The NACDL recently adopted the report of the Sex Offender Policy Task Force [.pdf]. The report is a great read and highlights many of the issues that the blawgosphere routinely discusses regarding sex offenders, sex offenses and civil commitment.
On mandatory minimums:
The ostensible purpose of lengthy mandatory sentences is to ensure the incapacitation of the offender in an effort to protect the community. The call for such sentences is based upon the belief that sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated and will commit further sex crimes upon their release from incarceration or probationary sentences. It cannot be doubted that some sex offenders, just like some burglars, swindlers and robbers cannot or will not be rehabilitated and will commit subsequent crimes. However, the research demonstrates that sex offenders are far less likely to repeat their crimes once caught and punished. Recidivism rates for sex offenders are significantly lower than those for other offenses. A study conducted by the United States Justice Department revealed that only 5.3% of persons convicted of a sex crime will commit will be arrested for another sex crime and that only 3.3% of persons convicted of child molestation crimes will be arrested for another sex crime against children.5 These recidivism rates are substantially less than equivalent rates for other offenders. For instance people convicted of theft offenses were re-arrested the rate of 77% and motor vehicle thieves were re-arrested at the rate of 79 percent.6 The overall re-arrest rate generally for all people released from prison was 68 percent.7 The Canadian government has conducted more extensive studies which corroborate the finding that recidivism rates for sex offenders are far less than the recidivism rates for other convicts.8 Individual states which have studied recidivism have reached similar results.
Please see the report itself for citations.
On sex offender registration:
A â€œone size fits all approach to sex offenders,â€ as a group, is irrational. Requiring the same registration and community notification requirements of all sex offenders diminishes the ability of the public to ascertain the truly dangerous sex offender in the community.17 It also undermines the ability of the non-dangerous sex offender to maintain employment, family relationships and treatment programs. Many registered sex offenders report negative consequences, including physical assaults, resulting from registration and community notification.18 The determination of offender risk should be based upon the individual characteristics of the offender and not solely upon the offense of conviction.
It is great to see such a well thought out and detailed report on the issues plaguing sex offender laws in the country. However, I would have liked to see more about residency restrictions.