THE POLITICS OF FEAR AND IGNORANCE:
Political Agendas at the Expense of Public Safety
The Inconvenient Truth
The Spring 2013 Informational Bulletin Newsletter, published by Nevada-CURE reported that NRS 179A.270-290, passed in 1997, required the Central Repository for Nevada Records of Criminal History to collect sex offender recidivism data. In 2009, the Central Repository petitioned to have these responsibilities removed through AB 81 apparently because “the agency has neither the staffing nor the technical expertise to address recidivism of sex offenders.” Unfortunately, AB 81 passed.
Interestingly, the State has nearly unlimited resources and manpower to pass sex offender laws and hand out extensive and multiple criminal sentences like free candy in light of an overcrowded penal system and substantial budget constraints. It’s amazing what they can accomplish when they put their minds to it. The Prosecutor’s office does not seem to be begging the Legislature to be relieved of their responsibilities to any degree like the Central Repository did.
It appears the rationale behind relieving the Central Repository from collecting sex offender recidivism data may have been a politically motivated decision made intentionally at the expense of public safety. The agency could have very easily been provided the resources to achieve their objectives.
Any official state-sponsored study on Nevada’s sex offender recidivism could call into question the rational of current sex offender laws and the political agendas of those responsible for passing and/or sponsoring them. Such studies could also reveal inconvenient truths about sex offender recidivism in Nevada that could take the steam out of election year. How can a politician or a judicial candidate compete for office, pass, or adjudicate politically popular laws based on unverified anecdotal assumptions, popular myths, or traditionally perceived conceptions about sex offenders when the truth about such offenders stands as an inconvenient obstacle to the promotion of fear and ignorance needed to persuade naive constituents for their vote and continued support?
Jumping from one unverified myth to another every election year only promotes fear and ignorance at an enormous financial expense while only benefiting a political agenda at the expense of.
Since at least 1959, the United States Supreme Court has observed that education is a deterrent to crime. See Kingsly International Pictures Corp. v. Regeats of Univ. of N.Y., 360 U.S. 684, 689 (1959).
Keeping the public uneducated or otherwise ignorant about sex offender recidivism by relieving the Central Repository from collecting data on the subject appears a substantial and affirmative step by our Legislature to promote crime. In other words, a political agenda has taken priority over public safety.
Fear and ignorance about Nevada sex offenders remain the status quo.
The Political Agenda at Work
The low recidivism rate of convicted sex offenders oddly remains a secret in today’s society. In McKune v. Lile, 536 U.S. 24, 33 (2002), the United States Supreme Court cites to the DOJ’s 1997 report on Sex Offenses and Offenders for the finding that all sex offenders have a “high risk of recidivism.” Yet this report finds the recidivism rate of released sex offenders for new crimes as 7.7%, and that rate is the second lowest rate of recidivism of all released offenders in the study. Also cited by the High Court for this apparent “high rate of recidivism” is another 1997 DOJ report on Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1983. Interestingly, after making an inquiry to the DOJ, no such report was released in 1997.
In Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84, 103 (2003), the U.S. Supreme Court zealously upheld a sex offender registration and notification law by ratifying the Legislature’s findings that all sex offenders, as a class, have a high rate of recidivism without first independently verifying those facts.
Without those unverified legislative findings, it would appear that the sex offender registration and notification laws would have been decreed unconstitutional. That would have called into question the constitutionality of all sex offender registration and notification laws across the country. The entire opinion of Smith v. Doe relied substantially on the unverified or otherwise affirmative misrepresentations about sex offender recidivism.
When a constitutional right is at stake, the usual judicial deference to legislative findings gives way to an exercise of independent judgment of the facts to ascertain whether the legislative body has drawn reasonable inferences based on substantial evidence. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. FCC, 512 U.S. 622, 666 (1994). Quoting from non-existent DOJ reports and making affirmative misrepresentations of fact from existing reports is not an exercise of independent judgment based on substantial evidence. It appears that a political agenda encouraged a desired result rather than a just and accurate one.
Legislatures and courts around the country are now making serious decisions about laws based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmative misrepresentations about sex offender recidivism. Why must the truth be a pliable commodity in this country and be distorted to fit political agendas? The politics of fear and ignorance remain the order of the day.
Causes and Effects of Sexual Abuse
There are “correlations between childhood sexual abuse and later problems such as substance abuse, dangerous sexual behaviors or dysfunction, inability to relate to others on an interpersonal level, and psychiatric illness.” Kennedy v. Louisiana, 171 L.Ed.2d 525, 568-69 (2008)(Alito, J., dissenting) (quoting authoritive reports on child sexual abuse). “Victims of child rape are nearly 5 times more likely than non-victims to be arrested for sex crimes and nearly 30 times more likely to be arrested for.
There are legions of medical and scientific studies that empirically demonstrate that sexually abused children have a high disposition to commit sexually based crimes in the future. It is not uncommon for a convicted sex offender to have a history of being sexually abused as a child.
Without thinking twice, many in our society would find it absurd for a convicted sex offender to babysit a child or run a day care center. Would you take your chances with an adult who was a victim of childhood sexual abuse? They do not register and background checks will not likely provide a clue to their potential to commit a sexual offense. They are not subject to any degree of oversight. The heightened potential of a victim committing a sexual offense is an inconvenient fact that cannot be lightly disregarded if public safety, victimization, and crime prevention are to be taken seriously.
How many politicians expect to get your vote or support if they suggest or propose victims register to prevent future sexual offenses or to otherwise promote public safety? If registration apparently works so well for convicted sex offenders, then why not for victims if public safety is of central concern? Since registration is not a form of punishment according to a substantial weight of judicial authority, then there should be no problem. Right?
Unlike convicted sex offenders, victims of sexual abuse are never required to register despite their heightened potential to commit a sexual offense. If there is a genuine concern for public safety and future sexual offenses behind registration and notification laws as authoritatively held by the U.S. Supreme Court in Smith v. Doe, then it would be perfectly rational to require victims to register. To hold otherwise would compromise public safety and promote future sexual offenses followed by more victims. Why wait for a victim to commit a sexual offense and create new victims before requiring them to register? That’s illogical and only promotes a continuing offense cycle of new victims followed by future potential offenders. That kind of cycle needs to be stopped!
Any concerns for privacy over registration and notification requirements are substantially outweighed by the government’s legitimate objective of public safety. I have yet to see any court relieve registration requirements for privacy concerns.
Victims should be relieved that registration and notification requirements do not promote the goals of punishment and are purely regulatory pursuant to Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. at 105-06.
Furthermore, a conviction is not required to impose a civil regulatory law. Id. At 113 (Stevens, J., dissenting in part and concurring in part)(observing that a conviction is not a necessary predicate for civil commitment).
It is true that not all victims commit sexual offenses in the future. The same is also true with convicted sex offenders. In any case, registration and notification requirements are imposed on all sex offenders regardless of their individual risk to reoffend. Doe, 538 U.S. at 104. There is no reason why this same requirement cannot be imposed on all victims of childhood sexual abuse since public safety is of central concern.
If victims have a high potential to commit sexual offenses based of empirically accurate and verified research but are not required to register, then the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution requires convicted sex offenders be treated the same. If not, then the public safety rational that is at the very basis of registration and notification laws are truly pretextual to an agenda towards using legislative and judicial agendas to punish convicted sex offenders; a rational that plainly cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny on several fronts. Given the pervasive attitudes toward convicted sex
offenders, it would be naive to assume otherwise.
If our government chooses not to collect data on sexual offenses but yet continues to legislate and make fundamental decisions about sexually based crimes and laws, then they are willfully navigating in the dark. They have chosen to disregard your safety at the expense of their political agenda of fear and ignorance. The citizens and residents of this State should be outraged!
A Nevada prisoner