Monday, August 12, 2013

NE - UNO Study: Nebraska sex offender law 'founded more on public emotion than good science'

Garfield - Well Duh!
Original Article


By Paul Hammel

LINCOLN - A newly released study (PDF) questions whether public safety has improved because of a four-year-old state law that requires all sex offenders to be listed on a public website.

The law, known as the Adam Walsh Act, has been criticized as being too harsh on those who commit minor offenses, by tacking a public scarlet letter on them, even though they are a low-risk to reoffend and have served their prison sentences and become productive, law-abiding citizens.

It appears that the Adam Walsh Act was founded more on public emotion than good science,” concluded a report released Monday. It was done by the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Consortium for Crime and Justice Research.

The report stated that Nebraska's old system of sex-offender registration “did not seem to be broken.” The report though, could not say if the old, or new, registration system was superior in deterring repeat sex offenses.

The adoption of the Adam Walsh Act in Nebraska was controversial and spawned a lawsuit by a group of convicted sex offenders who claimed it violated their constitutional rights. It was also praised for removing the subjective decision of whether an offender was at low or high risk to reoffend.

In 2008, a convicted sex offender was found guilty of raping two teenage girls in Blair. The man, who had been convicted previously in the rape of a 5-year-old girl, had been deemed by the Nebraska State Patrol as at the lowest risk of reoffending, Level 1.

Prior to 2009, only the names and photographs of sex offenders who had committed the most serious offenses and were deemed by the patrol as most likely to reoffend were publicized on the patrol's website.

Under the old system, those who committed minor offenses and were considered a low risk to reoffend were required to register with law enforcement agencies, but their information wasn't made public.

Nebraska's Adam Walsh Act, Legislative Bill 285, required that all sex offenders — low-risk and high-risk — have their photos and addresses posted on the state website, and to report to local law enforcement officials. The photos are to stay for as long as 25 years, and in some cases, for life.

Past offenders have said that the public listing has made it harder for them to hold jobs, prompted harassment of them and their children, and has wasted government resources by focusing monitoring efforts on them instead of those most likely to reoffend.

The Legislature two years ago discussed whether to exclude low-risk offenders from the public website, but instead opted to seek more information, via the UNO study, which cost $60,000.

State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, who chairs the Legislature's Judiciary Committee, said the study provides better data for lawmakers to judge the effectiveness of sex offender registries.

He said that his committee may look at revamping the registration requirements of lower-risk offenders, but that overall, the report showed him that it was unnecessary to repeal the Adam Walsh Act.

I don't see that changing registration laws and going back to tiering them is the answer,” Ashford said.

The senator has launched an effort to reform state criminal sentences to ease the state's chronic prison overcrowding by punishing nonviolent offenders without putting them behind bars. Ashford said the information in the sex offender report will aid that effort, since sex offenders make up the largest percentage of state prison inmates, 18.3 percent.

The Adam Walsh Act was named for a boy who was abducted and murdered in Florida in 1981. His father is John Walsh, host of the television series “America's Most Wanted.”
- And it was never proven that his son was even sexually abused, yet he continues to push laws to punish sex offenders instead of sick murderers.

Among the study's other findings:
  • Recidivism rates for sex offenders were low, but were lower following the passage of the Adam Walsh Act. For instance, the recidivism rate for Level 2 (medium-risk) offenders was 0.5 percent after passage of the act, and 2.5 percent before.
    - From what we've been told, if you read the actual study, the above is wrong. The study found the exact opposite.
    Page 2 of the study - Click to enlarge
    Page 2 of the study - Click to enlarge
  • Public registries are limited in value because they list only known offenders, when most sex offenses are unreported. Thus, public registries could do a service by emphasizing that the greatest danger exists within a family or circle of acquaintances — about 90 percent of sex assaults are committed by nonstrangers.
  • Registries that show the addresses of offenders could provide a false sense of security because most sex offenders do not commit crimes in their own neighborhood. Seven percent of such crimes were committed within a mile of an offender's residence.

1 comment :

WillB said...

Nebraska law 29-4002 Legislative findings
The Legislature finds that sex offenders present a high risk to commit repeat offenses
A one-year recidivism rate of 0.6% is nowhere near being a high
recidivism rate. that is even lower than the 1.2% for murderers and most definitely lower than any other criminal class. especially people involved in the DWI DU I accidents by repeat offenders(then have a reoffend rate of over 50%) that kill over 1500 children a year. and yet there is no DWI DUI registry.

something that I think about is a fact that everybody seems to be missing and that is the fact that the registry is very fluid with people leaving the state, dying,or reaching their termination points and no longer have to register and from the other side people constantly being added, the registry has increased in size
776% from its inception to the year 2012 so the only way to look at the re-offense rates is in a yearly manner.

to my knowledge this is the only study that has looked at people
on the registry to see what they're re-offense rate is. Other studies have looked at people being released from prison and follow them for a few years and some of those deal with a rearrest and some of those deal with the re-convictions so they're all over the board and they don't take into consideration the fact that there is a growing number of people on the registry that will never reoffend.

Major results of findings of the study Sex offense recidivism. In
comparing the old risk based system of classification to the new offense based system of classification, the former risk based system resulted in less overall recidivism. Specifically, the pre LB 285 classification system resulted in a 2 year recidivism rate of 1.7% and a 1 year recidivism rate of 0.6%. In comparison, the post LB 285 classification system resulted in a 2 year recidivism rate of 2.6% and a 1 year recidivism rate of 1.7%. We also examined the effectiveness of each classification system in identifying offenders at the highest risk to reoffend. In general, the former system that utilized a psychological risk assessment tool consistently distinguished offenders who were at a high, medium, and low risk to reoffend. In comparison, the AWA system
was very effective in distinguishing those at a high risk to reoffend
from medium and low risk offenders. However, the AWA classification system consistently failed to distinguish offenders at medium risk to recidivate from those at low risk to recidivate. Our findings suggest that as an overall tool for identifying a nuanced risk to reoffend, the old risk based system appears more effective. However, if the goal is simply to distinguish the highest risk offenders from everyone else, the Adam Walsh Act Tier system appears most effective. One caveat, however, is that this latter finding is in sharp contrast to published research on sex offenders in other states (Zgoba et al. 2012)

As badly as people would love to justify their actions based on
emotions and myths in the cold hard light of truth there is no rational basis for the registry itself other than hate and bigotry. Enactment of the registry should be considered a hate crime. Committed by state legislators.