Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sex Offender Registry Innovations Conference sponsored by Offender Watch - I guess anyone can have a conference

 When I saw the announcement on a Facebook page, I did a double take:
“Sex Offender Registry Innovations Conference—sponsored by Offender Watch, the nation’s leading sex offender management and notification solution officially endorsed by the National Sheriffs [sic] Association.”

The description of the conference, which will take place in August of this year in New Orleans, includes these words: “We are bringing together law enforcement professionals from all over the country to explore national 'Best Practices' of sex offender monitoring in an effort to accomplish the mission of 'no sex offender left unaccounted for.' Meet the OffenderWatch® National Advisory Board members, a group that has helped establish best practices among thousands of agencies using OffenderWatch® nationwide. Provide your input to help set best practices and consistent techniques that will leave 'no offender unaccounted for.' "

Wow. Is this the same Offender Watch, part of Watch Systems, LLC, that has, for several years now, been called on the carpet by journalists and watchdog groups for printing false, deliberately misleading, and inflammatory statistics as part of its routine PR? (1) (2) (3)

A cursory investigation confirmed that it is, indeed, one and the same. This company makes millions each year selling fear and panic to parents, school districts, and municipalities. They "manage" the sex offender registry in an undetermined number of states for a significant monthly fee. They provide apps for phones and computer alerts. They provide screening systems for schools and libraries. (4) (5) (6) They are among the forefront of those who have benefitted from today's sex offender industry.

One thing they do not provide is the truth and the facts. Their claim of a 50% recidivism rate for sex offenders was plastered on their promotional materials and even on the websites of states whose registry systems they “manage.” In spite of complaints from advocacy and watchdog and truth-in-advertising groups, they would not remove it—until an investigative reporter named Tom Condon wrote an article exposing the lies. He wrote that the 50% recidivism claim “… is spectacularly inaccurate. The real number of sex offenders who are convicted of another sex crime in Connecticut is not 50 percent, it is 2.7 percent. You may be surprised and you should be troubled. 

”The number comes from an extensive study of recidivism among sex offenders in the state (see, recently completed by the Office of Policy and Management.” (7) 

The 50% claim vanished from the CN website as well as others.

Nor is Condon the only journalist to raise the issue. Several articles have been written calling into serious question the integrity of a company that plays on the universal instinct of a society to protect its children and does so by offering products and using techniques whose benefits are, at best, questionable.  In fact, they are in direct opposition to everything research and factual evidence shows about the actual risk from registrants and the most desirable and society-beneficial techniques for managing those who do offend sexually. (8) (9) (10) (11)

The stated purpose of the Offender Watch conference to leave "no offender unaccounted for" signals the focus of their campaign and their very existence. As a parent and grandparent, I would be much happier hearing from a company selling a service such as this that their purpose was to leave no child unprotected. 

If they adopted that as their goal and the focus of their conference, the content of that conference would look entirely different. It would include a session explaining that most sexual abuse of children is at the hands of those not on the registry but rather within their circle of trust of family, peers, and authority figures.

It would include expert speakers sharing studies showing that a focus on the registry and on those already convicted for sexual offenses has not prevented the victims of today and will not help those who will be victims tomorrow. The reason for this is simple; a sexual assault on a child by someone already on the registry is very rare. This situation would normally involve someone unknown to the family and the child and therefore would almost certainly necessitate an abduction of the child, an occurrence that, according to FBI statistics, involves a registered sex offender in less than one percent of child abductions cases. 

Offender Watch’s hypothetical new conference would present the facts about what will be effective in reducing child sexual abuse: a system that looks forward, not backward; that focuses on education and prevention for present and future offenses rather than revenge and eternal punishment for past ones; that focuses on victims and victims’ services; and that offers meaningful rehabilitation and reentry programs for former offenders. These are the things that will help the victims of yesterday and today and help prevent those of tomorrow.

Such a program might well include a presentation by victims’ advocacy groups such as the Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center. They were featured in an April 15th article in the Olean (New York) Times Herald. Their points of advice for parents acknowledge the potential for sexual abuse by someone unknown to the child but stress that children are much more likely to be molested by those they know and trust. 

Their main points include a sprinkling of what our parents taught us—don’t go into public restrooms alone; walk or ride your bikes in pairs or groups—then throw in a heavy dose to address what is now known as the greatest danger: know who your children spend time with and be on alert if anyone seems to be with them frequently; get ample references for babysitters; get to know the families where your children visit; get to know your neighbors; pop in and out frequently when they are playing with peers in the yard or in their rooms—and end with totally-today precautions about the Internet.

What is most significant is what is not included.

There are no directives to check the sex offender registry. Apps and alerts for phones and emails are conspicuous by their absence. Choosing schools or libraries based on the presence of a sex-offender-alert system is not mentioned. The value of companies like Watch Systems and the products they offer through Offender Watch are not significant enough to warrant even a token suggestion.

Offender Watch will hold its conference as planned, and those who are determined to ignore facts and statistics will attend and feel they have gotten their money’s worth. The crime and the shame is that, once again, the cries of children will be drowned out by the half-truths and outright lies and the sound of the cash register in the background. 



  1. Excellent article. Thank you Shelly.

  2. That's funny...ignore the crimes of the past and focus on crimes that haven't yet happened. I bet victims don't share that opinion.

  3. Yes, the only positive thing is that they found a new entrepreneurial way to make money. Our tax dollars are being wasted on such equipment,software, and panic.

    Why don't they have an "offender list" for violent gang members,arsonists,violent, wife beaters, drug dealers who sell especially to children,etc.

    So if one burns their wife with a hot iron, sets your home on fire, or beats you a baseball bat, or sells drugs to your children, they aren't a "threat to society" so no offender list (besides a few states), but no outrage law and certainly no US marshalls tracking and SORNA compliance. It's all about fear about that dirty word "Sex offender".

    If you look closely though they have a lobbying group disguised as a non for profit sex offender advocacy group called their "initiative" who actually sponsors the conference.

  4. All good comments; 2013 - 2014 - 2015 - now to date 2016 with the transparency and the governments loss of media control, State, county and legislation are finding it very damaging to continue business on fear and false protection . The states are removeing on lilne contracts too resume corruption that will deny any wrong doing blinding the public from the loss of tax payer money . While gougeing property tax's, and police that protect those in office of the publics trust that need to make up the loss for incarcerated police, and polliticions collecting pensions, that include police union fees for legal council and court time .
    Now lets talk about reforming the sex offender laws thru education and prevention .


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