Harsh restrictions despite low recidivism

New York Times uncovers the lie behind two decades of disastrous Supreme Court rulings & lawmaking

THE FALSEHOOD that people found guilty of sex offenses are “out of control” and driven to commit crimes time and again became conventional wisdom. Tragically, this lie was etched into U.S. jurisprudence in 2002 when the Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy – without bothering to do any fact-checking – cited a popular magazine’s claim that “up to 80%” of offenders commit more sex crimes.

“Convicted sex offenders have among the lowest rates of same-crime recidivism of any category of offender

A 2017 New York Times report debunked this statistic as groundless and dug up its history. As the Times writer noted: “Convicted sex offenders have among the lowest rates of same-crime recidivism of any category of offender. Nearly every study – including those by states as diverse as Alaska, Nebraska, Maine, New York, and California – as well as an extremely broad one by the federal government that followed every offender released in the United States for three years, has put the three-year recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders in the low single digits, with the bulk of the results clustering around 3.5 percent.” – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/12/opinion/when-junk-science-about-sex-offenders-infects-the-supreme-court.html

Pushed Out and Locked In: The Catch-22 for New York’s Disabled, Homeless Sex-Offender Registrants

SEX-OFFENDER REGULATIONS “are grounded in the notion that people who commit sex offenses will continue to commit sex offenses, prowling public spaces for their next victims. The U.S. Supreme Court itself has upheld sex-offender regulations to protect public safety, citing sex-offender recidivism rates as a ‘frightening and high” eighty percent.

Legal scholar Allison Frankel writes in the Yale Law Journal (November 2019) about the injustice and irrationality of New York housing regulation for released prisoners convicted of sex-related offenses

“This data lacks any scientific basis. The ‘frightening’ figure promoted by the Supreme Court has been traced to one unsupported sentence in a mass-consumption magazine. In fact, legislators conducted ‘little if any research’ before adopting this sex-offender regulatory regime. One former Department of Justice official described the legislative process as merely ‘the familiar Washington race to see who can be tougher on crime,’ absent any consultation with ‘professionals working with and treating sexual abusers.’

“In reality, new studies show that sex-offense recidivism rates after conviction are between 1.7% and 6.6%. In contrast, people convicted of robbery recidivate at a rate of nearly 67%. And according to a 2019 U.S. Department of Justice study, ‘[s]ex offenders were less likely than other released prisoners to be arrested during the 9 years following release.’

“Meanwhile, a study of sex crimes in New York revealed that 95.9% of people arrested for registrable sex offenses between 1986 and 2006 were ‘first-time offenders’ – individuals who therefore, at the time of the offense, were not subject to sex-offender registration or residency restrictions. As the study’s authors described, since such laws “were specifically designed to limit the ability of convicted sex offenders to reoffend,’ this finding “casts doubt on the [laws’] ability to actually reduce sexual offending.’

“Further, the stranger attacks on children that catalyzed residency restrictions are exceedingly rare: nearly 90% of child victims know their sexual assaulter. Research repeatedly and ‘unequivocally finds that sex offenders are more likely to victimize family members, intimate partners, or acquaintances.’ The Fortune Society, a New York-based re-entry organization, thus concluded that residency restrictions like SARA are ‘useless in preventing non-stranger and intra-family offenses.’ As Levenson, who writes extensively on sex-offender regulations, described, ‘[t]he myth of stranger danger may lead to a false security for parents, whose children are at greatest risk of being abused by someone they know and trust.’”

Read the full article here: https://www.yalelawjournal.org/forum/pushed-out-and-locked-in