Patty Wetterling, recently wrote an opinion piece, that was in the Sacramento Bee. Below are some of her thoughts on sex offender policy and the HRW report:
“The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Sex Offender Registration Act was part of the 1994 Crime Bill signed by President Bill Clinton. Our goal was to give law enforcement a tool to help build safer communities.
Back in 1990, when we first recommended registering convicted sex offenders, we were met with resistance: “You can’t do that. These people have rights!” How times have changed. Few people today are concerned about the rights of sex offenders. Most now complain our laws are not tough enough.But they might be missing some basic facts. First, in most states “sex offender” covers anyone, including juveniles, convicted of any sexual offense, including consensual teenage sex, public urination and other non-violent crimes. Second, Jacob was the exception, not the rule: more than 90 percent of sexual violence is committed by someone the child knows. And third, most shocking to me, sex offenders are less likely to re-offend than commonly thought. A Department of Justice study suggested ex-offenders have a recidivism rate of 3 percent to 5 percent within the first three years after release.
Another study found that, after 15 years, three out of four do not re-offend….
Human Rights Watch has taken on the challenge of looking at sex offender policy to see what parts are working and what aren’t.
This week it published a 143-page report, “No Easy Answers: Sex Offender Laws in the United States.” The researchers examined whether we are building safer communities with these laws, and what issues policy-makers should consider. HRW found that many laws may not prevent sexual attacks on children, but do lead to harassment, ostracism and even violence against former offenders. That makes it nearly impossible to rehabilitate those people and reintegrate them safely into their communities — and that may actually increase the risk that they’ll repeat their crime.
We need to keep sight of the goal: no more victims. We need to be realistic. Not all sex offenders are the same. Not all sex offenses are the same. We need to ask tougher questions: What can we do to help those who have offended so that they will not do it again? What are the social factors contributing to sexual violence and how can we turn things around? None of us want our loved ones to be victims of sexual violence. None of us want to be the parent or sibling or child of a sex offender. But since the vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the family, sexual violence becomes personal very quickly. It affects all of us.”