By Shana Rowan (Blog, Website)
As a registry reform advocate and fiance to a registrant whose crime was committed as a minor, I felt compelled to respond to the numerous sex offender-related issues brought up in several recent articles.
Buffalo/Niagara is no different than other urban areas in our country in terms of high concentrations of registered sex offenders. The public’s mentality towards those on the registry often makes it difficult for those convicted of sex crimes to find housing, and often impossible when municipalities enact residency restrictions. Schools and other “child oriented places” are usually centrally located, so finding housing more than 1,000 feet from such facilities is often not possible. Former sex offenders and their families often find themselves with little choice but to live in poorer, higher-crime neighborhoods.
A 2012 study by Dr. Jill Levenson (studies), one of the leading authorities on sex offender recidivism, found that residency restrictions do not reduce child sexual abuse and several previous studies corroborate her findings. Lack of stable housing and employment actually increases the likelihood of recidivism, making such restrictions counter-productive at best. Empirical research on sex crime reveals that children are overwhelmingly victimized by people they know, family members, friends, coaches, clergy, etc., not a stranger. Even the toughest laws directed at registrants only apply to those who have already been caught and since recidivism is so low, the impact of these laws is minimal.
It’s possible to feel anger at sex abuse and support harsh punishment of perpetrators, while recognizing the importance of fact-based policies. The unfortunate fact is that putting a stop to sex crime is far more complicated than perpetuating sex offender hysteria. The media plays a large role in communicating such information to the public, hopefully, the Niagara Falls Reporter will do this from now on.
Learn the truth at www.usafair.org/studies.
Shana Rowan is executive director of USA Fair, Inc. (USA Families Advocating an Intelligent Registry).