Nebraskans Unafraid on Monday, March 3, will release Part One of Confronting the Lie, an interview with nationally recognized expert on sex offending and the law, Lisa Sample, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
Parts Two and Three of Confronting the Lie will be released later in the week.
For decades now, research findings about sexual offending show that the vast majority of former offenders do not reoffend. In fact, re-offense rates among sexual offenders are among the lowest.
Major factors that lower the risk of re-offense include stable housing; employment; and connection with, and support from, family members, communities and social networks.
Laws and public websites that expose former offenders and their families to public scorn, violence and invasive unwarranted intrusions into their homes do not make our communities safer. In fact, these laws increase danger to the public. Such laws have the effect of depriving former offenders of homes, jobs and the freedom to live with their families, the very things that help prevent re-offense.
Most news media reports on sexual offending are not informed by these facts. Because they focus on the most sensational and rare cases, and they are good at exploiting fear, the news media typically are not at all reliable sources for accurate information on this topic.
Within the last year in Nebraska, local TV news personalities presented as, quote, news, unquote, things that included:
- Picking names of former offenders at random from the public shaming website and going with a camera to their doors. If a former offender was not at home, the TV personality claimed to have found an absconded offender.
- Telling viewers, as Halloween approached, to be sure to check the public shaming website. This in spite of information that had been supplied to the station about research showing no evidence anywhere of increased risk either from a registrant or on this specific holiday.
- Reporting without any professional skepticism on a law enforcement representative’s assumption that a former offender is re-offending because an address on the registry is incorrect. This despite evidence locally and nationally that most of those errors are due to law enforcement data-entry mistakes.
The last example, by a personality from KETV-Channel 7 in Omaha, was a single-sourced story with only one supporting example. The same story reported that of 900 registrants in Douglas County, only 90 were found to have incorrect addresses. A professional reporter might have pursued this question:
“Wow. Ninety out of 900. Is it possible you are wasting your time and taxpayer dollars trying to watch all 900? Especially since research conducted at the University of Nebraska-Omaha found that only about 1 percent of the people on that website are likely to re-offend?”
As an antidote to the wildly inaccurate information on local TV, Nebraskans Unafraid engaged a professional reporter to interview a nationally recognized expert on sexual offending and the law.
NU interviewed Dr. Lisa Sample of the University of Nebraska–Omaha on February 28, 2014.
Dr. Sample is a Professor and Reynolds Professor of Public Affairs and Community Service. She is also the Masters Program Coordinator for the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. She received her Ph.D. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Missouri Saint Louis. Her research interests include criminal and juvenile justice policy. More specifically, she conducts research in juvenile and criminal justice sentencing disparities, drug control policies, prison reentry programs, and sex offender behavior and policies. She has worked with several state and local agencies to evaluate programs intended to address juvenile truancy, prisoner reentry, drug use, and methamphetamine manufacture and sale.
Watch this blog on Monday, March 3, for the link to Confronting the Lie, Part One.