Monday, January 13, 2014

Well, there's lies, and there's damn lies, and then there's statistics

Please read this opinion piece/political advertisment before continuing.

If I were writing a flippant or sardonic piece here, I would commend the author for his jamming a record number of misleading and misused "facts" and quasi-statistics into his article, and I guess that can be my sub-text, but the growing tendency to do this and the public’s glazed-over acceptance of anything that slams those on the sex offender registry deserve a more serious analysis.

From the op/ed: “Although the New Jersey Appellate Court and Supreme Court acknowledge the relatively high recidivism rate of sex offenders….” If they do, they are fools. So much has been written, posted, and published by legitimate, peer-reviewed studies, starting in New Jersey, debunking this most favored of myths, that I don’t see how anyone who can read still “…acknowledges the relatively high recidivism rate of sex offenders….” Even if they are calling recidivism anything that results in a re-arrest and not just re-offense of a sexual crime, it is a ridiculous statement to make.

Representative Bateman maintains that, “Between 2000 and 2006, there was a 21 percent increase in arrests of offenders who solicited youth online for sex, according to a 2009 study….” However, he does not see fit to emulate the late Paul Harvey and tell the rest of the story. A more recent study shows that the perception of danger from Internet predators is largely influenced by the media; it further shows that the majority of juveniles receiving sexually explicit communications online are receiving them from other juveniles and those close to them in age, not from the older, trench-coat draped predator. And even if that were not a consideration, the study makes no connect at all between the 21% increase in online solicitation arrests and the registered sex offender, who is the only target group for this legislation. Mr. Bateman, not surprisingly, fails to make it also.

According to Sex Offender Research and News, this is "slight-of-hand handling of statistics: The study mentioned DOES NOT say the increase in online sex crimes was by FORMER SEX OFFENDERS...non sex offenders released committed six new sex crimes to every one by former sex offenders. Who is more dangerous to the community?"

And finally the good Mr. Bateman throws in the old “four times more likely” finding from the Department of Justice—or at least he throws in part of it. Yes, the finding was that within the first three years after release, 5.3% of sex offenders were rearrested for another sex offense. He omits that the percentage being re-convicted was 3.5.

He also omits the fact that the released non-sex offenders' rate of 1.3 percent resulted in many, many thousands more sexual crimes than did those being committed by the released sex offenders, even at the higher percentage. "While 1.3% appears to be less than 5.3%, the statistic fails to point out that actual numbers show non sex offenders commit six sex crimes to every one by a sex offender." (1)

We are certainly aware that many politicians are highly unlikely to pass a polygraph, especially if the topic is in support of legislation they are sponsoring. We are also aware that virtually anything negative can be said about or proposed that will negatively affect registered sex offenders, and the general public will perceive it as good, based largely on the rhetoric from those making the laws and the dissemination of that rhetoric via most media sources.

Isn’t it time that we stopped accepting the lies and half-lies and demand accountability and transparency and plain, old-fashioned facts and truth from everyone and everything that has a hand in shaping public policy?



  1. Yes, it is time to stop accepting the lies. The problem we face is convincing the public that they need to know the truth. Their attitude is "don't bother me with the facts, I've already made up my mind!" Tell me how we get through to them...

  2. The online predation of children is really nothing more than the online predation of law enforcement agents pretending to be children. So, if there was a 21% increase (a dubious statistic given that use of the internet, itself, grew at about the same rate during these years), such an increase can be easily explained by a 1,000% increase in the number of police departments and local law enforcement agencies having fun pretending to be teenagers while helping "catch predators". This era will go down in history as a total disgrace to the legitimate purposes of law enforcement in a free and open society. Enticing citizens to unwittingly commit crimes (actually creating half of the evidence used to prosecute them) is the sort of thing we once condemned about the old Soviet Empire and continue to witness in the actions of tyrants throughout the world doing today.


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