The OpEd features a statement from Derek Logue of www.oncefallen.com and this very website:
Is Alabama's sex offender registry necessary or 'pointless'?
firstname.lastname@example.org By Shelly Haskins | email@example.com
on April 07, 2015 at 1:22 PM, updated April 08, 2015 at 10:38 AM
Two weeks ago, California became among the first states to relax rules about where registered sex offenders can live in relation to schools and parks, according to a recent article on Slate.com.
In the Slate piece, criminologist Emily Horowitz of St. Francis College in Brooklyn and author of "Protecting Our Kids?: How Sex Offender Laws Are Failing Us," says that sex offender registries, once thought to be a strong front-line protection against sex crimes against children, are largely "pointless."
"When I saw the research on the registry I was really shocked at how pointless it is. And it was shocking because usually, when you research something, there's ambiguity--there are some good things and there are some bad things. But with the registry, there's really no research that shows it's effective at all," Horowitz told Slate.
Over the past two decades, since Megan's Law ushered in sex offender registries in every state, Horowitz said experts have determined that strangers are not really the problem in child sexual abuse cases. More often than not, sex offenders are under the same roof with the victim, either a family member or family friend.
Opinions about the usefulness of sex-offender registries differ, though. Here are some to consider:
Chris Newlin, executive director of the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville, agreed that sex offender registries haven't really proven to be effective in fighting child sexual abuse:
"All reasonable people would like to see policies and practices in place which create a safer environment for our children, especially regarding those who sexually abuse children. The National Children's Advocacy Center and its partners - law enforcement, prosecutors, social services, medical professionals, mental health professionals and victim advocates - are working daily to make our community, state, and nation a safer place for our children. In the age when "Stranger Danger" was the prevailing understanding of child abuse, the utilization of sex offender registries made a bit more sense - let's identify the dangerous people and make our community aware of their presence. However, over the past twenty years, we have learned on primary sobering fact - most sexual abuse is committed by individuals known to the child, including about 35 percent of all sexual offenses being committed by juveniles. Further, most individuals who commit sexual offenses have no past criminal record for past sexual offending. Thus, the real impact of sex offender registries have been to provide a false sense of security with no significant demonstrated positive impact. Those who have been caught are not the people I worry about the most. The people I worry about the most are those who have been so manipulative and secretive with their behavior to have avoided detection while continuing their sexual offending behavior. This group of individuals are the ones who will be committing a vast majority of the sexual offenses over the next days, weeks, and months. "
Madison County Chief Deputy Dave Jernigan, a former FBI agent, said the sex offender registry is useful not only as a law-enforcement tool, but for the peace-of-mind of citizens and sex-crime victims.
"The state views convicted sex offenders as a threat to society and that's why we have a registry in place. If you are at 100 Main Street, then the people around you are going to get a postcard in the mail that you are a sex offender and you will be living at this particular address."
The Madison County Sheriff's office's website offers "Offender Watch" software, that allows citizens to keep track of sex offenders beyond just their residence. The software is frequently updated with sex offenders' changes in residence, job, school attendance, Internet identifiers and other information they must disclose to law enforcement, Jernigan said.
"If you are the parents of a victim, you can track the sex offender. If you are moving to a new neighborhood, you can track where there are sex offenders living in that neighborhood. This registry is really the only thing that law enforcement has to track the offender and it makes them accountable."
Derek Logue operates a website called Once Fallen.com and advocates for reforms of laws that limit where sex offenders can live and work. Logue, who was convicted of a sex crime in Franklin County in 2001, supports punishment for sex crimes but says punishment should not continue after an offender has served his time.
Logue said he plans to lobby against Senate Bill 272, introduced by Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Sheffield, which would create the crimes of third-degree rape, sodomy and sexual abuse to apply when the victim is under 16 and the victim less than 12. Those crimes would be added to the list of crimes covered by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which he said would potentially add young children to those on the sex offender registry. The bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"The registry doesn't work because it promotes "stranger-danger;" however, a child is far more likely to be abused at home by an acquaintance or family member, and 95% of people arrested for sex crimes have no prior record. The registry fails to differentiate between an 18-year-old who had consensual relations with his 15-year-old girlfriend and an 18-year-old who violently raped a 15-year-old. The registry implies everyone on the list will re-offend because they "can't be cured," but dozens of long-term studies have confirmed re-offense rates are in the single digits, and that number is further reduced by programs like Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA). The registry promotes vigilante violence, discrimination and isolation, which are factors that increase the likelihood of re-offense. The registry is a placebo that feels good but does nothing to prevent sexual abuse."
What do you think? Are sex offender registries necessary or "pointless?"
(Updated on 4/8 to clarify the content of SB 272)