Saturday, December 16, 2006

Sex offender registry filled with errors

What good is a sex offender registry if the information in it isn't correct?

Joshunda Sanders reports in the Austin Statesman that information in the Austin PD's sex offender database doesn't match that in Texas' statewide database, and both contain data that's inaccurate and outdated. In one case Austin actually posted the photo of the wrong person online beside information from a registered sex offender.

Even if the information was accurate, it wouldn't help much. Most sex crimes aren't committed by people on the list. I couldn't find more recent stats, but according to the Department of Justice, "Of the 9,691 male sex offenders released from prisons in 15 States in 1994, 5.3% were rearrested for a new sex crime within 3 years of release."

We've now reached a stage in the public debate about sex offenders where politics has utterly trumped reason. The politically popular sex offender registration system in Texas is a complete mess and doesn't make anyone safer. Mostly it's just a source of media hype - providing fodder for useless "analysis" by reporters that fill the public with anxiety but really help no one. (I suppose it also gives prosecutors an extra set of technical violations to use to try to get probation revocations.)

Indeed, inaccurate information in the database such as the Statesman describes inevitably serves to manufacture unjustified fears based on bad data or even a false sense security when an offender isn't listed accurately. Plus, Texas has added too many low-level crimes to the registry - it's not just rapists and child molesters, but everyone from pimps to 19 year olds convicted of statutory rape for consensual relationships. With monitoring resources spread so thin - we're wasting community supervision resources on low-level people while the folks we need to be watching closely receive too little scrutiny.

Sure, the sex offender registration sounds good in theory. But in practice it's basically useless to the public, and when it's filled with errors and omissions it becomes actively harmful. At this point, I can't identify any real public safety use for it at all. All that appears to be left is it's PR value.

UPDATE: Corey Yung at the Sex Crimes Blog says similar accuracy problems with sex offender registration databases have arisen in Missouri and Iowa.


Anonymous said...

Would the kindergarten kid who nuzzled a teacher be in the registry? How about the kindergarten girl charged with 'inappropriate touching' of two other kindergarten girls?

I think people go against sex offenders simply because they are the most vulnerable to harrassment.

I would feel far safer if this effort were put into public registration of police officers convicted of crimes. We know these people are dangerous, and we know they usually get back into law enforcement because background checks never seem able to turn them up.

Anonymous said...

We have a similar problem here in the UK, and I have long been against the SO register being in the public domain: it serves absolutely no use to Joe Blogs in the street, it DOES NOT keep children safe, and leads to many cases of vigilante action against people mistakenly identified AND against families of those who have committed crimes in the past. We even had a case of vigillante action against a Paedeatrician, because the idoits didnt know the difference.

How exactly is knowing that a SO lives on your street meant to keep your child safer than not knowing? As you say Grits, most perpetrators arent actually on the register, and MOST are family members or well known friends of the family, rarely is it strangers who commit these crimes. If you want your child safe, then monitor internet use (but again, I think this is a highly exaggerated area of potential child abuse), dont let young girls dress as whores, set and enforce curfews, and know where your kids are as much as possible. Bottom line is, the resposibility for safety is with the parent, not society at large, and unfortunately some people just shouldnt be parents in the first place.
{I'm just back from Texas, and am now Mrs Sunray ;) }

Anonymous said...

* If the sex offender laws are kept, why discriminate? If sex offenders must suffer for life and be on GPS, so should ANYONE with a criminal record. If this is not done, then it is discrimination. Anyone with a criminal record should be on a registry on the internet for the whole world to see, and be on GPS for life. DUI offenders should not be able to live XX feet from an alcohol store and should have their license revoked. Drug dealers should not be able to live XX feet from anywhere children congregate, so they cannot sell our kids drugs. Murderers should not be able to life XX feet from ANYONE, since they may kill again. DUI offenders kill more people than any other crime (I believe), and I'm sure the entire public would love to know if a murderer, thief, drug dealer, etc lives in their neighborhood. If all this was on the internet for all to see, I'm sure everyone would NOT leave their house at all. These people are everywhere. Why are sex offenders being "scape goated"? EVERYONE WITH A CRIMINAL RECORD SHOULD OBIDE BY THE SAME LAWS SEX OFFENDERS HAVE TO OR IT'S DISCRIMINATION!!

* "Buffer Zones" are a false sense of security!

* "Buffer Zones" are banishing people from their town, state, and possibly the country!

* "Buffer Zones" create homelessness, which costs society lost productivity, individual dignity, and creates additional problems for enforcing any accurate registry!

* "Buffer Zones" do nothing, except banish! If someone wanted to re-offend, they'd just get in a car and drive!

* These laws protect nobody!

* "Stranger Danger" is a smoke screen & hype! Most child sexual offenses occur by someone the child knows, like a family member or close friend!

* These laws are being passed by politicians using sex offenders as scape goats, for votes!

* Registries do NOT protect anyone or prevent crimes!

* Registries are punishing sex offenders as well as their families and children, and opening them up to vigilantism. DON'T THE FAMILIES AND CHILDREN OF SEX OFFENDERS COUNT? They are suppose to be "for the children", right?

* Registries are NOT being updated in a timely fashion, so the public is getting false information! How is this helping the public or protecting them when they cannot rely on them?

* Registries are putting families and children of sex offenders in a public position to be socially outcast and discriminated against with regard to employment, housing, schooling, etc!

* About 90% of the people on the registry are NOT sexual predators or pedophiles that these laws were for in the first place!

* These laws cost millions, if not billions to enforce, and they cause prison over-population, which is already a problem, especially in California! AND TAX PAYERS PAY FOR ALL THIS!

* GPS does not prevent sexual crimes! Another false sense of security which cost tons of money! Plus they are suppose to pay for this, which will eventually go homeless. MAKE THE TAX PAYERS WHO WANT THESE LAWS TO PAY FOR THEM!

* These laws cause sex offenders to go underground and into hiding, due to the strict nature of the laws! How is this protecting anyone?

* These laws are all abount money for law enforcement and votes for politicians. Prison is a business! Politicians are salaried and want elected/re-elected! Law enforcement get paid for people in jails, prisons or on the registry!

* These laws blatantly disregard the United States constitutional rights of all citizens! (i.e. ex-post facto, due process & others)

* These laws are cruel and unusual punishment! A sex offender cannot go to a fast food restaurant which has a playground! Why? We have just as must of a right as you to get a burger! Plus they cannot go anywhere kids congregate, which is endless (i.e. Amusement parks, Movie theaters, the list is endless)

* Sex offenders can go to church, but must leave immediately afterwards. If a sex offender owns a business and someone decides to put a church or school next door, they have to now sell their business and move. This is not right, move the church or school, the sex offender was there first!

* These laws continue to punish people even after a sentence has been served, and they are trying to get on with their lives! (i.e. ex-post facto)

* These laws are driven by fear-mongering, opportunistic politicians and will do nothing to actually protect children!

* There are over one million women and children whose lives are inter-twined with a sex offender in the United Stated. They should matter too!

* Follow the money trail, these laws are conveyor-belt laws to benefit law enforcement! They get paid for the number of people in jail, prison or on the registry!

* They are currently a one-size-fits all for sex offenders! Not all sex offenders are predators or pedophiles that these laws are suppose to be for anyway!

* They are modern day witch hunts and a scarlett letter!

* If Sex Offenders are re-offending, why does the registries grow each day? Because new people are being added daily for stuff like "public urination", "mooning", "concensual sex", "young children playing 'Doctor'" and various other minor offenses that we need not worry about. We need to worry about predators & pedophiles!

* Now they are trying to make it a law that a sex offender, if they have kids, cannot "take a picture" of anyone under 18. This is totally stupid! Can't even take Christmas pictures, birthday pictures, etc!

* Also, because a sex offender owns a business in town, many people are trying to get the business shut down! The sex offender had the business for awhile. If you don't like it, MOVE!!!!

* The Nazi' did this back when Hitler was in power, with the Jews, Turks, etc.

* The thing about pedophiles not being able to take pictures of kids is stupid. You'd better shred any pictures you have of your kids when they were babies, like diaper changing, baths, etc, it may be seen as porn!


Anonymous said...

How about creating an environment that is SO friendly, even welcoming?

That's the vision of Open Arms, Utah.

Anonymous said...

A streaker with a public defender gets 10 years,
a child molester employing the same attorney gets 4 years.
They all attend the same group therapy, and pay for the privelege of "relating" to each other. Yeah, right.
The streaker is registered for life along with the rest. Some one gets ticked off at him and posts fliers all over town.
He's learned never, ever, to play truth or dare again, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

I don't think
i should have to pay taxes, schools,recreation, and ect.if i'm not allowed to go to these places then why do i have to pay for it.also i have a twin brother who is subject to harrassment.

Anonymous said...

My brother was convicted of voyeurism a couple of years ago while working with several others on a political film project. He was forced into a plea agreement then released and his evaluation was delayed until after he was convicted. the findings proved that he is asexual, someone who is NOT sexualy attracted to anyone, and that there was no sexual motivation. Infact there was nothing sexual about it, nor was there any nudity.

What i can't understand is why he still has to register. I thought the sex offender registry was for those that pose a risk to the public?

Anonymous said...

The registry is a joke before long everyone will be on it. How can we do this to children for their curiosity for life. We have sex on commercials, billboards, tv cartoons and the internet. How do we keep this from them? How do we expect them not to experiment? Now we punish them for life? Post their picture like a hardened criminal?

Anonymous said...

A person who completed their sentence before the registry started should not be placed on the registry but they do any way all states must remove the registry because it takes away their constitution rights and void their civil rights their are strict laws like title 42 1983 for anyone trying to take away any civil rights but the registry says its not a punishment and dose not effect your civil rights no matter who you are when they take away from one it takes away from all think about it