USA FAIR, Inc., a national advocacy organization formed by the family members of people required to register with the sex offender registry, today publicly urged Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Congressman Timothy H. Bishop (Dem-1,NY) to assist in its efforts to get Parents for Megan’s Law Executive Director Laura Ahearn to take down misleading statistics from their website that reinforces the myth of high sex offender recidivism. The organization is based in Rep. Bishop’s Congressional District in Stony Brook, NY.
“According to the Parents for Megan’s Law website, Senator Schumer and Congressman Bishop each are responsible for their organization recieving grants in excess of $50,000. As recipients of public funds they have a responsibility to report fair and accurate statisitcs and not the blatantly misleading statistics they currently present. This is particularly important now because Parents for Megan’s Law is being considered for a contract with Suffolk County to be active participants in the management of sex offenders in the county.” said Shana Rowan, Executive Director of USA FAIR.
USA FAIR has made fighting the myth of high sex offender recidivism its number one priority for 2013 becasue so many of the laws impacting law abiding former sex offenders are based on the falsehood that former offenders are likely to commit a new sex crime. According to the U.S. Justice Department and numerous other agencies and institutions that have researched recidivism, sexual offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates in the criminal justice system (www.usafair.org/studies.)
“While we applaud Parents for Megan’s Law for their mission to protect children, as an entity that is funded in part with public funds, they have an obligation to not mislead the public through the misuse of statistics, such as presenting a study of a sub-set of dangerous recidivists and presenting those findings as representative of the entire population of former sex offenders,” said Rowan.
In a letter sent to Parents for Megan’s Law on December 6, 2012, USA FAIR raised objections to statements made on their website, including claims that the “typical” offender against children had committed an average of 280 crimes and has between 360 and 380 victims in his lifetime. USA FAIR pointed out that the sample of this study was not “typical” of former offenders and that even among this subset of high-risk offenders, a small percentage of the subjects were responsible for a disproportionately high number of offenses, which significantly skewed the “average” numbers. In fact, according to Rowan, “When you look at the median numbers of this very study it reveals that half of the subjects committed four or fewer offenses and had three or fewer victims. So even the “typical” subject of this study did not have the number of victims that Parents for Megan’s Law claims. And while three victims is three too many, it is a far cry from the 360 to 380 that their website presents.”
Rowan announced that USA FAIR decided to ask for the assistance of Senator Schumer and Congressman Bishop after letters, emails and phone calls to Executive Director Laura Ahearn have gone unanswered. “Ms. Ahearn has every right to disagree with USA FAIR on policy issues, but as long as she takes public money she should present this important issue with facts and not false fears. Right now Parents for Megan’s Law is misleading the public and Senator Schumer and Congressman Bishop need to be made aware of that.” said Rowan.
A 2010 survey by the Center for Sex Offender Management of the U.S. Department of Justice found that 72% of Americans believe that the sex crime recidivism rates are 50% or higher, with a third believing it is more than 75%. Only 3% believe it is less than 25% - even though actual recidivism rates are considerably below 25%. New studies are constantly confirming low recidivism, with the latest being released last month showing a recidivism rate in four states of 10% after 10 years, with rates dropping sharply with years of offense-free tenure in the community. (https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/240099.pdf)
Rowan concluded, “As the loved-ones of people who are required to register, we know that the vast majority of former sex offenders are today law abiding citizens who are just trying to rebuild their lives and be good providers for their families. Once the myth of high sex offender recidivim is firmly dicredited, it will allow us to end our one-size-fits-all approach to sex offender laws and focus our policies on targeting the truly dangerous.”
A copy of USA FAIR’s letter to Laura Ahearn is available here: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/usafair/pages/69/attachments/original/1355332797/USA_FAIR_Letter_to_Laura_Ahearn.pdf?1355332797