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A group of former sex offenders and experts in the field of sexual offense met with members of the press Monday, following the 2nd Annual Conference of Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL). RSOL seeks to reform or repeal legislation like the Adam Walsh Act, which has a current deadline for implementation of July 1st but has only been completely adopted by 4 states (3 states and an Indian Tribe, as far as we know).
Surprisingly RSOL does not seek for the immediate abolishment of the Sex Offender Registry but for a more directed approach to Registration and other sex offender related laws. According to Dr. Chrysandi Leon, University of Delaware, Professor of Sociology and an Expert on Sex Offender recidivism who presented at the conference, “the limited resources of law enforcement are being diluted by the blanket registration of all sex offenders.” “Credible statistical studies over the last 15 years “since the registry was implemented show that “it has had no impact of the recidivism rate.” We can go back to studies from the 1940’s on, long before the registry was implemented, and show that the rate of offenses has remained remarkably consistent over the intervening years.
RSOL advocates a more directed and individualized approach to registration using scientifically based data to identify those offenders who pose a significant treat to society and who are truly “dangerous.” Right now it is impossible for parents or even law enforcement to accurately determine an offender’s potential risk because of labels such as “sexually violently predator” which are blanketedly applied to all offenders who have committed a specific set of offenses rather that using individualized assessment to apply that designation. Having over 700,000 people on the registry nation-wide makes it difficult for law enforcement to narrow the field quickly when a child goes missing.
“We are as concerned about the safety of children as anyone else” says Kelly Piercy, a former offender, and chairman of Georgians for Reform, but “we don’t believe that the current legislation is effective in doing so, it wastes resources and punishes those who are trying to reintegrate as productive citizens.”
Interestingly several children both of non-offender presenters and children of former offenders attended and roamed freely about the conference seemingly without fear of any kind.
Besides Dr. Leon, and Piercy other presenters at the conference included: Lloyd Swartz, New Mexico Registrant and Reform Advocate, J.Tom Morgan, former prosecutor and sex offender registry sponsor from Georgia who now states that “the registry no longer serves the purposes for which it was created;” Norman A. Pattis, Connecticut defense attorney, Nancy M. Steele, PhD, a Clinical Psychologist and sex offender treatment specialist, and Rev. James L. Powell, PhD, DD, a Methodist Minister whose Atlanta- based church welcomes sex offenders but under strict perimeters. Powell is also a licensed clinical psychologist and regularly counsels with former sex offenders. “There is much that the church and other community based organizations can do to mentor and help former sex offenders who want to reform,” thus increasing the net of safety that we all seek when dealing with those who have previously offended, particularly when the offense involves children.” Another presenter Mary Duval of Oklahoma, CEO of SOSEN, another sex offender advocacy group, became vehement in her fight for change, when her teenaged son Ricky was convicted of having sex with a younger teenaged girl. At that time there were no “Romeo and Juliet” laws which exempt consensual teenage sex from prosecution. Duval’s lobbying efforts help create these laws. Though completely blind, Duval actively lectures and campaigns throughout the United States, she also co-hosts weekly radio shows on ARC Talk Radio which focus on human rights and sex offender issues.
The conference concluded Monday after concentrated lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill. Portions of the Conference were recorded and links will soon be available online. These and other information about RSOL are available at their national website www.reformsexoffenderlaws.org .
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