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February 5, 2007

The need for sex offender nuance

Thoughtful critics of draconian sex offender restrictions stress that broad residency restrictions often harmfully fail to distinguish truly dangerous repeat ex-offenders from minor offenders.  For this reason, I a quite intrigued by this post at Sex Offender Issues reporting on a new sex offender bill: HR-291 — Safe NOW Act of 2007.  The bill purports to "establish a National Sex Offender Risk Classification Task Force to create guidelines for the establishment of a risk-based sex offender classification system for use in sex offender registries."

I do not know anything more about this bill, but it would seem to be the type of legislation that anyone interested in evidence-based sentencing — or concerned about the extremes of our modern sex offender panic — ought to support.

February 5, 2007 at 08:39 AM | Permalink


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» HR-291 — Safe NOW Act of 2007 from Sex Crimes
Sentencing Law and Policy and Sexoffenderissues both have posts up about this bill. Professor Berman is intrigued with the idea that the bill isn't simply draconian, but instead uses empirical evidence to guide its classification system:The bill purpor... [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 5, 2007 7:50:58 PM

» A new twist on offender restrictions from SexCrimeDefender
Parsonsfield, Maine has taken Jessica's Law type restrictions a step further than most. In addition to the usual tactics employed against sex offenders the town ordinance imposes fines against persons who knowingly rents or sells a home to a sex [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 14, 2007 7:29:04 AM


I wanted to share more specific information about HR 291. First, I want to point out that the original post is right on target--meaning, sex offenders represent a wide variety of risks to the public. Some of these risks are dynamic, while others are static.

We need a more sensible approach to managing offenders than is currently being utilized. Resources for monitoring are limited and it is in everyone's interest that our energies and dollars be focused on protecting children and others from those who pose the greatest threat of harm.

I recommend you visit our website to learn more about how proper risk assessment can promote public safety. This is an article you can download on our public policy page.

Lastly, I want to suggest that although public policy addressing sex offender management issues is important, we need to invest dollars in primary prevention. Reducing a child's vulnerability for being victimized and/or finding ways to intervene and provide appropriate therapy for youth at-risk for perpetration is going to provide a much greater empirical reduction in the problem of child sexual abuse.

Please consider making a donation to our agency to support innovative prevention programming and also join our mailing list for updates on how to become more involved. Our website is www.safenowproject.org.

Posted by: Margaret Bullens | Feb 5, 2007 11:06:07 AM

These laws needs to go after who they were intended for, pedophiles and predators. The laws are lumping all sex offenders into one category and treating them ALL as if they are all predators, which is wrong. A majority of the people labeled a "sex offender" are NOT these types of people. Just check the registries!

http://sexoffenderinfo.pbwiki.com/ <-- Main site
http://sexoffenderinfo.pbwiki.com/#StateRegistries <-- Registries here
http://sexoffenderinfo.pbwiki.com/FrontPage#OtherIssues <-- Issues
http://sexoffenderissues.blogspot.com/ <-- My blog mentioned here.

Posted by: ZMan | Feb 5, 2007 12:51:00 PM

The idea of having sex offenders register made sense 10 years ago. But now politicians are making stupid rules that are not protecting anyone. Forcing sex offenders to register their places of work means many can't get jobs because companies don't want to be harrassed. Now we force offenders to move if they live within a certain distance of a school or park. Soon it will be the law of the land to force these offenders to live far from society. Many say this makes sense but does it? Forcing offenders to be shuned by society only means any will return to their old lifestyles that led to problems in the first place. SOme will not register because doing so means they are punished. Others will not continue therapy, which works, and may end up abusing drugs and alcohol. And the vast majority of victims are abused by someone they know, not strangers

Posted by: nick | Feb 5, 2007 10:15:45 PM

HR 291 "To establish a National Sex Offender Risk Classification Task Force to create guidelines for the establishment of a risk-based sex offender classification system for use in sex offender registries" is but one of many bills currently introduced in Congress affecting registered sex offenders and their families. For a complete list see:

HR 291 is a veiled attempt to establish a set of guidelines by which registered sex offenders nationally will be classified into levels of dangerousness.

However, this proposed system is in conflict with what Congress already approved in the 2006 Adam Walsh Act (AWA) (a tiered system based upon the amount of time a RSO spent in prison, or comparing the offense description to equivalent federal offenses in severity). Likely the new system is intended to replace what is found in AWA at some future point. i.e., another retroactive adjustment.

HR 291 is supposed to have a balanced committee of professionals in sex offender management make the decisions as to the guidelines used. Yet, as I view the committee it is victim balanced and intended to keep the crime in a current day's light, as if it just happened yesterday.

The committee makeup, while also charged with consideration of the current plight of RSOs and their families due to registration, lacks anyone who has such knowledge from a RSO perspective. The majority of those registered nationally are not under any form of state supervision and have no representation in a political sense either.

While the committee does have a representative from APA and ATSA their focus will be on therapy which is fine, while offenders are in-prison and there should be grants for therapy in the community, but APA and ATSA is not experienced with the daily lives of RSOs nationally.

Vigilantism is an everyday occurrence nationally to varing degrees. See:

Deaths, suicides and murders occur with far more regularity than anyone is willing to admit. See:

Even murders by victims and their family members are occurring with more regularity, as are murders of persons simply accused of a sex offense. See:

Congressional Sex Offender Policy Has Caused A Major Shift In Societal Acceptance of Vigilantism!

Posted by: eAdvocate | Feb 6, 2007 6:26:12 AM

Althought the Safe Now info sounds good, I just don't believe them. Even their policy statement is celarly intended to make the public understand that this policy will not HELP offenders but will ferret out dangerous predispositions of minor offenders. If it is the intent to FIND dangerous behaviors, the chosen assessment instrument will do that. We will see false positives and offenders will be penalized yet again. I posted elsewhere that I wasn't sure how I felt about this bill, but after reading the Safe Now information, I can see where the bias is!

If this bill moves forward, the committee MUST include RSO representation and MUST look at the differences in younger statutory offenders. Current risk assessment tools greatly overestimate the risk level for these offenders. These instruments are flawed in that they lack human assessment that considers all information - not just a standardized score.

Posted by: rukidding | Feb 9, 2007 11:04:52 AM

Parsonsfield, Maine has taken "Jessica's Law" type restrictions a step further than most. In addition to the usual tactics employed against sex offenders the town ordinance imposes fines against persons who "knowingly" rents or sells a home to a sex offender. Registration is a reality and the bills proposed rational evaluation of actual risk and the possibility of preempting ordinances and laws like this would seem to be a step in the right direction.

Posted by: Steve Smith | Feb 14, 2007 5:55:36 AM

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