Lake Monroe, FL— September 25, 2013.
We Don’t Need More Sex Laws- We Need Rational Sex Laws
New sex offender laws will be considered in the upcoming legislative session, beginning March 4. Unfortunately our sex offender policies, both existing and proposed, are based on commonly held, and grossly erroneous, myths about Stranger Danger and the recidivism rate among Registered Sex Offenders (RSOs). They do not address the real risks to children.
We have seen this cycle before; a heinous crime, in this case the murder of Cherish Periwinkle by a just released rapist, is followed by sensational media coverage. Feeling pressure to do something, legislators pass new laws that broaden definitions of criminality, impose additional jail time, and add restrictions on all RSOs. These laws would cost many millions and stress law enforcement organizations across the state. Sadly, the proposed laws won’t protect children.
These laws waste precious tax dollars that would better serve needed programs, such as the failing DCF system and for family educational programs. Such educational programs should include teaching parents to not leave a child alone while shopping in another part of a store and never allowing a child to go off with a stranger no matter what the promise!
Our sex offender policies are predicated on preventing strangers from abducting and hurting children. But strangers are not the primary threat. A Bureau of Justice Statistics Study finds that 93% of sex crimes perpetrated against children are committed by people who are known and trusted within, or close to, the family. The 93% are not on the registry, which shows the necessity for better education and support throughout the public citizenship.
The second myth underlying our laws is that most RSOs will re-offend. All analysis shows this belief is wrong. A large-scale, multi-state study of sex offender recidivism by the Department of Justice found re-arrest rates among RSOs to be 3.6%. This is the lowest recidivism rate of any major category of crime except murder. And after the first three years of being released, this percentage is even less.
Instead of relying on “popular but misguided perceptions”, our laws should be built on empirical evidence. Our legislators should consult research by such respected organizations as the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers and The Journal of the American Medical Association. They should invite highly credentialed individuals, such as Dr. Jill Levinson at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Dr. Suzonne Kline, a former head of the Sexually Violent Predator program for the State of Florida, and Dr. Eric Imhof, current president of Florida Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, to participate in workshops.
Before layering on new laws, the time has come to conduct a thoughtful, comprehensive evaluation of what we have achieved/learned/spent over the last twenty years, since the enactment of The Jacob Wetterling Act.
The proposed legislation will not protect children because it does not address the source of real threats. The proposed legislation will waste more taxpayer money. And the proposed legislation will needlessly criminalize more citizens.