Are Sex Offenders Judged Too Harshly by Society?

After conducting complete research, this author has found that society judges sex offenders more unfairly and harshly than they do other criminals. According to the 2002 through 2005 FBI statistics, crimes of a sexual nature are not the most common crimes being committed. Society has become fearful of the sex offender and has not even given any thought to the fact that there are other criminals just as dangerous, if not more dangerous than the sex offender, or that it is not the sex offenders who most often kill our children. This epidemic of fear is brought on by the media. They are presenting biased, one-sided reports and stories that make every sex offender look heinous in the eyes of the public. Lawmakers, who are seeking public approval and ultimately more votes, are creating unfair laws which keep sex offenders behind bars indefinitely.

Confining sex offenders who are not a true danger to society is not only costing the tax payers their hard-earned money, but it is also taking up space that could be better occupied by more dangerous offenders who have yet to be apprehended. There are alternatives to this civil commitment which are less restrictive and less expensive to the taxpayers which need to be thoughtfully considered by our lawmakers.

Are Sex Offenders Judged Too Harshly by Society?

Being a close acquaintance of a person whom has been labeled as a violent sexual predator by the State of Kansas, this author has had the opportunity to interview persons who have been involuntarily committed to the Sexual Predator Treatment Program (SPTP) in Larned, Kansas. In order to maintain privacy, one person confined there will be mentioned as Offender 1. In a personal interview with this person, he revealed to this author that he had been severely sexually and physically abused throughout his childhood by his own father, babysitters, staff in state institutions as well as his foster parents.

Because of this abuse, he has been in the custody of the Social Rehabilitation Services (SRS) since he was seven months old. On September 9, 2001, he asked two 14-year-old boys if he could perform oral sex on them. They said no, and he took their no as no, and never touched them. On the next day he requested a staff family meeting because he wanted to enter their program on sexual abuse. Ultimately, even though he saw that he had a problem and asked to be in a rehabilitation program, he was sentenced to prison and following prison was labeled as a violent sexual predator and sent to Larned, Kansas, until he is no longer deemed to be a danger to society. According to this offender, Kansas Assistant Attorney General Terry R. Gross has stated in a report that he does not consider the offender to be a sexually violent predator at this time; however, he still remains in

SRS custody at Larned State Hospital.

Offender 2 is a registered sex offender. His picture was recently published in a local newspaper near his home in Mulberry, Kansas, listing him as a convicted sex offender. His crime was having consensual sex with his15-year-old girlfriend when he Are Sex Offenders Judged was 19 (Weslander, 2006). That girl has now been his wife for the past three years.

There are way too many ‘Romeo and Juliet’ relationships, where one or both parties are minors, being considered to be sexual offenses. Another example of one such case is in Lawrence, Kansas, where a 21-year-old male was caught by the police in a compromising position with his then, underage girlfriend. She was about three months shy of her 16th birthday when this occurred. If she had been a few months older, it is very unlikely that he would have been convicted of a sexual crime (Weslander, 2006).

Offender 3 is also in the SPTP at Larned, Kansas. The chances of his release from this program are very slim, unless a court sees fit to overturn his commitment (Weslander, 2005). He is not taking part in any treatment because he feels that the program is corrupt (Weslander, 2005). He has been quoted as saying, he is the victim of an illegal campaign by the state of Kansas (Weslander, 2005). He feels he has been railroaded into a mental institution (Weslander, 2005). His crime was not anything physical. His one and only crime was a crime of words; making obscene phone calls to teenage girls. He was placed on probation, then committed a probation violation by drinking alcohol. Because of that probation violation, he served one day in prison. Upon being released, he was branded with the label, sexual predator; a title that had nothing to do with the reason he was in prison. Unfortunately, this label will continue to haunt him for the rest of his life.

Almost every time the television is tuned in to the local news, the viewer can find a damaging, fear inducing report on how dangerous sex offenders are, and that these so-called animals are lurking everywhere, such as in neighborhood parks, in the shopping malls, and even in our own homes; through the Internet, which is not the whole truth. The media is being prejudiced in the fact that they are focusing on the sex offender and not even considering that there are other crimes being committed which are just as dangerous if not more dangerous than that of the sex offender. Many of the most heinous crimes trace back to sexual perversion, but to this author there is a difference between sex offenders as a class and dangerous perverts who will cause irreparable harm. For example, the teachers who seduce students are more harmful in a direct way than someone who is tempted to participate in underage mutual sex, or the so-called sexual predators who were young at the time of their offense and their victim was a younger sibling. To most people, the sex offenders pose a huge threat to our children, especially on the Internet (Radford, 2006). On the CBS Evening News on April 18, 2005 Jim Acosta reported that “when a child is missing, chances are good it was a convicted sex offender.”

What society does not know is that Acosta’s claim is incorrect. If a child is missing, the convicted sex offender is among the least most likely explanations(Radford, 2006). The truth is more likely that the child is missing because of family abductions, runaways, or the child being lost or injured (Radford, 2006).

Just what is the definition of a sexually violent predator? According to the Kansas Legislature, a sexually violent predator is any person whom has been convicted of or charged with a sexually violent offense, and who suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder which makes the person likely to engage in repeat acts of sexual violence. In Kansas, after a sexual predator is released from prison he is subjected to an evaluation, to determine if he or she can be considered to be a violent sexual predator. All the people who do the initial evaluations work for the same hospital where the SPTP is located; therefore, creating a conflict of interest because the hospital receives money from the state for each individual who is housed there. Does someone smell foul play here? The main evaluator conducting the initial evaluation is psychologist, Rex Rosenberg, who has been the center of attention because he believes in demons (Weslander, 2005). Rosenberg has created a demon survey which has caused a growing criticism from attorneys and other psychologists. He believes if a person answers yes to questions such as, whether he or she is homosexual; or, does he or she deny Jesus of Nazareth is God, he or she could be demon possessed (Weslander, 2005). Critics question whether Rosenberg has the qualifications to be in the position to evaluate sexual predators (Weslander, 2005). Since Rosenberg became the main evaluator at Larned State Hospital’s sexual predator program, the number of people who have been considered to be sexual predators has reached astronomical numbers (Weslander, 2005). Some may look at those figures as a good thing, but some people think that he is letting his religious beliefs influence his job.

Each year, the offender who has been placed in the SPTP in Larned, Kansas receives a review of his progress in the program. This author has been able to personally examine one such review which was completed on January 25, 2007. In regard to the assessment of this person’s dangerousness, it was noted that the review states outside the facility this offender is considered dangerous to young females based on his past sexual deviancy history. From personal knowledge of the case, it can be claimed factually, that his past sexual deviancy history consists of one individual, his younger sister and, he was under 18 when the offense occurred. However, he was sentenced as an adult, only because the police, not knowing when the offense took place, chose the day of his 18th birthday. Yes, what he did was wrong, but what he did in the past does not determine if he has made progress in the program. Besides that, most of us have made mistakes as a youth that we have learned from and regretted later in life, and some of these mistakes carry long and irreversible consequences, such as murder, abortion, suicide, etc. Inside the facility he is not considered to be dangerous to staff or peers. What should be considered by the evaluator is how he gets along with his peers at the present time and his current sexual desires, based on clinical findings, such as tests done to measure the amount of arousal when viewing pictures of young children, not based on one person’s opinion. On the other hand, there are those individuals who are a danger to society, such as Lorenzo Townes, a sexual predator with a violent criminal history and a conviction for raping a 10-year-old girl, which he served 32 years in prison for (Rondeaux, 2006). Upon his release he was civilly committed to a treatment center that was run by the state. He was only there for two years when he won his appeal for release. After four months in society,

Townes was in trouble with the law again for raping a 12-year-old girl. He is back in prison now, serving a 20-year sentence, for this offense (Rondeaux, 2006). These are the sex offenders that should be kept behind bars and the keys thrown away, not the young, unfortunate person who made a mistake and has learned by it. The issue here is that there is a problem with the method and personnel performing the evaluations, whether the offender is the former or the latter!

There are crimes committed every day that the media is closing their eyes to; therefore, society is not looking at them as critically as they should. These crimes include murder, driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, arson, and drug trafficking, just to mention a few. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) 2002 through 2005 Crime Statistics, offenses of a sexual nature are not the most common crimes being committed. The most common crimes committed were drug related. (see

Fig. 1)

Figure 1
Estimated Number of Arrests in the U.S. from 2002-2005
www.fbi.gov

Offense Number Arrested Percentage of Total Arrests
Drug abuse violations 6,809,926 12.28%
Property Crime * 6,472,605 11.68%
Driving under the influence 5,715,195 10.31%
Other Assaults 5,121,630 09.24%
Larceny-theft 4,637,474 08.36%
Disorderly Conduct 2,645,177 04.77%
Liquor Laws 2,476,262 04.46%
Violent Crime* 2,407,597 04.34%
Drunkenness 2,230,189 04.02%
Aggravated assault 1,809,533 03.26%
Fraud 1,241,001 02.23%
Burglary 1,172,727 02.11%
Vandalism 1,102,212 01.98%
Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc. 701,663 01.26%
Motor Vehicle Theft 597,765 01.07%
Curfew & Loitering 555,946 01.00%
Stolen property; buying, receiving, possessing 515,582 00.93%
Runaways 478,565 00.86%
Forgery & counterfeiting 465,531 00.84%
Offenses against family & children 404,384 00.72%
Sex offenses (except forcible rape & prostitution 369,150 00.66%
Robbery 346,935 00.62%
Prostitution & commercialized vice 327,686 00.59%
Vagrancy 125,874 00.22%
Forcible Rape 82,532 00.14%
Embezzlement 71,680 00.12%
Arson 64,639 00.11%
Are Sex Offenders Judged 9

Offense Number Arrested Percentage of Total Arrests
Gambling 43,395 00.07%
Suspicion 23,380 00.04%

* Violent crimes are offenses of murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Property crimes are offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

Through an interview with a local attorney, this author has obtained a greater knowledge as to how long a criminal has to remain confined, according to the State of Kansas Sentencing Guidelines (KSGA). In the case of murder in the first degree; voluntary manslaughter, a person could receive a sentence of 89 to 100 months in prison with a probation term of 36 months. With good behavior the offender would get a 20% reduction in their sentence making it 81 to 90 months. For driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, for the third offense, the offender could be sentenced to prison for 11 to 13 months or 10 to 12 months with good behavior. Someone setting fire to a dwelling could be sentenced to 32 to 36 months in prison or 29 to 33 months with good behavior. A person selling drugs could be sentenced to prison for 32 to 36 months, just like the arsonist. But, if a person just happens to be rich and famous and has an attorney who will work hard for them, such as Michael Jackson, O.J. Simpson, Jared Allen of the Kansas City Chiefs, or Bill Clinton, they more than likely will just get a slap on the hands and spend very little time, if any, in jail. Then, there is the person convicted of a sex crime. They can be sentenced to prison for 89 to 100 months or 81 to 90 months; the same as murder. However, after they have completed their sentence, they are then evaluated, by none other than Rex Rosenberg, who looks at virtually everyone as demon possessed to see, if he or she is a danger to society, a label that will haunt them the rest of their life (Weslander, 2005). If so, they are further confined under the Sexual Predator Act for an indefinite period. What does this tell the person with a criminal mind? It’s fine to kill someone just whatever you do, make sure you do not commit a sexual crime?

One of the many myths about sex offenders is that most sex offenders re-offend (Freeman-Longo, 2000). This is the reasoning behind keeping them committed longer than the murderers or other criminals. The fact that the serial sex offenders, just like serial killers, are more likely to re-offend is more likely to be true, but the real truth is that just a very few of the sex offenders do commit further sex related crimes. This myth is reiterated so repeatedly that society accepts it as the truth. However, recent studies done by the U.S. Bureau of Justice shows that the recidivism rate among sex offenders is not extremely high. According to Benjamin Radford (2006), a writer with Skeptical Inquirer magazine, and the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics study (“Predator Panic: A

Closer Look”), “just five percent of sex offenders followed for three years after their release from prison in 1994 were arrested for another sex crime”. A study that was released in 2003 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that within three years, only 3.3 percent of the child molesters that had been released were arrested again for committing another sex crime against a child. Three to five percent is a very low repeat offender rate. In a 2003 study of almost 10,000 men convicted of a sex crime, it was found that the re-arrest rate of sex offenders was 25% lower than for all other criminals. The reason for that is partly because, the truly dangerous sex offenders; the serial sex offenders very rarely get released from prison. Because of this fact that sex offenders are no more likely to re-offend than murderers, drunk drivers, arsonists, etc., there is very little justification for the laws that target them. In addition, the fear that society has for them is, also unjustified.

Staff writers for the Washington Post, Lori Montgomery and Daniel LeDuc (2005), state that advocates of civil commitment assert that confining and treating violent sex offenders after they serve their sentences is the only way to prevent tragedies from happening. From 1990 to 2005, 16 states have adopted civil commitment laws for sex offenders. The purpose of these laws is to confine those offenders who have committed some type of gruesome crime. However, these very laws are detested by civil libertarians, who say they impose further punishment on people who have already served their time in prison. “If somebody serves their time, isn’t that supposed to be enough?” said Del.

Sharon Grosfeld (D-Montgomery, chairman of the House subcommittee on criminal law). Civil commitment is not the solution in regard to those as mentioned in the beginning of this report that are not a true danger to society. Those offenders who are not violent sexual predators are being endangered by those who are dangerous and living right beside them. According to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), “The commitment of dangerous sex offenders to psychiatric facilities could endanger the safety of others in those facilities who have treatable psychiatric illnesses” (Anonymous, 1997). This author can attest, through personal knowledge, to the fact that non-violent offenders are being raped by the more violent offenders and even violated by staff while in these sexual predator treatment programs.

Satellite tracking of sex offenders has been used in pilot programs in 41 states and has been proven to be highly effective. “In Florida, where 500 criminals carry small transmitters monitored constantly by a network of Global Positioning System satellites, parole and probation violations have dropped dramatically compared with ordinary house arrest” (Montgomery, and LeDuc p.2). In Daytona Beach, with the use of this satellite system, a probation agent caught a child molester, as he slowed down to watch the 5-year-old girl he had previously abused, play in an above-ground pool. Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was quoted as saying it is “an idea worth exploring” (Montgomery and LeDuc, p.2). Satellite tracking is a system that requires a criminal to wear an anklet that cannot be removed. The satellite transmitter, which is about the size of two videotapes, must be kept within a few feet of the anklet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is usually kept in a backpack or belly pouch. The offenders’ whereabouts are then tracked and stored in a computer. The transmitter will alert the authorities if the criminal is not where he is supposed to be when he is supposed to be there; such as at a job. If the criminal, is somewhere he or she should not be, the authorities as well as the victim will be notified. The cost of this type of tracking is a mere $9 per day per criminal (Montgomery and LeDuc, 2005), whereas the cost of civil commitment in 2005 was approximately $1100 per day per criminal (Rondeaux, 2006).

According to Radford, (2006), the real tragedy is that the media-inflicted panic over all sex offenders keep the public from realizing that the greatest threat to our children is parental abuse and neglect, not the sex offenders. The greatest number of crimes against our children are committed by someone the victim knows; their own family, church clergy, friends of the family or even SRS staff as well as foster parents, as with Offender

1. According to a 2003 report by the Department of Human Services, Hundreds of thousands of children are abused and neglected each year by their parents and caregivers, and more than 1,500 American children died from that abuse in 2003, most of the victims under four years old. That is more than four children killed per day – not by convicted sexual offenders or Internet predators, but by those entrusted to care for them (Radford, 2006).

As of January 2001, nationwide, only 44 out of 894 sexual predators who were involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospitals have been found to be cured and thus permitted to be released (Montgomery and LeDuc, 2005). Society needs to stop crucifying the non-violent sex offenders, and our law-makers need to change laws to include satellite tracking and professional counseling outside of the state hospitals. Not only is it unfair for these offenders to be targeted, but the laws are too open, targeting those who may have had no more than one victim, and his or her offense was not of a violent nature (i.e., asking for sexual contact or making obscene phone calls). This is only a very few of the unfairly targeted cases. There are numerous other cases such as hugging a child too long. There are documented cases of offenders being released and having their houses burned, and they and their family have been killed, all because of the misperception and lies that are being told by the media. America is supposed to be a land of opportunity; therefore, we need to give these non-violent offenders the opportunity to prove themselves to society, without pre-judgment. Instead, we are creating a modern-day Nazi camp, where sex offenders are being sentenced to ultimate death. These men and women should be able to spend holidays, and other special occasions with their families, without the fear of theirs and their family’s lives being put in jeopardy. This author urges everyone that is reading this, to write to their local law-makers and stress to them the need to change the current sex offender laws to include satellite tracking and professional counseling outside of the penal system and furthermore, to release those sex offenders whose crime was not of a violent nature (i.e. no use of force; such as a knife, gun, etc., or no physical contact). Let these law-makers know that the voters are tired of paying money for facilities that are only warehousing people who are not a true danger, and not giving them adequate professional counseling to help them successfully return to society.

References

Anonymous, (1997). National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.

Position statement on laws providing for the civil commitment of sexually violent

criminal offenders.

Freeman-Longo, R. (2000). Myths and facts about sex offenders. The Center for Sex

Offender Management, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), U.S. Department of

Justice, CSOM Documents.

Montgomery, L, and LeDuc, D. “Satellite Tracking of Sex Offenders May Be

More Effective than Civil Commitment.” Retrieved November 29, 2006, from

http://find.galegroup.com.

Position statement on laws providing for the civil commitment of sexually violent

criminal offenders. (1997). Retrieved January 31, 2007. from

http://www.nasmhpd.org/general_files/position_statement/sexpred.htm.

Radford, B. (2006). Predator panic: A closer look. Skeptical Inquirer magazine.

Retrieved January 9, 2007, from

http://www.csicop.org/si/2006-05/panic.html.

Rondeaux, C. (2006). Va. grapples with ballooning cost to confine sex offenders.

Washington Post. www.washingtonpost.com.

Weslander, E. (2006). Critics call registry for sex offenders vague, unfair. Lawrence

Journal World. Retrieved December 15, 2006, from

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2006/aug/27/critics_call_registry_sex_

offenders_vague_unfair.

Are Sex Offenders Judged 16

Weslander, E. (2005). Controversial Christian linked to skyrocketing number of

predators. Lawrence Journal World. Retrieved October 6, 2005, from

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/sep/25/controversial_christian_linked_

skyrocketing_number_predators.

Weslander, E. (2005). Predator challenging case refuses to take part in ‘treatment’.

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