(Weekly Update #235)
Dear Members and Advocates,
One month ago, we made an announcement that we thought was radical. We announced that the Florida Action Committee was modifying our position to clearly and unambiguously state that we seek to abolish the registry. No more “advocates for reform” no suggestion of “baby steps” or “chipping away”, no coddling the audience. Only: the registry needs to be abolished because it doesn’t work. If baby steps come along the way, that’s great and we’ll take them, but our goal is to abolish the registry and we’ll keep working until we reach that goal.
As radical as we thought that would be, and as concerned as we were about backlash from other advocacy groups or within our membership, the push-back was practically non-existent. Response to the announcement ranged from very strong support and “yeah, that makes sense, how can we start talking about that?” to a very few objections. Their reasons for objecting were not given. But even the loss of one member is concerning to us, so we are once again addressing the rationale for the decision, and the footnotes provide the references to the supporting evidence.
When addressing any aspect of sex offender registration, we need to back up and ask the question, “why do we have this thing in the first place?” To begin that discussion, it’s important to know what the registry’s purpose is supposed to be, how the registry is supposed to achieve that purpose, and who is supposed to be benefiting from this thing. To end that discussion, it’s important to know whether the registry worked out the way it was supposed to. In this week’s update we’ll give you that answer, and if you don’t feel like reading more, the answer is NO!
According to the United States Department of Justice, sex offender registration and notification programs (which are a system for monitoring and tracking sex offenders following their release into the community) are important for public safety. The registry’s purpose is to protect the public, particularly children, the elderly and other vulnerable populations from sexual abuse.
So, according to the government, this is an effective monitoring and tracking tool that prevents people from being sexually abused, and that benefits children and other vulnerable groups. But is it? Is it really an effective monitoring and tracking tool? Does it really prevent people from sexual abuse? And does it really benefit our children?
Monitoring and Tracking. At present, there are 81,752 people on Florida’s Sex Offender Registry. Of that number, 1,028 absconded, 19,239 are incarcerated, 3,340 were deported and 709 are dead. That accounts for 29.4% of the list.
Of the remainder, 26,969 are on the Florida Registry but reside in another state or country. These people who moved out of Florida (or merely visited here but will forever remain on the registry) account for another 33% of the registry. What does Florida do to monitor and track these people who account for one-third of its registry? If the answer is nothing, their continuing presence on the list undermines the US DOJ’s stated purpose that it be a monitoring and tracking tool.
Put another way, only 37% of the people on Florida’s sex offender registry are actually in the community. That’s ridiculous! How can Florida’s registry be a useful monitoring and tracking tool if two-thirds of the names on it are a distraction? It’s not a directory or notification of who to watch out for. Florida’s sex offender registry is more like a shell game where you have a one in three chance of finding someone that is actually in the community.
Protection from Sexual Assault. If the sex offender registry was effective at preventing sexual crimes it would be one thing, but a meta-study analyzing more than 25 years of research found that the registry does not reduce sexual or non-sexual recidivism. Not at all.
This isn’t news. The aforementioned study analyzed decades of earlier research and tracked hundreds of thousands of people on the registry. This is not a hypothesis or an aberrant finding. It is a scientific fact based on numerous studies, that the sex offender registry does nothing to make the public safer or prevent sex crimes!
To the contrary, the registry provides a false sense of security by ignoring the fact that more than ninety-five percent (95%) of sexual offenses are committed by someone not on the registry. As to those who are on the list, studies show that registered sex offenders become more likely to commit crime when their information is made public because the associated psychological, social, or financial costs make crime more attractive. The consequential employment and housing instability caused by registration increases recidivism, absconding, addiction and other societal problems.
Benefiting Children. Media and political rhetoric about child sexual abuse is largely responsible for the false public perception people have about the registry and sex crimes in general. In Florida, this rhetoric and the support behind it is amplified by magnitudes because of a certain father-daughter/lobbyist-senator team that controls sex offender policy in this state. They have been perpetuating the “it’s not a matter of if, but when” myth for their own self-serving purpose, for years.
Each year, despite the obvious conflict of interest, Senator Lauren Book votes to award her own charity, Lauren’s Kids, millions of dollars in Florida taxpayer money. Lawmakers go along with it because her dad is one of the most influential lobbyists in the state and a huge political donor. Among his client roster is Geo Group, a for-profit company which contracts with the state to provide prison and correctional services – a huge beneficiary of the bills Senator Book introduces.
This implied suspicion is not intended to question Senator Book’s sincerity when it comes to protecting children – just many of her policies. Equally questionable is the motivation behind these “multi-day, multi-agency, task force operations” where thousands of law enforcement officers are paid millions of dollars in overtime each year to crack down on people who (often unknowingly) overlook a benign registration requirement that would not be unlawful under any normal circumstances, except that the target is on the registry.
The whole scheme begs investigation into whether this narrative of harms reflects the welfare of children, or the interests of law enforcement agencies and organizations owned by (or clients of) the people advocating for them, who profit handsomely off this narrative. The studies show, conclusively, it’s not the children.
So why do we still have this thing? We started this dialogue with the question, ‘why do we need this thing in the first place?’ and we now know that we don’t. It might have been well intended when it started off, but today it’s a costly and destructive failed policy. Plain and simple.
Knowing that, let’s conclude this dialogue with the question, ‘so why do we still have this thing?’ That answer is simpler – Because it’s politically popular and it gives a misinformed people the illusion that they are safer. That’s why, despite the voluminous evidence demonstrating the registry is ineffective, this thing still exists.
With all that said, political popularity is not a legitimate interest sufficient to overcome a constitutional infirmity, and “feeling” safer does not equate to being safer, especially when that feeling is a false sense of security.
For the above reasons, the registry needs to be abolished!
The Florida Action Committee
Footnotes: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-ceos/sex-offender-registration-and-notification-act-sorna  https://smart.ojp.gov/somapi/chapter-8-sex-offender-management-strategies  https://smart.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh231/files/media/document/final_sornaguidelines.pdf  https://offender.fdle.state.fl.us/offender/publicDataFile.jsf  Zgoba, K.M., Mitchell, M.M. The effectiveness of Sex Offender Registration and Notification: A meta-analysis of 25 years of findings. J Exp Criminol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-021-09480-z  https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/231989.pdf  Levenson, J. S., Ackerman, A. R., Socia, K. M., & Harris, A. J. (2015). Where for Art Thou? Transient Sex Offenders and Residence Restrictions. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 26(4), 319-344. doi:10.1177/0887403413512326  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2017/03/09/the-big-lie-about-sex-offenders/  https://www.floridabulldog.org/2021/05/new-senate-democratic-leader-lauren-book-conflict-of-interest/
ANNOUNCEMENTS – MARK YOUR CALENDARS
Next Monthly Membership Meeting – Thursday November 3 at 8pm ET. Call 319-527-3487. Topic: Long-Term Care for Aging Registered Citizens with Guest Stephanie Jerstad PhD, Millersville University. Trouble connecting? Text CALL ME to 319-527-3487 to received a call back and be connected to the meeting.
See Calendar of Events – Keep up with Meet-and-Greets in your area, Support groups, Membership Calls, and other events. For questions and more information contact the Membership Team; [email protected] or call 833-273-7325,Option 1.
Click Here for Calendar, and double click on the event to view details and RSVP instructions. Just some of the upcoming events below.
Sat Oct 22 – Hernando/Brooksville Meet FAC reps Joel and Robb -2-4pm. For location RSVP to [email protected] or call 833-273-7325 Option 1
Sat Oct 22 -Sarasota/Manatee Meet FAC Reps Jennifer and Chris -1-4pm For location RSVP to [email protected] or call 941-500-4706.
Sat Oct 22 – Duval/Jacksonville. Meet FAC Reps Brad and Cindy for a Pot Luck dinner 3:00-5:30pm For location RSVP to [email protected] or call/text (904) 300-0109.
Sat Oct 29 -Lee County Meet-and-Greet has been Canceled. We hope that local members are safe and have the resources and support that they need. For assistance or just need someone to talk to, reach out to your FAC representatives [email protected] or text/call 941-315-7914
Sat Oct 29 – Orange-Seminole Meet-and Greet with a special guest and discussion on Civil Commitment: Intent vs Reality- Apopka (Orange County) – FAC is hosting the visit of a research Sociologist from University of South Carolina, Greensboro in preparation of his research on Civil Commitment. He is interested in meeting and talking to persons that have knowledge and experience with the Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia FL. Former residents, family members, professionals are invited to join us to identify issues/concerns, understand the intent vs reality of the system, and to identify the areas of research that need to be studied to support changes. For location and details RSVP to [email protected] or call 833-273-7325,Option 1.
Become a County Coordinator. The only requirement is your desire to HELP us organize your county. If you are interested in joining the County Coordinator Team, leave message at 833-273-7325, Option 1, or email [email protected]
Letter-Writing Campaigns – If you would like to participate in sending educational information to specific decision makers in Florida, please contact [email protected]. Volunteers must be willing to proudly identify themselves by using their own name and return address on the letters.
SOME HEADLINES FROM THIS WEEK
The City of Gainesville is considering rolling back the sex offender residency restrictions to the State Statute (1,000 feet) from its current 2500 feet. FAC supports this move and we ask our members to share their support with the city commission. Please click on the…
Nearly 270 public educators were arrested on child sex-related crimes in the U.S. in the first nine months of this year, ranging from grooming to raping underage students. An analysis conducted by Fox News Digital found that from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, at least 269…
Lincolnshire Police have removed 72 people from the Sex Offenders Register in the last five years. Those sentenced to more than 30 months for a sex-related crime can be required to register with police for life. But in 2010 the Supreme Court ruled offenders should…
Source: ACSOL An amended complaint was filed in federal district court yesterday in the lawsuit challenging SORNA regulations which became effective in January 2022. The amended complaint adds three plaintiffs using the pseudonyms “John Does 2, 3 and 4.” The amended…
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