The War on Sex Offenders, Robert Tronge
It Has Never Been Officially Called a War; Nevertheless the Multitude of Laws Governing Sex Offences and Sex Offenders are Mountainous
Overview of the widest reaching Sex Offender Laws
1994: The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act passed, requiring states to implement a sex offender and crimes against children registry.
1996: Megan’s Law amends the Wetterling Act, requiring states to establish a community notification system. The Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act of 1996 becomes an amendment to the Wetterling Act, requiring lifetime registration for recidivists and offenders who commit certain aggravated offenses.
1998: Provisions contained in Section 115 of the General Provisions of Title I of the Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (CJSA) amend the requirements of the Wetterling Act to include heightened registration requirements for sexually violent offenders, registration of federal and military offenders, registration of nonresident workers and students, and participation in the National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR).
2000: The Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act amends the Wetterling Act, requiring offenders to report information regarding any enrollment or employment at an institution of higher education and to provide this information to a law enforcement agency whose jurisdiction includes the institution.
2006: The sex offender registration provision of the Adam Walsh Act (AWA), known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), replaces the Jacob Wetterling Act.
How widespread are sex offences?
To put these numbers into perspective lets consider other crimes against children.
Type of Crime
Out of School
Laws such as these were written after the highly publicized murders or disappearances of young people, most but not all of whom were young children (minors).
We all want to protect our children, but how great a threat are sex offenders?
Stranger Abductions of Children Are Rare - An FBI spokeswoman says, “it may appear there’s a crime wave” -- but she says “that’s just not the case.”
“Child abductions are rare, stranger abductions even rarer - Kidnapping makes up less than 2 percent of all violent crimes against juveniles reported to police, with stranger kidnapping being the most uncommon form of reported kidnappings, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.”1 “Sex offenders were less likely than non-sex offenders to be rearrested for any offense” –– Anderson Cooper.2 It would seem that as with other classes of criminals, political leaders have used sex offenders to further their careers, while at the same time the media has used such tragic stories for viewership. It seems that both groups have exaggerated the truth about the danger these people pose.
NYS DPCA Research Bulletin: Sex Offender Assessment – “Research on a sample of 917 sex offenders on probation across the U.S. in 17 states from 1986 to 1989 indicates that while under probation supervision, 11.7% were arrested for a non-sex offense during a three year follow-up period, and 4.5% were arrested for a new sex crime within four years” (Meloy, 2005).
Another study involving sex offender probationers revealed that “after five years, 5.6% were arrested for a new sex offense.” (Krutschnitt, Uggen and Shelton, 2000). Note that both of these statistics are those arrested, not convicted.3
“New research in California shows that only a tiny fraction – 3.38 percent – of released sex offenders are convicted of a new sex offense within 10 years of release.4
Are the sex offender laws effective?
Megan’s Law: Does it protect children? “Most states have very little evidence on the actual impact of community notification on their jurisdiction. Most of the understood benefits of the laws are based on assumptions about the nature of sexual offending and the behavior of parents and community members. Such assumptions are rarely supported through research, but continue to legitimize the law for law enforcement workers and members of the public”6
Residency Restrictions; How Law Enforcement Views Them
“Some of the city’s sex-offender population has come to Los Angeles from surrounding cities that have passed additional sex-offender laws that make it next to impossible for offenders to find a place to live and push them to look elsewhere. Los Angeles does not have any additional laws on its books, making it a feasible destination.”
Webb went on to say, “There is no correlation between recidivism rates and where offenders live.”
What is the AWA, will it be effective, and cost effective?
The federal government requires every state to implement the AWA. Failure of implementation will cost a state 10% of their Byrne grant law enforcement assistance funds. What the government has stated in this requirement is not that the state will be given money for implementing the AWA, so if a state fails to implement the AWA that state will have money subtracted from its law enforcement grant fund.
“What is the true cost of the AWA?” The federal government estimated $6.00 for every person living in the U.S.A. This cost does not include running the program and the increased costs for more offenders being added to the registry. An estimated 1.8 billion dollars per year.
The cost for this law, much like the cost of the War on Drugs is staggering.
Since this law costs so much, how effective is it? We still do not know the answer to that question. The AWA has been challenged in courts across the country and many of its provisions have been found unconstitutional. The Constitution was written to protect us, all of us, from corrupt government. If we go ahead and pass unconstitutional laws against any group, no matter how much we hate that group, we all lose. Many of the AWA’s provisions require ex-post-facto (after the fact) implementation and the U.S. Constitution and every state constitution forbids ex-post-facto laws.
They Ignored the Experts
Sex offenders comprise on average:
“By focusing on a small number of known offenders, the system may detract attention from more common crimes such as intra-familial abuse, leaving parents and children vulnerable to abuse from people known to them.” We cannot count current registry, residency, travel and employment laws targeting sex offenders as being worth the money being spent on them. Many experts point to better, more effective solutions. However, until the public becomes educated, we can expect to see a proliferation of expensive, ineffective, and most likely unconstitutional laws targeting a growing percentage of our population. Remember that laws requiring sex offenders to register on a public website, can be expanded to include other offender groups. In fact this is already happening. In the near future you can expect to see registries for the following:
Will you be on an offender registry in the near future? And if you do end
up on one, how will it affect your life, your spouse’s life, you children’s
lives? All it will take is one mistake, one false accusation, one new law
that you did not know about. Or even simpler than that, perhaps you
committed a crime many years in the past. Yes, you too can become a
registered offender with travel restrictions, residency restrictions and
employment restrictions. Think about this the next time you want to push for
more registry laws.
Sex Offender Solutions & Education Network
Robert George Tronge has read this article with Robert G Tronge