Wednesday, November 28, 2012

MT - Political uses of sex offender list not uncommon

Original Article

It's not just politicians who exploit sex offenders, children and fear for their own gain. The media, organizations and people selling products have done this for as long as politics has been around.



As chairman of the Montana Sex Offender Treatment Association’s legislative committee, the last three legislative sessions have created experiences that I could have never predicted. Personally, I backed into successfully evaluating and treating sex offenders in the early 1980s and co-founded our state organization in 1986.

Besides the personal satisfaction that our members get from upholding community safety when necessary for the high-risk sex offender, there is also the rewarding healing journey of the lower risk recovering sex offenders. There is also the huge personal frustration when politicians and political operatives attempt to manipulate people’s understandable mama grizzly bear response towards anyone that hurts our precious children for their own personal agendas.

This type of political self interest at the expense of the truth has been common for years now.

The public becomes unnecessarily frightened. Even more tragic — the generally unknown “good news” regarding my specialty fields’ accomplishments with sex offenders is buried. Knowledge of our continued progress in determining the risk (to reoffend) of a sex offender, as well as the implementation of successful specialized treatment with low reoffense rates (checked by polygraph), are just two casualties.

One of the most offensive examples of this cynical manipulation of the public occurs when politicians and their supporters play the sex offender card in order to win political races. Though both parties have been guilty of these tactics in our attorney general and governor races, the recent campaigns waged by the supporters/campaigns of Rick Hill and Tim Fox reached an all-time low.

The American Traditional Partnership provided a shocking specific example. These are the same folks that support the concept that corporations are people and money is speech when they went after Montana’s campaign financing limits law. They will also most likely be investigated for illegally coordinating with candidates.

While visiting a Web site, I saw a link for the sex offender registry with thumbnail pictures of several registered sex offenders. I noticed that one of the thumbnails was actually a picture of Bullock. The link that purportedly went to the registry deceptively took me to a negative campaign page where they distorted Bullock’s record by falsely implying that 25 percent of Montana’s sex offenders are currently missing, then, based on this distortion, outrageously asserted that Bullock had endangered Montana’s families.

The facts: As of Oct. 31, 2011, of 3,742 registered sexual offenders, there were 275 (7.4 percent) Montana sex offenders who were “not compliant.” A year later, on Nov. 1, 2012, that number was 92 (2.5 percent).

Now, common sense tells us that some would be normal administrative errors after a move, death, etc., so the actual number is inevitably even lower. So it looks like Bullock and Bucy did a great job cleaning the registry up with the help of local law enforcement and the registry folks.

Bullock and Bucy had helped craft legislation in our previous sessions that, though going a bit overboard, helped Montana’s state-of-the-art monitoring system to be more accurate than it would have if they caved completely to the federal attorney general’s and legislative suggestions. They did incredibly well within the context of this political fear “gotcha” environment.

Make no mistake — both political parties have historically engaged in the playing of the sex offender card including (ironically) both Bullock and Bucy. For future purposes, we are calling on Rick Hill, Tim Fox, Steve Bullock, Pam Bucy to call out their supporters’ (PACS) unethical spreading of misleading information that unnecessarily frightens Montanans if it reoccurs.

Montanans deserve accurate information regarding this and other emotional policy issues. Current administrative rules for the registry include some, especially for adolescents, that have a good chance of having the opposite impact from its intention — increasing noncompliance and even re-offenses.

Effective public policy is derailed when the unscrupulous employ this type of manipulation of our understandable fears, especially when displacing facts that are actually positive, no matter which party, organization or Machiavellian operatives.

Let’s continue to work together based on facts to both protect community safety and promote healing for those walking a path of accountable redemption.

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