Ben Boychuck’s recent article (“Best solution may be sex offender ‘colonies,’” March 6) reminded me of a similar suggestion in 2010 by gubernatorial candidate Douglas Hughes to build a “pedophile island” off the California coast. Thankfully, Hughes was not elected, but his sentiments are often echoed across the nation.
The suggestion that those convicted of sex crimes should be banished to remote colonies of any kind is not based on research, and is offensive to human rights. Residency restrictions – such as “Jessica’s Law” – do not affect recidivism rates, studies show. Such laws have forced registered sex offenders to live under bridges, on beaches and in the woods. Some decide to stop registering because it becomes impossible to find housing and employment.
Unfortunately, society has grown to believe the myth that those convicted of sex crimes have high reoffense rates. Yet a study by the California Sex Offender Management Board found only one out of every 33 registrants committed a subsequent sex offense in 10 years.
We also forget that sex offenders are not a homogeneous group. Teens having consensual relations with other teens (“rape”), teens sexting (“producing child pornography”) and married couples having sex in a secluded area of a public park (“indecent exposure”) have all landed on the sex offender registry.
People ignore key basic facts about sex crimes. You are far more likely to be victimized in your own home, by someone you already know, and by someone not on any registry. Many celebrity victim advocates, politicians and law enforcement personnel willingly ignore these facts. As a result, sex offender registries are bloated with nearly 820,000 people, some as young as age 10.
There are better solutions than rounding up sex offenders and placing them in internment camps. Circles of Support and Accountability, a Canadian program, has been shown to reduce already-low recidivism rates by 70 percent and is being used in a number of states, including California. Instead of ostracizing registrants, program members help them find resources, offer a support network and hold them accountable for any inappropriate thoughts or deeds.
The best solutions aren’t always popular, but effective laws should be rooted in reason, not reaction. But if you still insist in sending registrants to an island, then allow us to pick. Hawaii looks nice and warm this time of year.
Derek Logue, a Cincinnati civil rights activist, is founder of the sex offender informational site www.oncefallen.com.