USA Families advocate an Intelligent Sex Offender Registry:
The Adam Walsh Act is Not the Answer
By Shana Rowen, Executive Director of USA Fair.
In the wake of the horrific sex abuse allegations against convicted Level 1 sex offender John Burbine, numerous politicians are calling to bring Massachusetts into compliance with the Adam Walsh Act, which would publicize the identities and addresses of Level 1 and Level 2 sex offenders. Unfortunately, they aren’t revealing the problems AWA will bring with it.
Jill Levenson PhD and her colleagues published a study in November (https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/240099.pdf) on the accuracy of AWA risk assessment. The result of the 10-year study period found that the AWA tier system significantly failed to predict recidivism. According to the Justice Policy Institute, it will cost MA over $10.4 million to come fully into compliance (http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08-08_FAC_SORNACosts_JJ.pdf).
Even though sex offender recidivism is extremely low (www.usafair.org/studies_recidivism) and the majority of sex abuse is perpetrated by someone known to the victim rather than a stranger (http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf), the US has historically reacted hastily, with emotion-based, ineffective laws in response to heinous but rare cases such as Burbine’s. While this may fill our own personal desire for revenge or vindication, it does little for victims.
We need a system that is able to assess the John Burbines of the world as the predators they are, keep them away from children, and prevent them from re-offending in the first place. AWA will only compound the problem, leaving children vulnerable to the more likely perpetrators of potential abuse. A bloated registry that treats all offenders the same (even though they aren't) usurps valuable resources that could be allotted to those who truly need to be tracked and monitored. While people like Burbine fall through the cracks, law-abiding former offenders attempting to rebuild their lives – and their families - find it impossible to do so.
Better risk assessment and fact-based public policy means less victims and peace for family members of those who have served their time. Learn the truth at www.usafair.org.