Monday, September 20, 2010

Resources wasted on harsh punishments, registration for low-risk 'sex offenders'

While I was away Jordan Smith at the Austin Chronicle published an excellent story on wasted law enforcement resources devoted to Texas' sprawling sex-offender registration program. Here's a notable excerpt:
The original idea for increasing penalties and restrictions, and for creating the public registry, was that harsh punishment and the public branding of offenders would enhance public safety – saving children, especially, from falling victim to sexual predators. In practice, however, the rapid expansion of crime and punishment in this area of the law has created a clumsy system that has diluted those original intentions beyond recognition. As of March 1, there were nearly 63,000 persons on Texas' public database administered by the state's Department of Public Safety, which adds roughly 100 new names to the list each week. The database includes not only serial rapists and pedophiles but also thousands of offenders ... whose conduct, while considered criminal because the girls involved were younger than the legal age of consent (in Texas, that's 17), is hardly as alarming as that of a middle-aged man with a demonstrable sexual penchant for prepubescent girls – the sort of predator that in theory the laws target.

The registry now includes not only these "Romeo and Juliet" cases – youthful, consensual relationships – but others caught in the criminal justice web for things such as indecent exposure (which also includes the "poor drunk" popped by police while urinating behind a 7-Eleven in the middle of the night, says attorney Bill Habern, a veteran Texas pardon and parole specialist); it has never been retooled to differentiate among offenders and their offenses. So the crimes of serial rapists and pedophiles have been conflated with much more minor offenses under the catch-all term "sex offender," leading many to believe that everyone listed on the registry is in fact worthy of continuing public scorn and fear. "The public in general only hears, 'He's a registered sex offender.' Through ignorance, they believe that is synonymous with 'sexual predator,'" says Austin Police Department Lt. Greg Moss. "Registered sex offenders are not only sexual predators."

An expert on the enforcement of the state's sex offender laws, Moss is the former supervisor over the APD's Sex Offender Apprehension and Registration Unit, a three-detective squad tasked with keeping track of more than 1,500 sexual offenders registered as living in the city of Austin – including Henry. Of those on Austin's list, Moss estimates that just 10% are "your sexually violent predators," those folks who "we should be proactively monitoring, to ensure they're abiding by probation and parole." But APD is responsible for monitoring everyone on the list – a task that is expensive and time-consuming and has very little, if any, positive impact on public safety.

Instead, a growing body of research on the effect of broad sex offender laws reflects that requiring thousands of individuals to register for increasingly long periods of time actually undermines public safety. "That's what the current science is telling us," says Liles Arnold, a sex offender treatment provider and chair of the state's Council on Sex Offender Treatment. Moreover, research also reflects that the restrictions placed on individuals by the municipalities in which they live – such as barring individuals from living near schools, parks, or in a home with young children, even if they're the offender's own children or siblings – create extensive collateral damage. "There are a growing number of registrants, not just in Texas but across the country," says Arnold. But there's no "delineation of who is dangerous or not."

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for also covering this issue. My son is one of those wrapped up this mess for consensual sex. He had never been in trouble before this. He was the second young man filed on for having sex with the same young lady. The other young man was filed on about a year before my son was. These laws are so devastating and destructive to the offender and their families. My grandson faces a life of humiliation, embarrassment and bullying because his dad made a bad choice as a young man. I hope our lawmakers are paying attention. It costs us 3 million a year to maintain the registry. According to the dps director of that 63,000 people on the list only 8,000 are truly dangerous. Why are we WASTING precious resources, time and money on 55,000 people that don't need monitoring. This is stupid and our lawmakers need to realize that all of these people on the list have families that are voters. TX voices can reach every offender and their families thanks to the registry.
Cathy

Anonymous said...

It's such a shame that most of the general public just doesn't get it until one of their loved ones is caught up in the mass "sex offender" hysteria. Current laws are wasting taxpayer dollars and not keeping anyone safer. The registry is over-blown, inaccurate, and ineffective.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. It's a system that has failed. It is of no use, it is costly and we would save a small fortune and maybe even some children from the sexual abuse that is not getting reported because of the registry and public humiliation. What does that mean? Families are NOT reporting family sexual abuse. Why? Dah. The legislators still don't know that in over 90% of the cases of sexual child abuse, it is by someone in the family or someone who has earned the trust of that child! If we get rid of the registry and mandatory reporting, we will save THOUSANDS of children from that sexual abuse we so want to stop. Get the people HELP that need it and family counseling started. THERE is where the money needs to go. It's such a waste having a "public humiliation" list that I never refer to unless I want to say "I'm sorry you're on there for being in love" or "I'm sorry you chatted with a teenager and didn't know you didn't have to meet her to still be a registered offender" it's sick and it's sad who is on the registry these days. Our resources are short, and we need to spend accordingly and stop the madness with this public registry. Period.

Anonymous said...

"The legislators still don't know that in over 90% of the cases of sexual child abuse, it is by someone in the family or someone who has earned the trust of that child!"

Oh they know it. States across the country have published several studies that show exactly that. But you have to look at it from their perspective. What buys more votes? I personally signed legeslation that will stop pedophiles from patrolling parks OR I personally signed legeslation that will throw your fathers and brothers in jail for life.. Which buys the most votes?

So in light of this, do you understand why politicians sell it this way? Mark Lundsford was caught red-handed with childporn on his laptop. The state decided not to file charges because he had just lost his daughter, His son was also caught sexually assaulting a young girl.. But bringing light to this hurts their cause. John Walsh is a self-declared sex addict, even going as far to say that he has 'sexually discriminated' some of his female employees. Don;t see him wanting to go after those guys do you?

It is all about the audience they want listening, and as long as your keep the ones you want to throw on the registry in the third person, everyone will agree to anything, even when it is they themselves that get caught up in it eventually.

If 10 years ago anyone that has OK'd the registry had stood up and told the public that "One day I will sign legislation that will put your teen on the registry for having sex with a willing teen partner", do you think people would have voted them back to office? Doubtful, but if you include such language in the wave of hysteria, it is easy to slip it past the ignorant.

Anonymous said...

"says Liles Arnold, a sex offender treatment provider and chair of the state's Council on Sex Offender Treatment."

Sorry Grits but this guy is one of the problems, not part of a solution. When Texas took the ability for first time offenders to get off the registry in 2001, they also tasked the SCoSOT to develop tools that would allow for the proper tiering of rso's on the registry. These tools long ago would have led to better legislation to not only allow low level RSO's off the list, but also to increase public safety. They have refused to develop those tools. 10 years and we're still awaiting tools that will make it safer for the public at large, and give those of us who were not a threat when caught a chance to regain a normal life.

And no one here should be saying, but your victim doesn't get a normal life. My 'victim' was in a bar when I met her with a fake ID, and wanted to do me in the parking lot. so don't give me that weak ass song and dance.

Anonymous said...

I too have a son wrapped up in this mess because he played "Doctor" with other neighborhood kids at the age of 12. This is something many kids did when we were kids - and we would of never invisioned this type of punishment for someone so young and unable to understand that what they were doing was something that could end of labeling them as a pedephile, now branded for life. Under the age of consent, yet we hold them responsible for consenting! I have heard that some 14,000 on the registry are children. I have seen some kids as young as 8 years old visiting the juvinile justice system - held for sexual offenses. What are we doing??

Anonymous said...

Yes, we've been told "never victim bash" EVER. The problem is so many don't have a victim or had a very willing "victim". I.e. chatting with a COP is NO victim, having consensual sex with a too-young girlfriend is also not a true victim of a criminal/violent act. No, she may not consent but it sure isn't a criminal act nor violent. We've got to change the laws back to their original intent. The Jacob Wetterling Act made more sense..a private registry with only VIOLENT/DANGEROUS criminals of ALL types were listed; no consensual behaviors would have been listed nor juveniles nor online chatters flirting with a minor or a cop!

Anonymous said...

When the money of this "Cottage Industry" is take out, then the laws will change. Therapist, lawyers and probation are the true
"Rapist" here. If it was for the safety of the public. There would be Registration of drunk drivers and murders with their names and address splattered all over the net!!
Oh wait, the Politian's that write and pass this crap are all drunks that drive and hire "Hit Man" them selves. It is true shame how the political has destroyed public safety for a vote and money on the backs of those that should have never even had this seen the light of day on!!

Texas Maverick said...

02:33 If you had been at or listened to the Senate Corrections testimony you would know the problem with deregistration rules not been in place is because of additional legislation passed that halted the process. Sen Whitmire and Hinojosa were amazed they had created the obstruction and indicated they would "fix" it in the next session. Go to the archived meeting on the Senate web page and listen to the testimony. Ms. Taylor explains the problem and how it can be rectified by the Legislature so she can set up the deregistration process. Oh, another problem is the Adam Walsh Act. It would not allow for deregistration and changes from risk evaluation as the reason for registration to offense. No way to take circumstances into consideration. Strict construction of the offense only. What a way to keep people safe and due justice.

Anonymous said...

This whole sex offender issue is fueled by money and votes. The politicians get more votes when they mention getting tougher on sex offenders, and the system gets more money through parole/probation fees and weekly counseling fees, usually paid for by the families because the offender can't find work. Please read the statistics and find out the truth and stop believing all the histeria and untruths the media and politicians all trying to make us believe. Thank you Jordan Smith for the wonderful article, and thank you Grits for Breakfast for confirming it was a truthful article.

Anonymous said...

Last legislative session the majority of bills relating to sex offenders would have imposed more requirements and restrictions on ALL registered sex offenders. How many years have the elected officials of Texas raced to see who could be toughest on criminals, particularly sex offenders? Bills being introduced or passed without little thought of the consequences and with little understanding of existing laws.

For instance last session, State Representative Tan Parker authored HB 1091 which would require that the drivers licenses, personal ID cards, commercial drivers license or permit belonging to a registered sex offender state that the holder is a registered sex offender. Several individuals who testified at the hearing voiced concerns regarding cases like Harry's and the juvenile offender.

Rep Tan Parker in his closing testimony assured the committee the bill would not affect juveniles or "star crossed lovers." It is obvious, State Rep. Tan Parker didn't know the laws don't differentiate and the registry doesn't differentiate. In my opinion, Parker's actions were motivated by his political interests and not public interest.

Most will agree that guys like Harry and Martin don't belong on the registry. This wasn't the original intent of public registration. It is time for our legislators to stand strong and put an end to the injustices brought on by political wrangling.

Shelomith said...

Thank you, Scott, for weighing in on the side of reason. This age of consent issue is fraught with lack of logic and inconsistencies. Almost everywhere, a high school student can legally consent to receive birth control. Should it fail, she can legally consent to an abortion. Yet the law says she cannot legally consent to the act for which she needed the birth control or which necessitated the abortion. If anyone can explain this so that it makes sense, I'd like to see it.

Anonymous said...

Good job highlighting from the article what might (and I mean might) get a legislator's attention. We have recently learned that they do not like to read something if it is too long. In addition, there does not seem to be much interest in doing something because it is the right thing to do. However, it is getting more difficult for "public servants" to ignore ineffective and wasteful government.

Anonymous said...

While the offenders do pay hefty fees, the tax payers still pick up more than half of the cost, which I would guess is much more than being reported.

Anonymous said...

DPS like all other State agencies are having to cut their budgets, because of falling state tax revenue and the cutting of grant funds from the feds. One of the ways DPS planed to cut wasteful spending was to do away with programs that do not work, one of which was the so called “Sex Offender Registry website”. The reason for this is that DPS was fully aware that the registry does not work, it never has worked and it never will work. For years they went along with and promoted the program because both federal and state funds (tax payer funds) were rolling in. Now reality has set in and wasteful programs must be ended.

Back on Wednesday, September 8, 2010, there was an article related this one, in another publication. It was titled:

Texas sex offender registry in danger?
Proposal to kill registry was $3 million mistake, official now says.
http://www.statesman.com/news/texas-politics/texas-sex-offender-registry-in-danger-904816.html

In paragraph six of this article, a DPS spokeswoman said “It was a mistake” to do away with the sex offender website. This is nothing more than political correct speak, in that some high profile state Senator and/or Representative (it would be interesting to know who they are) needs to use the sex offender registry to work his/her constituents in to a hysterical frenzy in order to get their vote, at tax payers expense.

From it’s inception, the Sex Offender Registry has been based solely on hysteria, not logic.

Anonymous said...

There are many on the registry that have been falsely accused. An angry wife, an angry ex wife, angry child,angry girlfriend. There are many that have had their offense plead down and are not even on the registry. So, don't be fooled, the registry will not keep anyone safe from anybody.

R. Shackleford said...

Anytime you give the law more power, it inevitably gets used in ways that it was not intended to be used. The patriot act is a glaring example of this. When people vote in ridiculously broad measures based on emotion, with no thought to the consequences or potential misuse by unethical da's, this is what you get. You'd think even the idiot masses would have clued into this by now, but clearly not.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to the poster, Cathy, as my son is also caught up in the mass hysteria. Registration laws must be revised to reflect the proper and necessary monitoring of actual pedophiles to protect our children and remove the young men who made mistakes in their youth along with young women who consented and made their own mistakes too. My grandson should not have to suffer for his dad's youthful mistake. Only one mistake and his life and his family's lives are forever affected. Where is the registry for murderers, thieves, drug pushers, DUI offenders, etc. etc.? Someone MUST step up and do the right thing. Texas Voices is advocating change and doing a good job. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Liles Arnold is a slithering snake. He has caused a great deal of pain to others and has offered no real solutions except to save his own tail. God will deal with him.

Anyone who is required to register ex post facto should be removed immediately! The registry should be done away with period!

Anonymous said...

Any adult who intentionally victimizes a child should face harsh penalties...

However, the young man who meets a "woman" in a bar and has sex with her, then ends up in prison because the girl lied about her age is NOT a predator.

There is a case locally in the courts now where a 16 year old female posted several Facebook and Myspace accounts giving her ages from 20 to 28. She initiated contact with several adult men and engaged in sexual relationships with at least three of them. Now these men face prison and lifetime registration as a sex offender. And the girl?? she has not committed a crime, but she is definitely NOT a victim!!!

Anonymous said...

Wait!!
My son was 18 at the time of his offense. that made him legally by law an adult. But what they fail to understand is this! He may have been 18 in age, but wasn't nowhere near that as far as mental comprehension. He has many physical and mental dissabilitites from birth He made the mistake of doing something wrong by getting involved in a game of truth or dare with his neices and cousins, that were all under age. He was charged with Aggravated sexual battery for touching his neice on the boob. Was reduced to attempted sexual battery as part of plea agreement, but it still landed him 6 yrs of probation and at what at the time was suppose to be SOR monitoring during his probation and 10 yrs of following. It has turned into lifetime registry requirement since then. His offense was in 1995 in the state of TN. It is a lifetime requirement for him because the offense is considered a violent offense. I personally think they should take into consideration the actual offense and wether or not the defendent had ever had any other convictions, run ins with the law ect ect, and wether or not they would be likely to re-offend if they have been through counselling and the determination of such counsellor/counsellors