Some policy makers are starting to listen to the concerns of registered citizens and their family members. Now is not the time to let up but to continue to be strong as a united force. In the past, proposed restrictions or laws would pass immediately without pause or discussion…but no more. We are seeing change happen in county and city meetings where decision makers are not so quick to agree to more restrictions; instead, they are questioning the need, asking for more data, and searching for rational changes. Our voices are being heard.
Volusia County council members are considering drafting a sex offender ordinance that would extend the residency restrictions in the unincorporated parts of the county from the state’s 1000 feet to 1500 feet.
Currently there are three complexes in the western part of the unincorporated sections of the county where the landlords will accept registrants. If the residency restrictions are expanded to 1500 feet, only one of the three complexes meets the residency requirement.
If you have not already viewed the video of the Oct. 17 Volusia meeting, it would be helpful to do so before communicating with the councilmen. The video can be viewed here.
The council is also considering possibly charging fees for registration and re-registration.
After a long lobbying effort by our FAC members this past June, the proposal to draft this ordinance was pulled. But the councilman who is pushing for the ordinance came back at the October 17 meeting with what he feels is proof that such an ordinance is needed. There was misinformation given out by this councilman that needs to be corrected.
The next meeting is November 7. This process is still in the beginning stages where the county attorney is gathering data to bring back to the council. No sex offender ordinance has been drafted at this time.
What Needs to Be Done:
Please contact the Volusia County council members, letting them know that you OPPOSE the drafting of this ordinance. Ask family and friends to also contact the Volusia County council members.
If you happen to live in Volusia County, be sure to make the council members aware of this.
Continue to be courteous in your communications as they are more likely to listen to us if they do not feel under attack.
Corrections need to be made concerning some misinformation given out by Councilman Robins.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO USE OUR TALKING POINTS. THEY ARE ONLY SUGGESTIONS FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE AT A LOSS FOR WHAT TO WRITE. ONLY PICK THE TALKING POINTS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO INCLUDE AS THERE ARE FAR TOO MANY TO USE IN YOUR COMMUNICATIONS.
(Policy makers tend to request government studies, so some have been included.)
- For those of us who do not live in Volusia County, our concern is that similar ordinances based on myths rather than research-based facts could spread to our county.
- At the Tampa City council meeting on October 19, council members requested a report from Dr. Bryanna Fox, a professor and criminologist at the University of South Florida, on the effectiveness of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORN). Her extensive search of relevant studies showed that SORN has not reduced sexual recidivism rates. SORN is not working. Tampa council members are trying to make policies based on research. For the safety of all citizens of Volusia County, council members need to base their decisions on research, not myths. Check out the video of the October 19 Tampa meeting at tampa.gov here.
- Volusia Councilman Robins wants a safer Volusia. How will forcing more registrants into homelessness make Volusia safer?
- All research shows that for an individual who has been released from prison to reintegrate successfully back into society as a law-abiding citizen, three things are needed: (1) a job; (2) family/community support; and (3) a place to live. Without any one of these three needs being met, it is more difficult to achieve the goal of a successful reintegration, increasing the likelihood of re-offending. Volusia County is less safe with individuals being forced into homelessness. Being homeless can cause a person to become desperate just to survive.
- Councilman Robins stated that Volusia has a “high potential of sexual offenders who are among the transient population with no recorded or traceable address.”
- According to the OPPAGA GOVERNMENT 2021 Triennial Report, Volusia County had 7.4% of its registrants who were homeless. Only 5 other Florida counties had a homeless rate among its registrants that was higher. Ninety-one percent of Florida counties have a lower homeless rate among its “sex offender” population. Why is Volusia among the top 9% of counties when it comes to “sex offender” homelessness? Because of New Smyrna Beach’s, Daytona Beach’s, and Deltona’s 2500-foot residency restriction. If the unincorporated part of the county does expand its restrictions to 1500 feet, the county will only go higher in its ranking for homelessness among it registered citizens. This is not good for anyone. (Sex Offender Registration and Monitoring Triennial Review compiled by OPPAGA — Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability – 2021 Report, pages 25-26)
- Robins said that people have a responsibility to establish a residence and there is growth in the county, but how much of this growth will be affordable and meet the requirements of the residency restrictions? Very little.
- According to the FDLE website, Volusia County has 209 people on the registry 65 years old or older. Many of these people will need long-term care at some point in their life. There are probably no facilities that can accept registrants in Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, or Deland because of their 2500 residency restrictions. How many facilities could also be impacted by expanding the residency restrictions in the unincorporated areas of the county? Where will these people go when they become bedridden or in the last stages of dementia?
- There has been no mention of any new sex offenses being committed in Volusia County by registrants. Isn’t this what society is most concerned about? Yet, Robins says that an ordinance will prevent future sex offenses.
- Monitoring hundreds of registrants in Volusia who are not sexually re-offending and never will is not the answer.
- Research shows at least 90% of future sex crimes will be committed by people NOT on the registry. While using so many resources on hundreds of registrants in Volusia County who will never sexually re-offend, what is being done to stop the future perpetrators of sex crime that are NOT on the registry, NOT on the radar for law enforcement? What prevention plan is Volusia County preparing to implement? How are parents being educated to prevent their children from becoming a victim?
- It was stated that Volusia is defending career criminals. We shared with the council members back in June the research showing that most registrants do not sexually recidivate. Ask for the council member to present the research at the next meeting that shows that people with a past sex offense are all career criminals.
- Councilman Robins said 20% of perpetrators are NOT known by their victims, meaning they are strangers.
- Most research says 5% to 10% are strangers. There is one study that uses the 20%, but all other studies found from 5 to 10% of perpetrators for minors were strangers. Through this councilman’s entire presentation, there is always a slant to make things look worse than they are. The 20% study is an outlier. Ask Robins to present multiple studies showing that 20% of perpetrators are NOT known by their victims.
- GOVERNMENT STUDY:
- Ninety-three percent of victims under the age of 18 know their abuser.
- GOVERNMENT STUDY:
- Victim-offender relationship in sexual assault:
- Age 0 to 5 – Stranger 3.1% of the time
- Age 6 to 11 – Stranger 4.7% of the time
- Age 12 to 17 – Stranger 9.8% of the time
- https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf (Page 10)
- What about the innocent people on the registry that Councilman Dempsey has referred to, who would also be subjected to any ordinance that might be passed?
- Florida Statute 794.022 states that the testimony of the victim need not be corroborated in a prosecution under s. 787.06, s. 794.011, or s. 800.04. At one time in Florida, it took some evidence besides the testimony of one person to prosecute someone. Now it is “he said, she said” for some alleged offenses.
- All research has shown that residency restrictions are ineffective, giving people a false sense of security. Request Robins make available his research showing that increasing the residency restrictions to 1500 feet will make Volusia citizens safer.
- GOVERNMENT STUDY: SMART (Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking with the U. S. Department of Justice) found through its research that residency restrictions do not work: https://www.doc.ks.gov/publications/CFS/sex-offender-housing-restrictions (page 4)
- Robins stated that someone classified as a sex offender is a person who committed a sex offense against a minor. Not true.
- There are also people on the registry whose victim was not a minor but was an adult. There are people on the registry who are innocent, but because of the legal system, as Councilman Dempsey pointed out, are coerced into taking a plea deal rather than play Russian Roulette with a jury. There are also people on the registry who were 18 years old or older and had consensual sexual relations with a 17-year-old. This is not illegal in at least half the states in the United States, but it is illegal in Florida. Use other examples that you are aware of.
- Robins referred to Statute 775.21 which states: “Sexual offenders are extremely likely to use physical violence and to repeat their offenses…The high level of threat that a sexual predator presents to the public safety, and the long-term effects suffered by victims of sex offenses, provide the state with sufficient justification to implement a strategy.”Robins referred to Statute 943.0435, saying that sexual offenders, especially those who have committed offenses against minors, often pose a high risk of engaging in sexual offenses even after being released from incarceration.Research that contradicts the above statements:
- GOVERNMENT STUDY: “Furthermore, in New York, of the 11,898 registered sex offenders released from prison between 1985 and 2001, 251 (2.1%) were returned to prison for another sex crime. The Arizona Department of Corrections reported that between 1984 and 1998, the recidivism rate for sex offenders was 5.5%, and Ohio reported that sex offenders released from prison in 1989 had a 10-year recidivism rate of 8%. According to the US Department of Justice, registered sex offenders are the least likely class of criminals to re-offend, with 3.5% of registered sex offenders released from prison in 1994 being reconvicted for another sexual offense within 3 years of their release. Finally, Harris and Hanson found that the risk for recidivating decreases significantly over time, with most re-offenses occurring within 5 years of the original conviction.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2820068/
- GOVERNMENT STUDY: U.S. Department of Justice: Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from State Prison: 9-Year Follow-Up (2005-14): The U. S. Department of Justice May of 2019 Recidivism Report found that released inmates in 30 states, whose most serious offense was rape or sexual assault, were arrested at a rate of 7.7% for rape or sexual assault over the 9-year period from 2005 to 2014. That means that 92.3% did NOT sexually re-offend. This study only considered rape and sexual assault. When all sexual offenses are included, the rate is lower.
- American Law Institute: In June of 2021 the American Law Institute (ALI), probably the most honored non-governmental law reform organization in the country, which includes top federal appeals judges, along with law professors and other legal experts, proposed major changes to the state sex offense registries. One reason cited was that research shows a relatively low sexual recidivism rate after being caught and serving time in prison. (See page 484 of the report.)
- Also on page 484, footnote 23 of the ALI report is found: “as few as 5.3% [of sex offenders] re-offend within three years, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as opposed to rates in the 65% to 80% range for drug offenders and thieves.” (Stuart A. Scheingold et al., Sexual Violence, Victim Advocacy, and Republican Criminology: Washington State’s Community Protection Act (1994), 28 LAW & SOC’Y REV. 729, 743)
- As to Robins’ assertion that more offenses occur than are reported, there is some evidence that there have been some offenses not reported for certain individuals BEFORE being caught and sent to prison, but there is no evidence showing that there are unreported sex offenses for people with a past sex offense AFTER serving out their sentence. Ask Robins to provide the research showing that this occurs AFTER release for people on the registry.
- Councilman Robins stated that Volusia is in the top 5 ranked counties (for number of registrants) within the state along with Pinellas, Hillsborough, Duval, and Orange Counties.
- As of October 30, 2023, the FDLE website shows that Volusia is listed as 12th with 914 registrants. Brevard and Pasco follow closely with 911. Basically, Volusia is in the top 14 counties in the state when it comes to number of registrants – not the top 5. (A copy of this report is being mailed to the Volusia County Council members.)
- Concern was expressed at the October 17 council meeting about the growing number of “sex offenders” in Volusia County.
- This is a statewide problem as Florida is one of only 3 states in the nation where placement on the registry is for life; therefore, our registry numbers will only continue to increase while 47 other states will not.
- Robins stated at the October 17 meeting that law enforcement officials in Volusia County support expanding the residency restrictions. Why? Some states do not have residency restrictions and their rates for sex crimes are not higher than Florida’s.
- Why the state of KANSAS does not have residency restrictions – the 20 findings of research in Iowa all showing that residency restrictions do NOT work. (Kansas Department of Corrections, “Sex Offender Housing Restrictions,” https://www.doc.ks.gov/publications/CFS/sex-offender-housing-restrictions)
- Why MARYLAND does not have residency restrictions – because evidence shows that residency restrictions do NOT help to prevent sexual offenses from occurring because the victims and the offenders, in most situations, know each other. (Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services, “Sex Offender Registry FAQs”, see question 15, https://www.dpscs.state.md.us/onlineservs/sor/frequently_asked_questions.shtml)
Concerning the proposed fees to be collected:
- It was stated at the meeting that officials can legally collect fees for a service that is provided, making it no different than applying for a building permit or car tag. But these are choices you can chose to make or not make. The registry is forced upon people – there is no choice or ability to opt out.
- It was stated that people with a past sex offense already had reduced court costs, a public defender, and so on. Share with the council members if you did not receive reduced costs but had to pay full amounts out of pocket.
- The implication was made at the October 17 meeting that the county is having to pick up all costs while omitting the fact that Florida receives money for being substantially compliant in implementing SORNA.
- Since Florida is substantially compliant with SORNA (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act), it is receiving money from the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funds. Criminal justice programs can use these funds to support a range of criminal justice purposes. In federal Fiscal Year 2021, the federal government allocated approximately $10.9 million in JAG funds to Florida. Local county and municipal governments in Florida are also eligible to receive Justice Administrative Grants. In 2021, $6.1 million was allocated to these governments. Substantially compliant states can also receive bonus funds from previous fiscal year funding reductions from noncompliant states. In federal Fiscal Year 2020, approximately $1.9 million was available from such reduction; Florida received the largest bonus award of $378,143. (Sex Offender Registration and Monitoring Triennial Review compiled by OPPAGA — Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability – 2021 Report, pages 4-5)
Jeff Brower, County Chair – [email protected]
Jake Johansson, At-large – [email protected]
Don Dempsey, District 1 – [email protected]
Matt Reinhart, District 2 – [email protected]
Danny Robins, District 3 – [email protected]
Troy Kent, District 4 – [email protected]
David Santiago, District 5 – [email protected]
County of Volusia
Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center
123 W. Indiana Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720-4612