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Legal Issues and Court Cases:
                           affecting sex offenders
Hi Folks, how are you today?
It is our intent to create a respectful environment for understanding and healing, a Discussion-Safety-Zone for Related Topics, while maintaining our Visitors' Zones-of-Privacy, and to interact on a non-judgmental basis. Today far too many communities fail to create these safety-zones!

7-2004 Commentary
New "Recidivism Statistics" from California's "Civil Commitment" program again prove,
that "Sex Offenders" do not have a high recidivism rate!

We begin with two San Francisco Chronicle news articles, "Treatment for rapists, molesters under fire: Cost, legality and effectiveness at issue in extended program" -and- "Public's overriding fear: Will they do it again? Anxiety remains despite low recidivism among many offenders," 7-11 and 7-12 both by Jim Doyle.

The Chronicle articles, which are excellent, cover a four-month examination of California's sexually violent predator treatment program at Atascadero. Certain of the facts uncovered are relevant to us today.

"The State Department of Mental Health, whose psychologists help decide which offenders will be locked up under the state predator law, says it does not have the legal duty or resources to track new crimes committed by sex offenders released from Atascadero and other sites. It refused to provide a list of the offenders' names, citing patient confidentiality laws.

But The Chronicle obtained information on the 121 cases cited in its survey from agency officials, patients, prosecutors, defense lawyers and experts familiar with the program. These 121 men were held in custody for evaluation, legal proceedings and preventative detention after their prison terms ended. They were released between 1996 and last month [June 2004] because of decisions by state psychologists, prosecutors, judges or juries.

Although The Chronicle did not have access to all of the offender records it sought, the newspaper was able to use the state's sexual offender registry, prison and court records, and other means to piece together a picture of the recidivism rates of the 121 men. Most of them were held for months or years at Atascadero and set free without mental health treatment."
7-12 Article
From 1996 to 2004 (8 years) there were 2,394 sex offenders nearing the end of their prison sentences and were candidates for the Atascadero treatment program. The majority of these offenders did not attend the Atascadero program due to decisions by psychologists, district attorneys, judges or juries. From this base group The Chronicle chose 121 whose records were available.

The Chronicle reviewed those 121 men and found:
14 (11.6%) went on to be -accused- or -convicted- of a new sex offense. (7-11 article indicates convicted and 7-12 indicates accused or convicted); 19 of them (16%) went on to commit non-sex offenses; 7 of them (6%) went back to prison for parole violations; 80 of them (66%) did not re offend.

The Chronicle questions vastly different recidivism rates:
The Chronicle indicated "A U.S. Justice Department study (DoJ) last year found only 5 percent of sex offenders had re-offended after three years. By comparison, a state Department of Corrections (DOC) study earlier this year put the recidivism rate for its general inmate population at about 60 percent after three years."

Aligning recidivism rates and understanding the 60%:

1) "5% re-offended: The Chronicle quoted the DoJ REARRESTED statistic but apparently wanted their RE-OFFENDED statistic. See DoJ Highlights: "Within 3 years following their release, 5.3% of sex offenders (...) were REARRESTED for another sex crime. "

The DoJ "RE-OFFENDED" statistic is on page 2: "Reconviction for a new sex crime: Of the 9,691 released sex offenders 3.5% (339 of the 9,691) were RECONVICTED for a sex crime within the 3-year followup period. [10]

Conforming permits us to make direct comparisons in the chart below.

2) "DOC 60% Recidivism Rate: A review of the DOC method of calculating recidivism & formula will reveal their system of calculation really calculates -needed prison space- and not -recidivism- which means new crime/s to the general public.

In 2004 the DOC defines "RECIDIVIST" as "a felon who 'returns to prison' FOR ANY REASON during a specified follow-up period." 'RETURNS TO PRISON' is further defined as "felons who are returned to Substance-Abuse Treatment Control Units in correctional facilities; felons returned pending a revocation hearing on violating conditions of parole; returned to custody for parole violations to serve revocation time; and returned to prison by a court for a new felony conviction. [11]

In 2003 the DOC defined "RECIDIVIST" as "a felon who commits another offense." [12]

It is apparent that, in 2004, they conformed the definition of "Recidivist" to the formula they actually use.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize the DOC is inflating the "recidivism-rate" by including returns to prison for technical violations of parole, which have nothing to do with new crime. Examples of technical violations are, failure to report to parole officer, being in a proscribed place (bar), being drunk, etc.

The public is being mislead by the DOC publishing an inflated 60%, the public is concerned about what offenders will do in the community, not how much prison space is needed to house them when they are in prison. The DOC has failed to properly inform the public.

Once we make adjustments as noted above, we are now able to compare statistics.

StudyTreatedSex Offenders ReleasedReconvicted for Sex OffenseReconvicted for Non Sex OffenseFollow-up period
United Kingdom 1979-none-419103(24.6%)Unknown21Yrs
DoJ Study
15 states
3-no 12-yes

*...Chosen by Chronicle due to available records, out of 2,394 considered for civil commitment between 1996 and 2003.

**..7-11 Chronicle article says "CONVICTED" and 7-12 article says "ACCUSED or CONVICTED," we have assumed RECONVICTED.

***.In the DoJ study, p2, showed 2,326 24%, but that included the 339 reconvicted for a sex offense, we merely backed those out to arrive at 1987.
Department of Justice (DoJ) Sex Offender Recidivism Study:
This DoJ 3-year followup study (published in November 2003) of 9,691 male sex offenders released in 15 states in 1994 is the largest study ever performed. It includes -all- sex offenders released from prison in 15 states, which are: California, Arizona, Maryland, North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Delaware, Minnesota, Oregon, Florida, New Jersey, Texas, Illinois, New York and Virginia and represents two-thirds of all sex offenders released nationwide in 1994. This study documents "recidivism" as measured by 1) Rates of REARREST; 2) Rates of RECONVICTION; -and- 3) Rates of REIMPRISONMENT during the 3-year followup period.

Clearly the DoJ study is today's standard to compare to. It represents two-thirds of all sex offenders released from prison, all kinds of sex offenders (rapists, child molesters, pedophiles, etc.) are represented within these offenders. An excellent cross sectional view.

Our study of Michigan's sex offender recidivism rate is like the DoJ study, includes all sex offenders released from prison since 1990, 11 years now (updated when the Michigan Parole Board releases new statistics). Michigan also happens to be one of the states included within that specific DoJ study. The Doj study ran from 1994 through 1997, our ongoing Michigan study began in 1990, includes those 3-years of the DoJ study, and went further to year 2000.

The Chroncile's statistics covers offenders released over a period of 8-years (1996-2003) and California is also one of the states included in the DoJ study. Recognizing the one anomaly noted under our chart for California, and the inflated California DOC figures, we are left to ask why California's sex offender reconviction rate is triple the rate from the DoJ or Michigan study?

US Supreme Court Recognizes Therapy to Rehabilitate Sex Offenders:
First in KANSAS v. HENDRICKS then in McKUNE, WARDEN, et al. v. LILE ,
"(a) The SATP (Sex Abuse Treatment Program) is supported by the legitimate penological objective of rehabilitation. The SATP lasts 18 months; involves substantial daily counseling; and helps inmates address sexual addiction, understand the thoughts, feelings, and behavior dynamics that precede their offenses, and develop relapse prevention skills. Pp. 4-7. Justices Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas" [Lile was about prison therapy],
and their progeny, the US Supreme court held that sex offender therapy is the method by which states rehabilitate sex offenders. All civil commitment schemes, commitment following sentences, would have been declared unconstitutional as further punishment, if states did not provide therapy for sex offenders. Therapy rehabilitates sex offenders!

The Chronicle correctly reported that "... California is one of few states whose prisons offer no significant sex offender treatment programs." In other words, while sex offenders are in prison serving their sentence, they are denied the opportunity to rehabilitate through a good sex offender therapy program!

In 2000 the Colorado Department of Corrections prepared a 50-State Study of prison sex offender therapy programs, it shows, that of the 15 states within the DoJ study, three do not have a prison sex offender therapy program: California, Florida and Oregon. [13]
The entire principle of sentencing someone to prison, excepting to death or a life sentence is, so that, the person may be rehabilitated before being released back into society.

When the state fails to provide the means (therapy is critical to sex offenders: US Supreme Court) the state thwarts the principle of sentencing, and clearly effects public safety.

Whether or not a sex offender would participate in the program is unimportant, first the program must be there, and in California there is none.

Experts have shown that treatment of sex offenders reduces recidivism. In 1999, Margaret A. Alexander conducted an analysis of nearly 11,000 sex offenders, and the results indicated that, 7.2% of the treated offenders were rearrested, while 17.6% of the untreated offenders were rearrested within 1-5 year followup. Likewise R.K.Hanson, in 2000 study, showed 10% of treated offenders reoffended while 17% of the untreated offenders reoffended. Donald Findlater recently released a study of 419 untreated sex offenders released from Wales prison in 1979. He reports that 103 (24.6%) had reoffended within 21years. [14]

Colorado showed 12 of the 15 states within the DoJ study provided treatment to their inmates, and even combining the 3 states that provided no treatment produced a net 3.5% recidivism rate. One can only wonder how much lower it could have been, with treatment in all states.

Michigan standing alone is a full 1% lowers than the combined DoJ rate. Michigan has averaged that recidivism rate for 11 years now.
Recognizing this is not a professional study of recidivism, it is an eye-opener. Imagine how much better it would be if records were available. What the Chronicle has done is let us get a peek at what things could be like if certain changes were made in California and maybe in two other states as well.

It appears that, civil commitment in California is further punishment, especially since the state failed to provide therapy during the offenders' prison sentence. Remembering that the judge did sentence folks to prison, in part, for rehabilitation and the state failed to provide the means.

Most upsetting is, recognizing that the difference between the actual recidivism rate of 11%, and what it could have been 3.5%, translates to additional victims.

10: Recidivism of sex offenders released in 1994. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, Langan, P. A., & Levin, D. J. (November 2003). Presents, for the first time, data on the rearrest, reconviction, and reimprisonment of 9,691 male sex offenders, including 4,295 child molesters, who were tracked for 3 years after their release from prisons in 15 States in 1994. The 9,691 are two-thirds of all the male sex offenders released from prisons in the United States in 1994. The study represents the largest followup ever conducted of convicted sex offenders following discharge from prison and provides the most comprehensive assessment of their behavior after release.

11: Recidivism Rates, March 8, 2004 California Department of Corrections, Policy and Evaluation Division, pg 4 "Definitions and Formulas"

12: Recidivism Rates, March 25, 2003 California Department of Corrections, Policy and Evaluation Division, pg 4 "Definitions and Formulas"

13: State Sex Offender Treatment Programs: 50 State Survey, (495 pg PDF file) Prepared by Paula Wenger, Consultant for the Colorado Department of Corrections (released November 2000). Formal sex offender treatment programs are being conducted in 39 states. There were 154,518 sex offenders incarcerated in 43 states that provided statistics, among those states sex offenders represented 26% of the total prison population. Thirty four states provided the duration of their programs: 28 offer 1+ years, of those, 19 are 3-year programs, and 8 are over 3 years long. States were unanimous in using cognitive behavioral treatment with relapse prevention as the focus. The states without any prison sex offender therapy program are: Alabama, California, Delaware, Dist. of Columbia, Florida, Idaho (under consideration), Maine, Mississippi, Nevada (informal one running), Oregon, West Virginia (under review), and Wyoming (in transition).

14: Sex offenders 'a danger for years' BBC News February 12, 2004

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