Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Sex Offender Registry

I had cause to be examining NH's sex-offender registry in detail today, looking at photos and someone who may be using an alias.  Not that my actions contribute in the slightest to the patient's treatment or the well-being of the citizens of NH, but because I'm going to look evil if someone slipped through, once someone wondered allowed whether X was an RSO.  She is and is quite open about it.  She had sex with a 13 y/o when she was 27 and bore his child.  She did two years and has been on parole ever since.  She didn't show up on the registry, because the registry is inaccurate, as it often is.  And apparently much more inaccurate in other states.

I have never mentioned it before, but I am deeply opposed to these registries.  I know a few of the people on New Hampshire's, maybe a dozen or so.

I know lots of folks more dangerous, including sexually dangerous, who are not on that list.  And I know for certain that there are folks on the list who are at most marginally more dangerous than the average person-on-the-street.  We put up these registries to express our anger, and how much we CARE ABOUT OUR CHILDREN rather than to increase our safety in any way.

There is no evidence that these measures have increased our community safety even 1%.

There is plenty of evidence that people on the registries have been harassed, lost jobs, and even been murdered. (A bunch in Maine.  The murderer, from Canada, had a list of NH offenders to go ofter next.)

Paragraph 4 and Paragraph 5:  That's not a fair trade.

No one has to tell me that there are perpetrators who reoffend hundreds of times, and bear constant scrutiny.  Yup, and I know three of 'em.  None of 'em is on NH's registry.  There is a subset of offenders, usually male, usually targeting 10-12 y/o boys (the age at which they themselves were molested) - though there are exceptions, who have literally hundreds of victims, and all interventions to date have been only partially effective - who are ongoing flat-out dangerous and should never be unsupervised.  But even the most experienced clinicians have a poor record of identifying who those will be, except after long and sad perpetration.  There is no one in the country who can identify which 20 year-old offenders will continue to reoffend and which won't.  On the whole, sex offenders have the second-lowest rate of recidivism, after murderers.

We pass these laws to beat our chests.  They are therefore worse than doing nothing at all.  Anytime we feed that beast in our own souls, the idea that we have slain seven with one blow when we have only killed flies, we endanger our children more, not less.

There are perpetrators who continue to lie to themselves and excuse their behavior - don't I know it.  But our rage at their lack of remorse is not the issue - public safety is the only issue.  I know penitents who are still dangerous, and impenitents who are not.  I see little correlation, if any.  Opportunity, substance abuse, accountability - those are the only issues.  Humiliation and punishment are irrelevant.

BTW, note on substance abuse:  I would give a convicted sex offender a lifetime subscription to his ten favorite fetish sites before I would give him a beer.


karrde said...


I've heard stories of people getting placed on RSO lists because of public indecency.

I mean, they thought no one could see them when they unzipped their pants to take a leak...

Even if such cases are not a noticeable percentage of the registry, they prove troubling.

The much worse ones are the ones who ought to be on the registry and aren't.

What next, a habitual-DUI-registry? Gotta save those kids who might be killed by a drunk driver.

And how do you guarantee a registry is accurate and complete?

Der Hahn said...

The absolute height of ludicrous has to be the combination of a SOR with onerous residency restrictions. In Iowa a few sheriffs have even spoken out about the combination but nobody seems moved to resolve the issue because the optics would be so bad.

bs king said...

Interesting. I was actually just listening to an interview with a pedophelia expert from Toronto, Dr James Cantor. He spoke out against a lot of reactionary punishments for pedophiles by mentioning that once someone has suffered serious consequences, they are left with nothing left to lose. This makes them more dangerous to everyone. He didn't mention registries specifically, but it seems like the same logic would apply. He also made an excellent point that we should never confuse punishment with prevention, and that too many people tried to act as though they were equal, especially with sex crimes.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Absolutely. We get very concerned with trying to punish them really, really big time, as if that would SHOW EVERYONE how concerned we are. But actually it's the opposite. We want to punish and then go about our business.

I used to propose a hypothetical when I did training about working with sexual offenders (a milder group, BTW, than the designation Dangerous SO.) "Would you rather punish him really hard for a year, cutting off a couple of fingers, humiliating him on the front page, and taking all his money, then letting him back on the street; or would you rather set him up permanently in a nice hotel on an island with other offenders where nice food is shipped in and they have big TV's?"

You prefer the latter, if you are worried about the safety of the community, don't you? Every day you have to tell yourself the community's safety is the focus. Never forget that. All else is irrelevant, the reward or punishment.

They do lose their jobs, and their families turn on them, they live in isolation, their lives suck, even if you don't punish them much. What does it matter if they assault more victims?

Gringo said...

Many people believe that if all RSOs were in some way frozen in amber so that no RSO would be able to commit another sex crime, the incidence of sex crimes would be greatly reduced.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. From New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (under community notification tab):
"The vast majority of sex crimes are committed by someone who is not on the Sex Offender Registry. During 2005-2006, approximately 94% of the persons arrested for sexual offenses in New York State had no prior sex convictions. As a result, these people would not have been on the Sex Offender Registry (New York Sex Offender Management Grant, 2007)."

Repeat: the vast majority of sex crimes are committed by somone who is NOT on the Sex Offender Registry. In that sense, the Sex Offender Registry gives the public a false sense of security.