huge list to find the 11.5% on it that are actually dangerous? What happens when the community is told that everyone on it is a huge safety risk, but only a minority are? Are children safer? Let me ask you yet another question: Say you are playing dodgeball... wearing a blindfold... will you be able to avoid the balls coming your way?

Disruptive To Offenders, Increasing Risk

You see, registration is disruptive to the registrant's life, in and of itself. It is not just a list that law enforcement use to investigate new crime (95% of which is committed by first-time offenders) Law enforcement can show up, whenever, to do 'compliance checks' to make sure you are where you should be. I have heard stories of cops showing up to workplaces to ask if Jimmy works here, because he is a sex offender and has to register. Of cops announcing to a waiting room full of people, "Sir, here is your predatory offender form." I have had police at our door three times already.

Think of the time it takes these officers to conduct their checks and waste their time making sure I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, when the statistics say I am already not likely to commit another sex crime. That is time they could be spending doing other, more important things. Like busting the morons who text and drive, or the people that shoot at protesters, or investigating the people in our communities we know and trust, but are actually abusing children.

The registry, the part that is only visible to law enforcement- is that much of a waste. Community notification, which is the part that most people think of- is far more harmful. You see, notification requires certain offenders to have their basic information- name, address, workplace, conviction- up on the internet and in the community for anyone at all to see. Oh, sure, there is a little disclaimer that the information cannot be used to stalk, harass, threaten, or harm the offenders listed (because you know, everyone reads and follows the terms of service on a website, right?). But there have been many instances of just that happening. People lose their jobs and cannot get employment because of notification laws. There are groups who think they are doing a service to the public by announcing who did what. Patch.com is notorious for that.

How can an offender rebuild their lives in a stable, supportive, and caring community with all of that going on? The current system is set up for offenders to fail, and for those struggling with any kind of sexually deviant attraction, they will want to keep it to themselves for fear of it being found out and being slapped with a label as if you can become a sex offender just because you are attracted to children (we do not police thought crimes yet, this is not Minority Report).

Not to mention that there are these mandatory reporting laws, that are supposed to result in increased reporting of sex crimes. What it really means is that the single mother who knows her 14-year-old son is abusing her 5-year-old son will never talk to anyone, for fear her son will go to jail. This means that the sons do not get any help. It means that the college student who knows they are attracted to children does not get help, because he knows that the therapist could report them to the police. And maybe he goes on to sexually abuse a child, or several, because he has no idea where to ask for help.

The Point

What it all boils down to is this: The laws create a stigma, the stigma creates an unsafe environment for getting help with any kind of sexual struggle, and then someone offends and the laws become active for them. And the American public believes that because they have the label with so much stigma, because they are 'monitored' by law enforcement, that they are safe in their homes. America believes that sex offenders are responsible for sex crime- when it is the Average Joe who commits the sex crime and then becomes a sex offender, not a sex offender who commits a sex crime. Not only is it a false sense of security, not only is it something all politicians refuse to touch in any rational, fact-driven manner, it actively pushes people away from the very help that could lead them to never committing any crime in the first place and managing their sexual thoughts.

For every one child that comes forward to report sexual abuse, another eight never will. And for every sex offender on a registry, there are many more who have committed sex crimes that will never be put on that list and we will remain unaware of them. And the list we have only distracts us from who the real threats to public safety are, the repeat offenders.

Our system of punishing people who get caught enables child sex abuse to happen by forcing the issues further into secrecy.