Prominent criminal justice researcher Lisa Sample, Ph.D., says that if all she had to go on was information from the news media, she, too, might think that former sex offenders inevitably will reoffend.
“Then I was put in this unique position of knowing a bunch of them who didn’t,” Dr. Sample says in Confronting the Lie – Part Two, which was produced by the advocacy organization Nebraskans Unafraid and is being released Tuesday, March 4. “They haven’t reoffended, and there are very good reasons for that. In their opinion, it would be DESPITE sex offender law, not because of it.” “Despite” because Nebraska law seems like it is designed to deprive former offenders of jobs, homes and the family and networks that keep people accountable and living lives that they value.
For seven years, Dr. Sample has been interviewing sex offenders, including two that she described as “textbook predatory” offenders who have worked hard to stay accountable to family, friends and their communities, and they have not re-offended. Dr. Sample says the rate of sex offender re-offense is very low in Nebraska, and her research is designed to find out why. Former offenders and family members who want to participate in the strictly confidential research can contact Dr. Sample’s University of Nebraska-Omaha team at (402) 554-2610.
Nebraska’s law is misbegotten, placing every former offender on a public shaming website regardless of risk, creating a major public-safety problem, Dr. Sample said. We cannot sort out the dangerous few on the website and we are distracted trying to monitor people who pose little risk.
Because the website is so damaging to family members of former offenders, Dr. Sample says, sex offenders in Nebraska have reached out to one another and, on their own, established the kinds of connections they need in order to succeed and provide support to moms, dads, children and siblings of former offenders. Dr. Sample said that is a good thing even though it was not part of the law’s intent.
“Because I’m an academic and trained in criminology, I believe it’s a good thing. But I feel confident that the general public and law enforcement wouldn’t understand why it would be a good thing for sex offenders and their families to have friends and support networks,” she says.