By Shana Rowan (Website, Blog)
I agree with Autumn Smith’s June 28 sentiment that law enforcement ought to represent honesty, integrity, and transparency.
I expect the same from community advocates. That is why her portrayal of [name withheld], and outrage at his apparent failure to keep his employment information updated, was so problematic.
Let me be clear: sex offenders have a duty to keep their addresses, employment, and other personal information up-to-date with authorities.
It’s their responsibility to follow the laws and if they don’t, punishment will follow.
That being said, there’s quite a bit of gray area between a serious absconder looking to skip town so they can commit new crimes, and a person trying their best to move on with their life, who makes an unintentional but serious error by not updating their information in a timely manner.
In 2011, Minnesota Department of Corrections released a report that found no connection whatsoever between sex offenders who failed to register and sexual re-offense. Yes, Failure to Register (FTR) is a felony, but automatically “dangerous?” No.
Had Ms. Smith taken the time to research this subject just a bit, she might not have been so outraged.
Two decades of research have conclusively found sex offender recidivism to be almost always in the single digits, and that overwhelmingly, victims are abused by people they know — not strangers.
These two factors seriously dilute the effectiveness of the registry laws she points out.
It is one thing to know the law, and another entirely to understand its actual impact on community safety.
FTR-related offenses in Michigan are numerous; there are at least seven different purely administrative violations of the sex offender registry act.
As of December 2012, 450 people were incarcerated in prisons throughout the state for FTR-related convictions. The cost to taxpayers? Nearly $12 million.
Surely citizens have a right to know how much these laws are costing them, and evaluate whether or not the growing costs are justifiable.
Lastly, Mr. [name withheld] and his loved ones are taxpayers and citizens too.
Ms. Smith’s column has now opened them up to potential dangers from citizens who may decide to retaliate, especially because her characterization of Mr. [name withheld] is so one-sided.
Hopefully, her next column will examine every side of an issue and utilize facts instead of emotions.