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October 15, 2010

Significant findings on the varied impacts sex offender registration/notification regimes

This press release from the Medical University of South Carolina, which is headlined "Questioning the Effectiveness of Sex Offender Registries," reports on some notable new research findings concerning sex offender registration/notification regimes.  Here are some highlights:

Two federally-funded MUSC studies on South Carolina's sex offender registration and notification system and its effect on community safety revealed that prosecutors often pursue non-sexual charges or fail to get convictions for sex crimes since the registry was enacted in the mid-90's.  The studies also found that the current system for convicted sex offenders often did not deter them from committing similar crimes.

Lead investigator for both studies, Elizabeth Letourneau, Ph.D., MUSC associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, said the findings show that the current state and federal laws for registering sex offenders and notifying communities about their locations need to be revamped....

While noting that registries and notification systems are well-intended and strongly supported by most citizens, Letourneau's research has highlighted numerous problems, and prompted the thought that the state is annually spending an untold amount of money to support an ineffective system.

With respect to Letourneau's adult-focused project, the most interesting results were:

  • Both registration and online notification were associated with significant increases in plea bargains, where defendants were permitted to plead to non-sex offense charges;
  • Adult defendants who were actually prosecuted for sex crimes (who did not plead) were significantly less likely to be found guilty after online registration was enacted;
  • Similar plea bargain results were found for juvenile defendants, whose rates of pleading to non-sex offense charges more than doubled after South Carolina's policy was enacted. Prosecutors also dismissed significantly more juvenile sex crime cases after South Carolina's policy was enacted;
  • Defendants whose charges are dismissed outright, pleaded to non-sex offense charges or acquitted are unlikely to receive specialized treatment or supervision that might reduce recidivism. The message to their victims is that these offenses were not serious enough to convict;
  • There was one positive finding, that registration (but not online notification) was associated with a prevention or deterrent effect for adults. That is, two to three new sex crimes that would have been committed by first-time offenders were averted each month after the initial registration policy was implemented....

Based on their results and other empirical studies, Letourneau and colleagues detail specific suggestions to strengthen registration and notification policies.  Letourneau argues that objective risk assessments should influence registration and notification requirements for adults. Such requirements should be dropped or severely curtailed for juveniles, given the complete absence of any outcomes supporting these policies with juveniles and given very low juvenile recidivism rates.  A policy that focuses primarily on high risk adult offenders-the type of offenders whose crimes spurred the creation of registration and notification policies in the first place -- is less likely to be subverted by judicial decision makers and more likely to have positive results on recidivism.

I have placed one of the reported research findings in bold because, though the tenor of the press release is critical of existing sex offender registration laws, the research appears to find that these laws in South Carolina are associated with two to three fewer new sex crimes by first-offenders each month. That result seems to me to be quite a positive and important finding concerning the value of sex offender registries, and it is one that should not get lost in concerns that registries are leading to (perhaps worrisome) changes in case-processing behaviors.

October 15, 2010 at 06:48 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Got to love it!

"•Both registration and online notification were associated with significant increases in plea bargains, where defendants were permitted to plead to non-sex offense charges;
•Adult defendants who were actually prosecuted for sex crimes (who did not plead) were significantly less likely to be found guilty after online registration was enacted;
•Similar plea bargain results were found for juvenile defendants, whose rates of pleading to non-sex offense charges more than doubled after South Carolina's policy was enacted. Prosecutors also dismissed significantly more juvenile sex crime cases after South Carolina's policy was enacted;"

Seems everyone in the sytem from the da's judges, juries and the like ALL know the present system is a CRIMINAL JOKE and are refusing to go along...only ones who haven't GOTTEN THE MESSAGE are the idiot politicians at the top!

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 15, 2010 6:44:24 PM

The registry was not meant for public protection. It was created as a tool for law enforcement to use as a means to locate and question prior convicted SO's if a person (especially a child) turned up missing or was reported abducted.

It was THE POLITICIAN's, as usual, that created this mess and turned a good and usable system into a VOTE CULLING machine. It's the height of grandstanding.....Look What "I" did to these sex offenders!!!!!!!

Posted by: Book38 | Oct 15, 2010 10:09:17 PM

You posted something in BOLD because you believe the sex offender registry has done one thing, and that it is a deterrent.


The ex-post facto clause of the U.S. Constitution applies. See, the registry MUST have a regulatory effect for those that the registry applies to. This research says it has NONE. If that is true, then the ex-post facto clause of the U.S. Constitution MUST apply.

If the State is throwing people into prison because people are fleeing the registry that does not protect the community anyway, that is completely illegal.

The registry, as this article does not talk about it, takes away safety and/or security of the offenders. NO LAW can EVER take away anyone's safety and/or security. This article makes clear that the registry is not doing anything as advertised.

Anyone can do whatever they can to avoid this illegal registry.

This research also doesn't talk about associated laws that come with registry. Residency restrictions: an arbitrary distance from whatever landmark a government entity decides. Work restrictions: Not only where you can work, but how far an arbitrary distance from any landmark a government decides. Loitering restrictions: These laws puts an offender at the mercy of arbitrary arrest. Usually it is a distance of 300 feet from almost every place a person can be or 300 feet from any arbitrary landmark the government decides. A person cannot leave the house without committing this "crime". Internet restrictions: These laws require internet identifiers to be turned over to the State. Those emails and other identifiers are then given to any organization who asks for the sole purpose of purging those people from websites (the vast majority of them being free speech sites such as facebook and myspace, with an afterthought about barbie.com). Information laws: These require the offender to give up license numbers, telephone numbers, carry special i.d.'s, where they work or even regularly go. Community Notification laws: These laws are without limitation and are done by both private, public, individuals and organizations.

The registry impacts the whole of a person's relationship to the community. None of them has been shown to protect. They are all passed ex-post facto.

Only a totalitarian government could or would pass these types of laws and not allow for any due process to them, not allow for exceptions, not allow for people to be removed from the registry.

Again, NOBODY has to follow such laws.

The deterrent effect, however small that is, or large, does NOT give the State the right to pass ex-post facto laws!

Posted by: Rudy101 | Oct 16, 2010 1:30:25 PM

oh i agree!

"Only a totalitarian government could or would pass these types of laws and not allow for any due process to them, not allow for exceptions, not allow for people to be removed from the registry.

Again, NOBODY has to follow such laws.

The deterrent effect, however small that is, or large, does NOT give the State the right to pass ex-post facto laws!"

THe problem now is the govt has made this part of ther bedrock system. Short of a percentage of them say 10-15% which would be 100-150 THOUSAND of them saying either F this we're done and we're leaving this world and each of us is taking at least one politician or media retard with them....or the same persentage state the laws are illegal and we are finsihed obeying them. TAKE US TO JAIL! needless to say there will be NO PLEA BARGAINS and we WILL NOT WAIVE TIME! bring on the TRIALS! in either case the american justice system would go BOOM!

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 17, 2010 12:59:40 AM

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