This morning, Wendy Murphy, TV commentator and law professor, released an article entitled "WENDY MURPHY: Sex offender laws flawed but critical" in the Patriot-Ledger [http://www.patriotledger.com/opinions/x1080448945/WENDY-MURPHY-Sex-offender-laws-flawed-but-critical] . Below is my response, which I had to post in pieces at the site. But I DID sent it to her via e-mail.
Wendy Murphy was the one who famously said during the Duke Lacrosse/ Nifong case, "I never met a false rape claim, by the way. My own statistics speak the truth." [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13165471]. It ended up being a case of malicious prosecution. There are many flaws in this article that needs addressed.
The Dallas Morning News found over 4000 people on the Texas registry who were minors at the time they were added to the sex offender registry, some as young as age 10! A recent article stated Michigan had over 2000. There are many websites dedicated to these cases as well [see http://www.oncefallen.com/CriminalizingTeenSex.html for many examples].
In regards to recidivism rates amongst registrants, even the most negative studies state recidivism rates much lower than Murphy is claiming.
US Department of Justice, “Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released into the Community in 1994.”
* Three-year follow-up period
* 9,641 sex offenders released in 15 states
* 262,420 non-sex offenders released in same 15 states in 1994
* 517 sex offenders (5.3% of all sex offenders) were arrested for a sex crime within 3 years
* 3,228 non-sex offenders (1.3% of all no-sex offenders) were arrested for a sex crime within the same three year
* 3.5% of sex offenders re-convicted
A more recent study found similar results after 10 years:
* Recidivism after 1 year of release: 2.21%
* Recidivism after 2 years of release: 2.94%
* Recidivism after 5 years of release: 3.3%
* Recidivism after 10 years of release: 3.38%
* NOTEWORTHY FINDINGS: The total of sexual recidivists is lower than some might have believed. Most re-offenses and parole violations occur in the initial period of reentry after release. Sex offenders are more likely to commit some other type of offense than to commit a new sex offense.
Sex offenders have hundreds of victims is one of the biggest myths in the issue. It was a misread of an outdated Gene Abel study which relied on self reporting, which is highly inaccurate, and even so, Abel did not determine number of victims but lifetime acts of "paraphilias," which included certain acts once considered deviant but no longer, such as consensual homosexual relations. [see: http://www.oncefallen.com/SOMyths.html].
Vigilantism is a very real threat, as studies have shown up to 40% of registrants and and equal number of their loved ones, such as their spouses and their own children, have experienced threats, assaults, property damage, and murders. In fact, there is a blog dedicated to murders of sex offenders [http://on-murders.blogspot.com/] and on vigilantism against registrants and families [http://politically-sparked.blogspot.com/].
In regards to time served, in the Department of justice, the average sentence length was 8 years, but other states report longer sentences, which will only increase with mandatory minimums. As with other mandatory minimums, there are worries of abuses and loss of discretion with relatively minor cases (such as a "Romeo and Juliet" case), and may even deter reporting of sex crimes [see http://www.famm.org/UnderstandSentencing/WhattheExpertsSay.aspx for opposition to mandatory minimums for drug cases, which were once the great stigma of society].
It is time we revisit the registry and really determine its true value. Two recent studies from New York and New Jersey have shown the registry is no deterrent for crime, and the New Jersey study pointed out that 95% of sex crimes were committed by first time offenders. Even Maureen Kanka admitted the intent of the registries is not to reduce recidivism. [see: http://www.oncefallen.com/registriesrevisited.html].
Lets tell the truth here. The real intent of the registry is to name and shame those who committed sexually deviant acts. The registry does not promote healing, neither for the offenders nor for the victims. Instead, the public registry is a tool for social ostracism and vigilante violence. In our zealousness we have thrown caution to the wind and have passed laws based on what feels good rather than what works. The result has been disastrous. The result of one law has formed a camp of registrants living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami [http://www.oncefallen.com/juliatuttlecauseway.html]. The result of one law has placed a 16 year old on the registry for consensual relations with another teen, listed as a "sexual predator" [see www.rickyslife .com]. The registry led Stephen Marshall to gun down to registrants in Maine. One of his victims was convicted at 19 for consensual sex with a girl just weeks from her 16th birthday [http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=1855771]. And now we're trying to make it worse by forcing the Adam Walsh Act upon society-- mandatory minimums, placing more people on the registry for life, civil commitment, increased federal jurisdiction, immunity and millions to the NCMEC, GPS, and a public non-sex child abuse registry. None of these will work. Treatment and rehabilitation works. So does a truthful education and prevention program such as Stop It Now! and the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center. Anything less is a sugar pill for a cancer patient.