Dawn Horwitz-Person is a Sex Offender Treatment Specialist in Chico. She deals with some of the most violent and dangerous convicted sex offenders in the north state. She has also been featured on "Oprah," and "Anderson Cooper 360." Oprah Winfrey flew to Chico in 2010 to meet with Horwitz-Person and four of her patients, who openly discussed how and why they chose their victims.
Horwitz-Person is one of many California Phycho-therapists hoping for changes to the California Department of Justice's sex offender registry Megan's Law, because she says it is misleading. Says Horwitz-Person, "If 90 percent of the people are offended by someone they know and love and trust, how is knowing where somebody lives going to keep your child safe?" She describes what she calls three fundamental problems with Megan's Law. She says it gives people a false sense of security, because they look at the dots on the sex offender map, determine they don't live close to any offenders, and feel safe. She says, "Ok, nobody lives by me. This is safe, and they forget that most offenders offend because they're family. People they know and love and trust. They're people they allow into their homes." Horwitz-Person adds that the registry makes people think about the stranger in the van down the street, instead of focusing on those who are allowed in the home, and given access to their kids. She says, "If it's focused on keeping that stranger danger myth alive, how are we really protecting our kids if they're not getting accurate information? We need to have conversations with our children about 'OK touch' and 'Not Ok touch.' Ninety percent of the current sex crimes are committed by people who have never been arrested, before we know who they are law enforcement knows who they are." Horwitz-Person says many predators are able to plea bargain off the registry, even though they are at high risk to re-offend. She says, "Something that may start out as felony rape will be plea bargained to somebody accepting a felony sexual battery. Felony sexual battery doesn't have to register. That person could be a really dangerous person, and they're not on Megan's Law." She cites one former patient who lives in Chico with multiple sexual battery offenses, who was able to stay off the list. She says, "I'm talking somebody who has crossed all barriers, with children, adults, men, women, animals, you name it. And this person, nobody knows about, and he's not on the registry." She says the final problem with Megan's Law is that it lumps in all offenders together, without taking into consideration the type or date of offense, and the risk assessment. She says it's a waste of money and resources to monitor some offenders, while others who are considered high-risk are not monitored once they're off probation.
The California Sex Offender Management Board has asked Governor Jerry Brown to create a risk-tier system, so that the most dangerous offenders can be more closely monitored. To watch Horwitz-Person's appearance on Oprah, click here.