Sunday, October 21, 2007

CA - Another perspective on sex offenders

View the article here

Another study is here entitled "Criminal Offenders Statistics."

10/21/2007

I'm becoming disgruntled with the inaccurate and unfair media attention former sex offenders are receiving. I understand the stigma and political sensitivity, as I understand a parent's desire to protect a child, but at what point does the unjustified witch hunt end and the truthful recognition of fact begin?

During the campaign for Jessica's Law, I began doing research. On the Department of Justice Web site, I found a report entitled "Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994 (PDF)," November 2003.

This is what I learned.

Fact: "Compared to nonsex offenders released from state prison, sex offenders had a lower overall re-arrest rate."

Fact: "Released sex offenders with one prior arrest (the arrest for the sex crime for which they were imprisoned) had the lowest re-arrest rate for a sex crime, about 3 percent."

Fact: "Following their release in 1994, 209 of the total 9,691 released sex offenders (2.2 percent) were re-arrested for a sex offense against a child."

Fact: "Of the 9,691 released sex offenders, 3.5 percent (339 of the 9,691) were reconvicted for a sex crime within the three-year follow-up period."

Fact: "Released child molesters with more than one prior arrest were more likely than those with only one arrest in their criminal record to be re-arrested for a new sex crime (5.7 percent compared to 3.2 percent). The same was true of statutory rapists (5.3 percent compared to 3.5 percent)." A statutory rapist is an individual who had illegal consensual sex with a minor.

These statistics are documented evidence that former offenders pose very little threat to our community, although it's politically taboo for politicians or the Department of Corrections to admit it.

Research has shown that where an offender lives is unrelated to where he/she commits a crime. A predator can find a potential victim regardless of where they live. If only 3.5 percent of offenses are committed by registered sex offenders, then the sad truth is that the remaining offenses are committed by individuals the Internet can't warn you about.

Research also shows that more than 90 percent of sexual assaults against children are committed by someone they know. Sadly, a child can be at greater risk from a close acquaintance than the offender who moves in down the street. What use then are Megan's and Jessica's laws beyond creating a false sense of security and focusing our attention on the least-likely suspects?

Three times The Star has published a map depicting areas in Ventura County that, due to Jessica's Law, are off-limits to former sex offenders. This map is inaccurate and fails to represent how restrictive the law is.

The law includes not only community parks, but state and federal parks as well. If I'm not mistaken, much of our coastline and the Los Padres National Forest are state and federal parkland. Ventura County's intent to expand parkland will only further restrict housing.

A parole officer told me that former sex offenders are preferable to supervise than other parolees. They keep a low profile, are most motivated to find work and stability and are more willing to do what is necessary to rebuild their lives and prevent further incarceration.

Another problem is the legal classifications of offenders not fitting the individual or the circumstance in which the crime was committed. California law designates these individuals as "violent" or "high risk" when the crime involved was neither violent nor of a predatory nature.

According to the Department of Justice Web site: "Violent" means while not actually using force, the offender did not have the victim's "factual" or "legal" consent. "Legal" consent means that the victim willingly participated but, in the eyes of the law, the victim was not old enough to give his or her "legal" consent. Thus, many individuals are deemed violent sex offenders due to the "victim" not being of legal age to consent, even when the act was consensual. How many can relate to that?

As a former sex offender, I have an interest in how these laws affect my life and my loved ones. It will soon be 10 years since I was involved in an illegal and inappropriate relationship with a minor, younger than the age I was led to believe, though no less wrong. I was 20 at the time. I do not take lightly what I've done, but I can state that I am neither violent, nor have a high risk of reoffending.

California law would have you believe otherwise. I am not a predator and have no tendencies or inclinations that could lead me to reoffend. I made a poor decision and I have been punished. I have paid my debt. I don't ask for sympathy or understanding, but for the right every citizen has to move on and rebuild without concern of who might harass family and friends for their association with me.

If an individual truly wants to educate him/herself on the threat of the former offenders living in his neighborhood, as distasteful as it may seem, I suggest speaking with the offending party. Talk about what they did, and get a feeling of what kind of person they may be today.

I'm not suggesting friendship, but keep in mind that the crime committed may have been years or decades past. Learn the truth from the source and judge for yourself if your family could be at risk. Never assume a former offender is automatically a predator or even guilty of the convicted offense.

Maybe in doing so, you might find yourself resting a little easier at night. Former sex offenders are not people who need to be "dealt with" or "put somewhere," as many like to think.



1 comment :

Anonymous said...

From Mike

Great article...completely agree...I am in a very similar position. I'd like to know if you ever looked into getting this dropped to a misdemeanor and eventually expunged considering the circumstances. What became of it?