Here in my state, something wildly fair is about to happen: People who have been on the Sex Offender Registry for 20 years, who GOT ON the list for a “Level 1” non-violent sex crime like going to a prostitute, “public lewdness,” or peeing in public, are finally going to be allowed to get off it.
This, of course, makes for a great news story, especially if you find a mom and interview her without explaining to her or the audience that “stranger danger” is the least likely danger her child will encounter, that the Sex Offender Registry is a Scarlet Letter making normal life almost impossible for anyone on it, and that Level fnfdrkftht
1 offenders are extremely unlikely to become rapists, because they were not rapists to begin with. Legally, a Level 1 Offender has to have a “low risk of repeat offense.” And that’s even more true two decades later! But here’s the inexcusable way RochesterFirst played it:
Compare and contrast that story with the one below, from WHEC, that at least took the time to talk to a source who does NOT automatically hear “Sex Offender” and assume that no children will ever be safe as long as anyone with that label is allowed to live a normal life again:
Here’s what Sandy Rozek, communications director of Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc., has to say:
Of course people are protective of their children, but when they have the facts, they can make better choices. These are some of the facts. Research indicates that when a former offender has gone twenty years offense-free in the community, his risk of committing a sexual offense is no greater than someone who has never committed one. This shows rehabilitation at work. Isn’t that our goal?
The greatest risk to any child for this kind of abuse comes from those related or close to the child, not someone on the registry. Chief Phelan is being disingenuous portraying registration so benignly. [In the RochesterFirst story, local Police Chief Phelan says that registering is no big deal for the person on the registry.] Sex Offender registration is a death knell that inhibits rehabilitation. It prevents the reintegration of registrants into the community. They are shut out of job opportunities and often housing opportunities, and certainly the opportunity to earn the good will of society based on who they have become, because the well is poisoned by who they were 20 or more years ago.
How could this be better for public safety? Research shows it isn’t. Furthermore, it does not protect children from abuse; it creates misdirection that keeps the actual problem from being addressed.”
What’s more, the Economist writes that:
Human Rights Watch urges America to scale back its sex-offender registries. Those convicted of minor, non-violent offences should not be required to register, says [Human Rights Watch researcher Sarah] Tofte. Nor should juveniles. Sex offenders should be individually assessed, and only those judged likely to rape someone or abuse a child should be registered. Such decisions should be regularly reviewed and offenders who are rehabilitated (or who grow too old to reoffend) should be removed from the registry.
The idea that our kids are not safe unless we know the location of every person who ever committed a sex offense, no matter how minor, is new. It is a level of knowledge that, rather than reassuring parents, is making them more scared. They see dots on the map and assume their kids are not safe outside, unsupervised. As a parent, my worry would be this: If my son sexts, streaks, or pees in public, the law might label him a sex offender for 20 years…and then decide that’s just not long enough. – L