Few crimes bring out more fear and loathing than sex offenses. Convicted sex offenders are the most hated members of society. Public perception of those labeled as "sex offenders" continues to prompt lawmakers to pass harsher laws against this perceived evil group of people. But what the general public does not realize is that current laws are NOT protecting society. In fact, research shows that current laws are actually putting the public at risk. Current laws are based on hysteria and myths. We are here to provide educational information about the truth behind this hysteria and the "stranger danger" myth gripping this nation with fear and ruining the lives of many people who are not the monsters we have been led to believe.
Over time, harsh laws have been passed to further restrict sex offenders by implementing residency restrictions, monitoring, community notification, and much more. Other crimes have been added to the category of "sex offenses" that go far beyond rape or child molestation. Existing laws encompass a wide range of offenders and require the exact same resources be used for both violent, dangerous offenders and those whose offenses were neither violent, forced, or dangerous.
The mission of Illinois Voices is education, based on current research, of sex offender laws and the harsh reality of the consequences of these laws. We support the prevention of sexual abuse and believe education is key to preventing future crimes. We believe that laws which will truly benefit the safety of our children, and society in general, must differentiate between those who are dangerous, repeat offenders and those who are not. Current laws, as structured, are not keeping our children safe. They are, in fact, costing the taxpayer millions of dollars to prosecute, monitor, incarcerate, and severely punish many individuals who are of no danger to children, society, or the communities in which they live.
The above list is a shortened version of the offenses that require a person to register as a sex offender.
MYTH: All sex offenders are the same.
FACT: Research has consistently shown that there is no such thing as a "sex offender profile" [click here for the Center for Sex Offender Management’s "Common Characteristics of Sex Offenders"].
MYTH: Sex offenders will re-offend.
FACT: The re-offense rate for sex offenders is one of the lowest of all crimes. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 5.3% of those listed as sex offenders may re-offend [click here for link]. This means that nearly 95% of all future sex crimes will be committed by someone NOT on the registry.
MYTH: Most sex offenses are committed by strangers.
FACT: Most sexual assaults (80-90%) are committed by family members or persons known to the family [click here for link].
MYTH: Residency restrictions are necessary to protect society.
FACT: There is NO evidence that residency restrictions prevent repeat sex crimes. In fact, the inability of convicted sex offenders to find housing has become a significant barrier to their successful reintegration into society [click here for more information].
MYTH: Community notification is necessary to protect society.
FACT: Community notification of sex offenders through public Internet registries gives the community a "false sense of security." Since non-registered individuals commit ninety-five percent of all sex offenses, registration requirements have the potential to prevent only a very small fraction of future sex offenses. Community notification allows any individual, corporation, or organization access to sex offender registration information - making employment opportunities virtually non-existent. In some cases, notification has resulted in violence and acts of vigilantism against offenders [click here for more information].
MYTH:There is no cure for sex offenders.
FACT: Treatment works [click here for more information].
MYTH: All offenses that include the word "aggravated" or "force" mean the offender used force.
FACT: In some cases, the word "aggravated" or "force" has been added to an offense. For example: if a crime is committed in another state and the offender moves to Illinois, the charge can be upgraded to "aggravated" to comply with Illinois law. Also, age difference can also be a determination for adding the word "aggravated" to an offense, even if the offense was consensual. Plea deals to avoid prison sentences or to have other charges dropped can add the word "force" to an offense, even if the offense was consensual.
[Note: while some dispute the above fact, we at Illinois Voices have verified this information for certain offenders. While this percentage is small, it is a fact].
MYTH: Anyone who commits a sexual abuse act will be forced to register as a sex offender.
FACT: "Some" people are exempt from being labeled a sex offender [click here for a few examples].
MYTH: Once a child sex offender has finished his sentence, he is free to live among society.
FACT: NO child sex offender will ever be free from the restrictions of a sex offender. Even if their name is removed from the sex offender registry, they will forever have to comply with the laws of the registry.
[Note: child sex offender means a crime committed against someone under the age of 18].
Reform of public registries and residency restrictions that have been proven to be ineffective.
Reform of State and Federal laws that promote a one size fits all policy with no end to punishment.
To return sex offender registries back to their original intent, which is to track violent sexual predators.
Current sex offender laws are not working. Reform is necessary to protect society, especially children, and to find a way to reintegrate those who have offended. Current laws are over-broad, over-inclusive, and do not distinguish between violent sex offenders and non-violent persons charged with sexually based crimes. Applying tough sanctions without regard to the actual danger posed by all convicted offenders actually makes us less safe. Law enforcement spends a great deal of time and money keeping tabs on those who pose little risk – keeping them from focusing on the high-risk offenders. Pouring scarce resources into monitoring all persons convicted of sexually based crimes means less money for programs to prevent sexual violence.
News of horrific crimes committed by a convicted sex offender inevitably led to widespread calls for increasing the scope of sex offender registration and community notification laws. Many people charged with sex-based crimes remain on the public registry for the rest of their lives, regardless of the seriousness of their offense, the current threat they might pose, or their progress toward rehabilitation. Penalties for violations of our current laws are harsher than the actual punishment for the crime itself.
This website has a summary of resources and fact-based research, including the following topics:
Distinguishing between non-violent and violent offenders is necessary and cost-effective;
Recidivism is much lower than believed;
Residency restrictions do not prevent future crimes; yet they cause loss of security, loss of stability, homelessness, and a greater chance that offenders will stop registering;
Community notification does nothing to protect society; however, it does increase harassment, vigilante violence, and loss of employment;
Rather than calling for tougher sex offender monitoring laws, we need a new approach to deal with convicted sex offenders who have re-entered the community. We need a new approach to distinguish between the violent sex offenders and non-violent persons charged with sexually based crimes. We need a way to find an end to punishment, especially for those who are not sexually violent or at risk of re-offending. We need to focus on educational tools and inform society that the majority of future sex crimes will be committed by trusted individuals within their family or group of friends. We need to stand up and admit that our goal of protecting society by pushing for harsher sex offender laws has not worked and that more-effective laws are in the works. We must find a way to address the true problem: How to prevent future victims.
A Reasoned Approach: Reshaping Sex Offender Policy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse An excellent report by the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers [Click here for report]
100,000 Sex Offenders Missing . . . or Are They? Deconstruction of an Urban Legend It is frequently reported by the media and public officials that 100,000 registered sex offenders (RSOs) in the United States are "missing." This policy note first describes the origin of this figure, which was initially derived from a 2003 informal survey of state registries conducted by a grassroots advocacy organization. Then, we explore the definitional ambiguities that complicate the process of calculating the national number of fugitive sex offenders. Finally, we present emerging research efforts to develop reliable estimates of the number and proportion of RSOs officially recorded by states as absconded, whereabouts unknown, or noncompliant with registration requirements. While such data remain limited, we find little evidence to support that 100,000 sex offenders are "missing," using even the most inclusive definitions. Implications for policy and practice are discussed. [click here for full report]