September 25, 2013
Contact: Gail Colletta
Lake Monroe, FL— September 25, 2013.
Legislators Meet to Discuss Failures in Sexually Violent Predator Program.
This week in Tallahassee, legislators are meeting to discuss failures in the Civil Commitment program for Sexually Violent Predators and in Sex Offender Management. The meetings are being held in response to a Sun-Sentinel series which found individuals who could (and arguably should) have been held under civil commitment, but went on to commit heinous crimes.
The meetings highlighted the need to apply proven tools, such as risk assessments to distinguish between high and low risk offenders and then apply safeguards appropriately so that cases don’t fall through the cracks.
We all agree that the systems we have in place right now are not working. Instead of piling on more ineffective laws to an already bloated and failing system, we need to examine what is and what is not effective, listen to the psychological experts, review the studies and apply resources being wasted on what is not working towards programs that are.
For example; significant probation resources are being misspent on registrant housing in light of residency restrictions. Despite the fact that studies have consistently shown that residency restrictions have no impact on public safety and may, in fact, increase risk by destabilizing former offenders, residency ordinances continue to be passed. If legislators actually wanted to improve public safety, efforts would be applied elsewhere.
The other problem is that the net has been cast far too broadly. Resources applied to low risk offenders who are extremely unlikely to reoffend are detracting from those who require enhanced supervision and are truly dangerous. Someone who had a consensual relationship with a slightly underage partner or who is a first-time, non-contact offender, should not be listed alongside a child molester with an extensive criminal history, or subject to the same restrictions – but they are.
What became apparent in listening to the meetings was that “sex offender”, “predator” and “sexually violent predator” were used interchangeably and that the legislature does not have a full understanding that we are talking about completely different classifications of individuals with different risk levels that require different levels of supervision.
The final expert to testify before the Senate committee yesterday was Dr. Robin J. Wilson, a researcher, educator, and board certified clinical psychologist who has worked with persons with sexual and social behavior problems in hospital, correctional, and private practice settings for more than 30 years. He suggested; “we need to go back to the risk principle. Those people who are at the highest risk require the highest intervention. Those people who are at the lowest risk probably don’t require a lot and they certainly don’t require all the best stuff that we have.” “When we institute law, we need to be mindful of this,” Dr. Wilson cautioned, “we are going to spend an awful lot of time over-supervising people who probably don’t need that level, perhaps at the risk of not having enough time or resources for those who do.”
Florida Action Committee (FAC), founded in 2006, is a state-wide consortium of concerned citizens and professionals whose purpose is to promote the prevention of sexual abuse while preserving the safety and dignity of all citizens through carefully structured laws targeting the truly violent, forced, and/or dangerous predatory acts of sex. FAC believes that many aspects of the current approach to sex offenders seriously undermine justice and actually increase the threat of sexual assault against others, particularly children. FAC opposes a publicized registry of sex offenders and seeks to bring an end to the humiliation of people who have already paid for their crimes. FAC asserts that only by supporting justice for all people—offenders and victims alike can a truly safe society be built and secured for all Americans.