It has never been officially called a war; nevertheless the multitude of laws governing sex offences and sex offenders is mountainous.
Overview of the widest reaching Sex Offender Laws
1994 – The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act is passed as part of the Federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. This law requires states to implement a sex offender and crimes against children registry.
1996 – Megan’s Law amends the Wetterling Act. It requires states to establish a community notification system.
The Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act of 1996 becomes an amendment to the Wetterling Act. It requires lifetime registration for recidivists and offenders who commit certain aggravated offenses.
1998 – Provisions contained in Section 115 of the General Provisions of Title I of the Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (CJSA) amend the requirements of the Wetterling Act to include heightened registration requirements for sexually violent offenders, registration of federal and military offenders, registration of nonresident workers and students, and participation in the National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR).
2000 – The Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act amends the Wetterling Act, requiring offenders to report information regarding any enrollment or employment at an institution of higher education and to provide this information to a law enforcement agency whose jurisdiction includes the institution.
2006 – The sex offender registration provision of the Adam Walsh Act (AWA), known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), replaces the Jacob Wetterling Act.
How widespread are sex offences?
U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Office of Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency PreventionWashington, DC 20531
Sexual Abuse Victims 117,000 average par year.
All nonfamily abduction victims 58,200 (isn’t this family)
Caretaker missing 33,000
Reported missing 12,100
Stereotypical kidnapping victims 115
To put these numbers into perspective lets consider other violent crimes against children.
Type of Crime In School Out of School
Serious Violent* 202,000 (24%) 636,000 (76%)
Violent** 1,055,000 (40%) 1,556,000 (60%)
Theft 1,666,000 (52%) 1,552,000 (48%)
Total 2,721,000 (47%) 3,107,000 (53%)
Now that we know the numbers, let’s look at the reasoning behind sex offender laws.
Laws such as these were written after the highly publicized murders or disappearances of young people, most but not all of whom were young children (minors).
We all want to protect our children, but I just had to find out how great a threat are sex offenders anyway? The answer came from many resources and I will let these experts answer this question, and the answers may surprise you as much as they did me.
FBI: Stranger Abductions of Children Are Rare – An FBI spokeswoman says, “it may appear there’s a crime wave” — but she says “that’s just not the case.”
“Child abductions are rare, stranger abductions even rarer – Kidnapping makes up less than 2 percent of all violent crimes against juveniles reported to police, with stranger kidnapping being the most uncommon form of reported kidnappings, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.” http://www.wmur.com/news/1566029/detail.html
“Sex offenders were less likely than non-sex offenders to be rearrested for any offense” –– Anderson Cooper http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2009/08/28/recidivism-rates-for-sex-offenders/
It would seem that as with other classes of criminals, political leaders have used sex offenders to further their careers, while at the same time the media has used such tragic stories for viewership.
Also, it seems that both have exaggerated the truth about the danger these people pose. This revelation came to me when researching the recidivism rates of murders. As one would expect, murders have the lowest rate of recidivism. What I did not expect to find was the group that comprised the next lowest recidivism rate. Yes, you know what I am going to say, sex offenders. This was such a surprise to me because I was used to hearing the media and political leaders say the exact opposite. Let me list a couple of these studies here.
NYS DPCA Research Bulletin: Sex Offender Assessment – “Research on a sample of 917 sex offenders on probation across the U.S. in 17 states from 1986 to 1989 indicates that while under probation supervision, 11.7% were arrested for a non-sex offense during a three year follow-up period, and 4.5% were arrested for a new sex crime within three 4 years” (Meloy, 2005). Note that this says arrested not convicted.
Another study involving sex offender probationers revealed that “after five years, 5.6% were arrested for a new sex offense.” (Krutschnitt, Uggen and Shelton, 2000). Once more, arrested not convicted.
“New research in California shows that only a tiny fraction – 3.38 percent – of released sex offenders are convicted of a new sex offense within 10 years of release. The study followed 3,577 prisoners who were released between 1997 and 2007 after serving time for sex offenses. In an even larger parallel study by
California’s Sex Offender Management Board, tracking 4,204 paroled sex offenders, only 3.21 percent were convicted of a new sex offense within 5 years of release.”
OK, so now we know that the high recidivism rate is simply not true. Now then, let’s look at the laws themselves. Are they effective?
“A December 2008 study by Kristen Zgoba Ph.D., Philip Witt Ph.D., Melissa Dalessandro M.S.W., and Bonita Veysey Ph.D. found that Megan’s Law has no effect on community tenure (i.e., time to first rearrest), showed no demonstrable effect in reducing sexual re-offenses, has no effect on the type of sexual re-offense or first time sexual offense (still largely child molestation/incest), and has no effect on reducing the number of victims involved in sexual offenses. Moreover costs associated with the initial implementation as well as ongoing expenditures continued to grow over time.”
Megan’s Law: does it protect children? “Most states have very little evidence on the actual impact of community notification on their jurisdiction. Most of the understood benefits of the laws are based on assumptions about the nature of sexual offending and the behavior of parents and community members. Such assumptions are rarely supported through research, but continue to legitimize the law for law enforcement workers and members of the public” http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/
I found too many studies concluding the same thing. From the failure of residency restrictions to the failure of the registry, it becomes a broken record. And yet day after day the media puts forth another story about a sex offender who recidivates. My quest for real answers goes on.
What is the AWA, will it be effective, and cost effective?
The AWA or Adam Walsh Child Protection Act of 2006 is a set of laws that were meant to level out sex offender laws from one state to another. The only problem is that even if every state enacts the AWA, which is doubtful, there will never equality. The reason is simple; the AWA in its own wording sets only a minimum standard. This allows state to add even more laws on top of the already heavy pile. So much for equalizing.
Then there is the questionable past of the AWA. The author of this monumental child protecting law is none other than Mark Foley. Yes, the same Mark Foley who resigned from Congress after he was caught sending sexually inflammatory messages to underage pages. You know the rest of the story on that; the evidence was lost and Mr. Foley walked. Interestingly though, all of those private messages are still online for all to see. Lost? Really? Too bad the FBI does not have the internet…
This is taken directly from Wikipedia “Foley resigned from Congress on September 29, 2006, acting on a request by Republican Leadership after allegations surfaced that he had sent suggestive emails and sexually explicit instant messages to teenage males who had formerly served or were at that time serving as Congressional pages. As a result of the disclosures, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted investigations of the messages to find possible criminal charges. Each ended with no criminal finding. In the case of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the “FDLE conducted as thorough and comprehensive investigation as possible considering Congress and Mr. Foley denied us access to critical data,” said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey with the closure of the case.”
Imagine, the man who penned the AWA is a sex offender, never convicted but nonetheless a sex offender. A sex offender that congress protected by blocking an active investigation into his illegal actions. Actions that could have put him under the control of the very law he wrote.
What is the cost of just the AWA?
When considering a law that is as sweeping in effect as the AWA, financial responsibility must be weighed. The federal government requires every state to implement the AWA. Failure of implementation will cost a state 10% of their Byrne grant law enforcement assistance funds. What the government has stated in this requirement is not that the state will be given money for implementing the AWA. Far from it; what is being said is that if a state fails to implement the AWA that state will have money subtracted from its law enforcement grant fund.
“What is the true cost of the AWA?” The federal government estimated $6.00 for every person living in the U.S.A. This cost does not include running the program and the increased costs for more offenders being added to the registry. An estimated $1,853,304,000.00 total.
Or if calculated by each Stereotypical kidnapping victim in one year, (115) $16,116,382.00 each.
Or if calculated by the number of abductions that end in murder. (40) $463,346,000.00 each.
If then calculated by each murder victim that had been sexually assaulted (24) the cost is, $772,243,000.00 each.
Then there is the cost of monitoring the aprox. 780,000 registered citizens who are forced to be on the SOR. That cost is estimated at $6,000.00 each, per year.
Or roughly $4,960,000,000.00 per year and rising at about 8% per year.
The cost for this law, much like the cost of the War on Drugs is staggering.
Since this law costs so much, how effective is it? We still do not know the answer to that question. You see, Mr. Foley must have paid little attention in class; because the law he wrote has been challenged in courts across the country and many of its provisions have been found unconstitutional. Now as a strict constitutionalist, I don’t care who a law targets, if it’s unconstitutional it is garbage! There was a reason the Constitution was written, that is to protect us, all of us, from corrupt government. If we go ahead and pass unconstitutional laws against any group, no matter how much we hate that group, we all lose.
I expect this is the very reason most of the states have backed away from this law. Many of its provisions require ex-post-facto (after the fact) implementation and the U.S. Constitution and every state constitution forbids ex-post-facto laws.
So far the U.S. Supreme Court has not heard a strong case involving the full thrust of this law. It will be interesting to see how the Justices handle a law that is so popular and yet so obviously questionable.
They Ignored the Experts.
Much of the problems with sex offenders could have been avoided if political leaders would just listen to experts. Why even child advocacy gropes are up in arms about residency restriction. They are calling for an end to these out-of-date, ineffective laws. Think of it, we restrict where a person can sleep. Do we really think that has any effect on sex offence, when according to the Department of Justice, 90%+ of child sex crimes are committed in the home by someone known to the child?
Here are more facts.
In 90% of the rapes of children less than 12 years old, the child knew the offender, according to police recorded incident data.
Sex offenders comprise on average:
1 percent of the federal prison population;
9.7 percent of the state prison population;
3.4 percent of jail inmates;
3.6 percent of offenders on probation; and
4 percent of the offenders on parole.
“By focusing on a small number of known offenders, the system may detract attention from more common crimes such as intra-familial abuse, leaving parents and children vulnerable to abuse from people known to them.”
After doing many hours of research I find that I cannot count current registry, residency, travel and employment laws targeting sex offenders as being worth the money being thrown at them. Many experts point to better, more effective solutions. However until the public becomes educated we can expect to see a proliferation of expensive, ineffective and most likely unconstitutional laws targeting a very small percentage of our population.
Lastly, remember that this is a slippery slope. If these laws are allowed to stand, what group will be the next target?