Saturday, August 13, 2016

Dealing with monsters -- uh -- sex offenders

If things really come in threes, then I have a monster story yet to come my way.

The first one was when an editor wrote a "Pokemon warning" to his readers and chose to call registrants living in the area "the real monsters." I took exception to that verbiage and, after contacting him, sent my rebuttal, which he, in decency, printed.

Now, this morning, when I opened my usual collection of daily alerts, one shouted at me, "Monsters among us site provides digital vigilance to help you keep track of sexual predators..." The thing turned out to be nothing more than an advertisement for Family Watchdog masquerading as a site review, but my initial reaction was, again, my radar going on high alert at the word "monsters" being used to describe those on the registry.

At the end of the piece was a request for readers to share their favorite sites for him to review. I took him up on it, sending him the following. Time will tell if I get a response.

Dear Mr. O'Neill,
Thank you for the invitation to share a favorite site. The one I would like to share is It is the site of National Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc., and it is dedicated to the advocacy of laws and policies based on facts and evidence that support
the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of law abiding, former sex offenders into society. This is our goal because this is what research shows will help create a safer society.
Unlike the site you most recently recommended, we do not call people "monsters." Research indicates that pejorative language of that type is counter-productive in furthering the rehabilitation initiatives approved by our criminal justice system.
Additionally, we find the type of site touted in your article "Monsters among us site..." contradictory to empirical evidence, and we find companies such as Family Watchdog extremely unethical as they are using deceit to play on the fears of parents. An exhaustive look at the research and scholarly literature on the subject will reveal that evidence does not support the use of public notification such as public sex offender registries. These popular but wasteful schemes do not further public safety, reduce sexual re-offending, nor offer any protection to children or other potential victims. They are predicated on misconceptions and myths and are denounced by academics and scientists alike.
I will be happy to dialogue with you further on this subject. Thank you for considering the site I have recommended for your column.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

But you can't do that -- I'm not a sex offender

A horrible thing has been happening in a town in Texas. A family has, for the past month or so, been subject to a barrage of harassment. Strangers have been driving slowly past their home in this Dallas suburb and yelling horrible things at them.

The family has expressed fear for their lives, and of course the police are taking this very seriously. They got to the root of the problem quickly and are taking action to rectify it.

Apparently a month or so ago, the DPS mailed postcards to each home in the community within four blocks in every direction from this family’s home. The post cards gave the address where the family resides along with the information that a registered sex offender lives there.

Except he doesn’t.

It was a mistake. The registrant in question once lived there but then moved away. Apparently his moving back into the area triggered the postcards to be mailed and gave his prior address, thus marking this family, who have no registrants living with them and no connection to the registrant, to be targeted as sex offenders and subjected them to a taste of the harassment, vandalism, and physical assault that hundreds of thousands of registrants, along with their children and family members, are subject to as a matter of course.

The police in the area are trying to determine how to better assure that registered citizens are living where they should be.

A better task would be for them to determine how to prevent vigilantes from using the public registry as a hit list.

If the registrant had been living in the house, is there any reason at all to believe that the same incidents would not have occurred? No, none.

And if they had, and he notified police and asked for protection, is there any reason to believe that the story would have made headlines in the local media, spurred law enforcement to immediate action, and produced 18 hits when entered into an online search engine? No, none.

The message is clear: Incidents like this one, so shocking and urgent when they affect "normal" people, are acceptable in the eyes of law enforcement and the public when carried out upon those on the registry. They are everyday occurrences; they create scarcely a ripple in the fabric of society.

In spite of the ordeal the innocent family has suffered, they can at least be thankful there is no one living in their area of the mind set and inclinations as Jeremy and Christine Moody of South Carolina.

They can also be thankful their ordeal is over. They need no longer fear for their lives. That cannot be said for the several million American citizens whose addresses are listed on public sex offense registries throughout the United States.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

This week in the sex offender world

Re the current Pokemon Go craze and concern this could put children and youth in "proximity" to registrants:

This is shaping up to be the new "Halloween boogie-man" scare. Now that enough people have said often enough and loudly enough that there is no statistical increased sexual risk to children in connection with Halloween and trick-or-treat activities, along comes Pokemon Go to keep the fear-pot boiling. And of course the sensationalism-creators and fear-mongers can point to an actual
incident: a registered citizen was "caught" playing Pokemon with a 16 year old teenager--outside of a downtown courthouse, a location that probably boasts as many law enforcement officers per square foot as any other in town. Television anchors, a-la-weather map style, are displaying maps of local areas with Pokemon stops marked in one color and the homes of registered citizens marked in another and pointing out, with horrified faces but barely concealed glee, the places where one is within proximity to the other. Well, that does it! Put a kid on the same block with someone on the registry, and Katie, bar the door. I wonder what the statistical risk of harm is to a minor while playing Pokemon Go within shouting distance of where a registrant lives?

Re online "stings" and headlines shouting that parents are terrified over the potential risk of harm to their children:

Of course parents are terrified; that is the purpose; terrify the parents and assure future funding for continued stings and special forces. It has very little to do with actually protecting children. There were no children. Those men were idiots as well as potential criminals. Virtually everyone arrested for being online child predators are arrested in these kinds of made-up situations. Where are the cases
of real children being lured from their homes by some stranger online? Surely there are police reports...parents whose children have just disappeared? Where are the real ads from parents offering up their children like items on a menu? If this were the problem that law enforcement and the media make it out to be, there would be enough real cases to keep law enforcement busy. There would be no need to resort to entrapment and 50 year old cops pretending to be 12 year old kids.

Re the necessity of residency restrictions for protection of property values among other reasons:

Many millions in public resources are spent in the U.S. on keeping and maintaining a public registry. Research has shown little to no public safety value in public notification and most definitely no reduction in child molestation. Little to nothing in public resources is spent on education,
prevention, victim services, and meaningful reentry initiatives for former offenders. Research shows that all of these enhance public safety and work toward reduction of child molestation. Property values, which do not come close to importance in comparison with child molestation and general public safety, are reduced only due to public notification. If no one knew that the guy next door who committed a crime 20 years ago, has led an exemplary life since, is raising his kids and supporting his family, had committed a sexual crime, there would be no increased risk to anyone and no loss of surrounding property value. If his crime had been murder or arson or armed robbery or killing someone while driving intoxicated or any other offense, all with higher reoffense rates than sexual crimes, no one would know. As far as the disproportionate number of registrants "clustering" in areas without restrictions, registrants of necessity live where they are allowed rather than where they are not. If there were no residency restrictions anywhere--and nothing is so devoid of any proof of effectiveness or public safety value as residency restrictions--the disbursement would be even-handed, driven primarily by what the individuals could afford. Nothing supports the efficacy of a public registry. The many millions would be much better spent on the things are are shown to work. A law-enforcement only registry under the conditions supported by empirical data is the only logical answer.