Does Virginia’s sex offender registry need reform?
Don’t believe every scary statistic
By Mary Devoy
Inflammatory propaganda — like repeatedly using the word “predator” along with skewed statistics, usually by those seeking re-election, higher office, organizational donations and grants or securing criminal justice jobs — is, sadly, the norm.
Last week, this status quo was perpetuated in the opposing viewpoint, and instead of proposing solutions, clarification is required.
A patently false claim was made of 43 percent recidivism for registered sex offenders. This demonstrates either ignorance or a blatant attempt to obfuscate fact.
Forty-three percent is the national overall recidivism rate of all offenders for various offenses, including administrative and technical probation violations — possibly the inability to retain employment or to pay court fines or child support. It could be drug-, alcohol- or even traffic-related, but is not specific to registered offenders or sexual offenses.
n Virginia’s recidivism rate for all convicts within three years of release is 28.3 percent; a fraction would be registered sex offenders, and then another fraction of that would be for a new sexual offense.
n The national recidivism rate for all registered sex offenders committing a new sexual offense within three years is 2.5 to 5.3 percent, second lowest of all crimes.
n Ninety percent of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a family member or acquaintance, neither by a stranger nor someone on the registry.
But these facts aren’t scary enough; they don’t support a dire need for a public list of shame, a lifetime of restrictions and the millions of dollars spent to maintain and inflate it annually.
A popular phrase among lawmakers is “the devil is in the details.” This certainly applies to last week’s counterpoint statement.
An artistically arranged omission of fact or twist of percentages to intentionally force a point is otherwise a lie. Do your homework, question lawmakers, confirm their numbers. This doesn’t make you soft on crime; it’s called social — maybe even moral — responsibility.
Bureau of Justice Services
VA DOC Research and Forecast Unit: Recidivism at a Glance Brochure July 2012:
DeVoy, of Mechanicsville, has been a volunteer advocate for data-driven reform of Virginia’s sex offender registry and laws since 2008.
Sex crimes are among the most heinous
By Bill Stanley
Mary Devoy would have us believe that the sex offender registry doesn’t work because the list of offenders consists of primarily 18-year-olds who had consensual relations with their 16-year-old girlfriends; this is simply not the case, and is the rare exception, not the rule.
The offenses for which a person is required to register are serious, and such requirement is triggered only when the sex offender is convicted beyond a reasonable doubt after trial by a judge or jury. Rape, abduction with the intent to defile, forcible sodomy, object sexual penetration, aggravated sexual battery, taking indecent liberties with a minor when in a supervisory or custodial relationship, possession, production or distribution of child pornography — these are not lower-tier crimes; rather, they are some of the most heinous crimes that can be committed against another human being.
The registry reasonably informs the police and public of where those who chose to hurt others in this sexually deviant way are located when they are returned to our communities. Here, a balance must be struck between keeping our communities safe, with the hope that offenders become successful members of society after they have paid their debt.
For Devoy to say that Virginia’s registry has “dehumanized a whole class of society,” turning sex offenders into “public spectacles, monsters” completely misses the point. For it is not the registry that creates the offenders’ predicament, it’s the horrendous sex crime that they committed that makes it that way.
The old adage “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” rings true here as well — if you don’t want to be on a public registry of sex offenders here in the commonwealth of Virginia, don’t commit a sex offense crime against another human being.
Stanley, of Franklin County, is state senator for the 20th District and Republican majority whip. He has sponsored legislation in the General Assembly to ensure Virginia’s compliance with the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.