Sunday, June 28, 2009

Exile of Sex Offenders in Iowa : Sex offenders look forward to end of exile.

For three years, the convicted sex offender has been living in a room at the Ced-Rel Motel on Highway 30. The low, red-and-white building 4 miles west of Cedar Rapids has become a haven for those convicted of sex crimes in the years since the Iowa Sex Offender Registry was established in 1995.

Iowa law, until July 1, forbids sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day-care center. The rule pushes them into remote places like the Ced-Rel, or campgrounds, rest areas and truck stops.

New legislation, which goes into effect on Wednesday, eliminates the 2,000-foot residency rule for all but violent offenders.

If you are afraid of ex sex offenders, you would be a fool to want ex offenders forced to live in isolated zones such as these. : Do-over needed: Sex-offender law based on myths.

First, this new law (as it presumes better public safety) is still predicated on the same old clinically and factually disproven myths. One is that sex offenders always reoffend. This is false, as proven by a federal study using 2004 data for Iowa that shows about 3 percent of registered sex offenders reoffend sexually, even though about 45 percent have or will commit other general crimes. The national statistic for general criminal recidivism is 68 percent. Many general criminal offenders have several convictions for similar crimes, but the average sex offender has about 1.5 sex-offense convictions, according to federal statistics and a state report.

Another myth concerns "stranger danger." Iowa law was written in apparent contempt for known facts about society and sexual abuse. Data show that 87 percent of all child sexual abuse is committed by a first-time offender, 95 percent of the time by a family member, teacher, priest or a close family friend or neighbor. Adult rape reflects a similar profile 64 percent of the time.

Finally, the new law takes those with the more criminally ridiculous "sex offense" charges, such as public urination and teenage consensual sex, off the registry, but does two wrongs to the public. It continues making restoration, reintegration and stability of former offenders difficult if not impossible, and it violates constitutional guarantees.

The concept of rehabilitation includes the ability to reintegrate to society after incarceration. For former sex offenders, being persecuted and repressed makes society less safe, and it defeats the supposed public-safety purpose of the informative, administrative regulation the original federal registration laws intended.

Iowa legislators were under pressure to comply with the federal Adam Walsh Act, which sets minimum standards for sex-offender registration and notification, or risk losing federal law-enforcement funds.

Federal pressure like that on states defeats the 10th Amendment's guarantees of state sovereignty and the power of the people's self-determination - a step toward fascism. It also affects certain personal-guarantee issues, in terms of the right to have a place to live, the right to personal liberty and the right to equal protection under the law that is afforded every other former convict.

Almost 100 percent of child sex abuse is not "stranger danger." To stop sexual abuse, Iowa should proactively engage in available programs of prevention combined with community treatment of offenders and a prison sex-offender treatment program truly designed to help people habilitate better thought and behavior patterns for a better life. That will help eliminate the victimization of children and adults that happens mostly because some people have treatable, untended biopsychosocial problems.