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A closer look at sex offenders

5-5-2012 Idaho:

In the recent My Turn column entitled “A Penalty That Lasts a Lifetime,” the author advances an argument rejected by all 50 states. He questioned the value of the sex offender registry. He also questioned the value of a task force devoted to the investigation and prosecution of sexual predators and those who commit felony offenses in relation to their sex offender registration requirements. This column is written to address his argument.
Note: The original Editorial DID NOT question the use of the Task Force to investigate new crimes, instead questions the use and costs to Monitor Past Offenders (many who have not recidivated; author in over 30 years).

As to comments made in the original article about the registry, they were directed towards -monitoring sex offenders whose recidivism rate is low- while ignoring high recidivism of other types of offenders. Further, none of the arguments below are supported by any study, just beliefs. Finally, while states have had (since the mid 1990s) registries, those registries have been fueled by a few high profile crimes not by any proven research of mass crimes.

As to thoughts of "What the registrants might do based on what they have done in their past," never forget what virtually every adult has done in their younger years, which today might be a sex crime, and have gotten away with it. (Center for Disease Control Youth Study shows over 46% of high schoolers having sex.) Where did you fall back then, and should all those folks TODAY be registered as well, they might re-offend?

The North Idaho Sex Offender Task Force (“Task Force”) is doing much more than securing and defending the integrity of the sex offender registry. The duties of the Task Force include improving and exercising the ability to detect, investigate and prosecute technologically-facilitated exploitation crimes. For example, the task force will investigate and prosecute internet child enticement and child pornography crimes. These high-tech crimes require specialized knowledge and technology to investigate and prosecute. The task force works tirelessly to protect children, prevent attacks and prosecute predators who use technology to victimize the most helpless and vulnerable among us.

Additionally, the Task Force deals with sophisticated sex crimes and registry violations over a large area – it serves the five northern counties of Idaho. This is a geographical area of approximately 7,932 square miles with a population of 212,393 people. In addition to the large geographical area the Task Force serves, it uses both the state and the federal systems of investigation and prosecution. The Task Force stands ready to assist all law enforcement and prosecution agencies across North Idaho.

Moreover, a significant portion of the funding has been spent to provide law enforcement agencies with computers, software and training to investigate technologically-facilitated sex crimes so that when the grant ends the agencies will be better able to do the work. As a community, we should be proud that our local law enforcement agencies are developing sophisticated abilities to combat online sexual predators. While the registry violations are a significant portion of the Task Force’s function, the Task Force is working to modernize North Idaho agencies to deal with high-tech crime.


As for the validity of sex offender registry laws, Mr. Johnson failed to thoroughly consider the purpose of the law. Legislatures across the country did not rely only on the rate of re-offense and establish a registry. The registry provides a number of benefits.

First, the registry enhances parents’ ability to participate in protecting their children. For example, imagine a child who wants to participate in a youth softball program. The registry can be used by the parents to check out the adults running the program. The parents have a right to know and address the risks regarding their own children. The parents’ rights to protect their children outweigh the perceived embarrassment of convicted sex offenders on the registry.

Kootenai County residents can log on to the Sheriff’s Department’s website at to determine where registered sex offenders live, and receive updates when an offender moves to a location near them.

Second, the registry is an additional investigative tool. The information contained in the registry can be used to identify likely suspects with similar crime patterns for unsolved sex offenses. Without the sex offender registry our communities lose this important investigative tool.

Third, the registry is a deterrent to crime. The offender is less likely to reoffend if he knows he is being watched. Further, if you know committing a sex offense will place you on the registry for the rest of your life, you may think twice about committing a sex offense. This is an important benefit of the registry.

As for sex offender re-offense statistics, Mr. Johnson assumed in his editorial “that over 95 percent of once-caught sex offenders are NOT re-offending with regard to sex crimes.” However, the study Mr. Johnson cited only counted three years after the sex offenders were released – during a time when these offenders are likely on parole and closely watched by a parole officer. A Canadian Public Safety study found re-offense rates reach 24 percent after 15 years of release. Sex offense registries are intended to protect the community long after a sex offender is out of prison and finished with parole.
Note: Often we see folks trying to compare this Canadian Study to the DOJ study, and its like comparing rocks to eggs, they are so dissimilar, in reality, you cannot compare them. First the CA study is a Meta Study obtaining its input from other studies, and thats where the problem starts.

A review of Table-1 (pgs 2-4) (A list of the studies used as input) will reveal, 5 of the 10 studies used, include "Charges and Convictions" in their recidivism numbers, that alone will raise the output recidivism percentage. And, one of the studies uses "Investigations of sex crimes" in addition to "Charges and Convictions," thus raising their final recidivism percentages; its mathematically impossible to compensate for that.

Secondly, the CA meta study is using TWO studies from the 1980s, before any known therapy existed, obviously a high recidivism rate would be expected from that them. I'm sure if you combined "Charges and Convictions" in the DOJ study the final recidivism rate would be higher, but not everyone charged is convicted; in-between the two is where justice and truth is applied.
Statistics in this area are difficult to assess. Experts agree that sex offenses are underreported – what would happen to the statistics if we incorporated data on unreported sex crimes? Formal studies predicting sex offender re-offense statistics range between five and eighty percent, based on many factors. The statistical picture that Mr. Johnson cited is not as clear as he wishes or assumes.

However, for sake of argument, let’s use Mr. Johnson’s 5.3 percent figure; this statistic reveals that 1 in 20 of North Idaho’s 510 registered sex offenders will commit another sex offense. Some people may be willing to tolerate this level of offense, but Idaho’s legislature, prosecutors and law enforcement will not.

Mr. Johnson wrote about property crimes in his article and compares them to sex offenses. I am confident those who know of or have suffered the trauma of a sexual assault would disagree with the idea that being the victim of a sex crime is the same as being the victim of a theft.

Registration laws recognize that sex offenses cause emotional and physical harm to its victims far beyond typical crime. The harm from sex offenders and its resultant costs to society dwarf the money used to fund the Task Force.

Mr. Johnson does not want to be on the registry for life. The Idaho legislature put into place a procedure whereby individuals can petition an Idaho court to be relieved of the registry requirements upon meeting certain criteria. Among other things, the court must be convinced it is highly unlikely or reasonably certain that the petitioner will not commit a violent crime or one of the offenses in Idaho which would result in a sexual offender registration requirement. The registry is not unfair. The registry is a highly valuable tool used to protect communities.

In conclusion, the Task Force serves to enforce the sex offender registration laws in northern Idaho. It also investigates and prosecutes sexual predators who use technology to lure children in the five northern counties of Idaho. The Task Force is proud to protect the children of North Idaho from sex predators. ..Source.. by DAVID G. ROBINS, who is Kootenai County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney and representative for the North Idaho Sexual Offense Task Force.

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